After a breakup, it’s pretty common that you just don’t feel yourself. You’ve been in this relationship, potentially a longterm relationship, and that person, that significant person has had a big part of your life and your existence with so many things that you would have shared together. So how do you cope? How do you get back to normalcy under those circumstances? Obviously it’s not easy.

How long will it take to get back to normal?

The first thing to recognise is that the longer the relationship has been going and the more involved you’ve been in one another’s lives, the more that you have felt love to that other person, the harder it’s going to be to get back to normal. Harder, i.e. the pain will be greater, but in addition, it’s going to take longer to return to normal. And in my view, in any longterm relationship, it’s gonna take at least 12 months to return back to normal or get close to being back to normal after a breakup.

What emotions will I go through?

So how do you help yourself during that period? It’s not gonna go in hours to days to weeks. There’s normal healing process that one has to go through. And there’s a myriad of emotions that one will experience during this period. There’s anger, there’s a feeling of grief that one will have. There’s a feeling of ultimately acceptance. And it’s a process that one has to go through from feeling depressed and anger and grief and finally one reaches acceptance.

What shouldn’t I do

So how do you help yourself? Well, there’s things that you shouldn’t do. So ideally, don’t jump into another relationship straight away. You’re just putting off the pain and you’ll take baggage into that new relationship. Secondly, don’t use drugs or alcohol excessively. Once again, that delays the way in which you need to experience that stages of recovery from the breakup of a relationship.

What should I do?

On a positive sense, try to do things that you enjoy, that are distracting. Hang out with people that are positive influences in your life. Ideally do exercise because the adrenaline that exercise creates is very therapeutic. And there are other things that are quite helpful as well, such as if you’re not really recovering, going and seeing a counsellor. And discussing the person you’re in a relationship with, although it’s painful. And although it may be very emotional and although that may cause lots and lots of tears is ultimately therapeutic. So, the trajectory from being in a relationship, the end of a relationship, and then finally to recovery is not a path that is quick. It is one that is often painful, but is one that almost inevitably everyone recovers from. And I think having an optimistic bent to that is a very important way in which one should look at the end of a relationship and gradual return to normalcy.

Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney

Last Reviewed: 17/09/2020

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