When a relationship ends

Suddenly the shops are full of hearts and flowers: Valentine’s Day will soon be here. For many people who are on their own or in an unhappy relationship, it’s not a day of celebration. It can be particularly hard for those whose partner has left them.

When I work with people whose partner has left them, I am often struck by how similar their feelings are to those who have been bereaved. They seem to be experiencing the ‘stages’ of grief:

– denial:’It can’t be over’; ‘s/he doesn’t mean it’
– anger: ”how could s/he, after all I’ve done?’
– bargaining: ‘I can change’
– depression: ‘I’m worthless and unattractive’; ‘I’ll always be on my own’
– acceptance: ‘It’s over; now what?’

If you are upset and angry about a break-up, you might be asking lots of questions (‘why did it happen?’; ‘what did I do wrong?’;’has s/he met someone else?’). Such thinking is understandable as you try to work out what has happened, but it’s energy-sapping and usually fruitless.

Counselling can help you to stop paying attention to such repetitive thoughts and begin to notice the feelings that lead to the thoughts (feelings of loss, self-doubt, confusion and anxiety). By giving these feelings some space, instead of pushing them away, you can begin to look towards the future, other relationships and even Valentine’s Day, with less fear.

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