Most of us have lived through dark seasons in our lives -- weeks or months when we feel sad more often than not. A relationship breakup or divorce can bring on such a season, and even though everyone copes with the loss of a relationship differently, something that might help is paying attention to exceptions to the norm. In other words, if your norm has become feeling depressed, take note of the times when you feel good, or even just OK. Notice what's different about these times; the differences can serve as a roadmap for beginning to feel better overall.
Grieving the loss of a relationship can bring on a host of difficult reactions. A lot of advice about how to cope (including the advice we give at BounceBack.com) involves working through those reactions. Indeed, ignoring pain (even though it might seem easier in the short-term) will likely backfire when, down the road, unresolved feelings are triggered and bubble to the surface, interfering with personal growth, contentedness with life, and development of new relationships.
A common strategy for dealing with difficult emotions is to notice them, identify what's behind them, and alter thinking patterns or behaviors that worsen them. With all that attention to what's wrong, it's easy to forget what right. However, it's imperative to take note of positive emotions, too. Because reactions to loss can be so different, positive emotions can range from feeling a little less down to feeling really good. Whatever the degree, paying attention to the shift can give us clues about how to work towards feeling better on a consistent basis. It's the flip-side of working through negative feelings: We're noticing positive feelings, identifying what's behind them, and applying thinking patterns or behaviors that promote them.
Anytime you feel better (or even just a little less down), ask yourself these questions:
What is different about this moment/few hours/day than the moment/few hours/day before?
Maybe you've changed your scenery by going for a walk or running errands. Perhaps you've gotten together with a friend. You might have accomplished a task. Maybe you caught yourself thinking about your situation in a different way.
Some people keep a journal where they write down these exceptions, keeping of track of when they feel better and why. Keeping a record can help us recognize coping strategies that work for us. On particularly bad days, a list of things that have helped us feel better in the past can spur us into being proactive. Also, as life ebbs and flows, having a record of feeling better can be a powerful reminder that it's possible to feel better. Sometimes just reading an account of a better day can revive a sense of hope.
Strengths hide in even the most difficult days -- days when we can't even identify having felt a little less down. At the end of such a day, the question to ask is this: How did you get through the day? As anyone who's dealt with a heart-wrenching split knows, sometimes just getting through a day is no small feat. But having done so points to clues, however small, as to how we can get through the next day, and the next, until we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Mary Darling Montero, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Santa Monica, Calif. She specializes in relationships, life transitions, trauma, depression and anxiety, and is certified to practice EMDR for trauma resolution. She is a contributing therapy expert for BounceBack.com.
BounceBack helps people find happiness after heartbreak from a relationship breakup or divorce. It's a place to tell your story, get community support and advice from experts. Heartbreaks happen to everyone. And everyone has the potential to bounce back and move forward to a life full of strength, confidence, and happiness. www.bounceback.com