Break-ups can be gut-wrenchingly painful. It can feel like your whole world is collapsing and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Sadly, we live in a society that has little compassion for those undergoing heartbreak. We are told to get on with our lives like we never loved. To dance, drink, and date the heartache out of our system.
Being brokenhearted during quarantine is a whole other animal of its own. Even the terrible advice society preaches is unavailable to us in the confinement of our homes. We are forced to spend a lot of time with ourselves and our pain.
Break-ups can lead us to experience intrusive and obsessive thoughts about the relationship, the way it ended, and our ex. We can find ourselves incessantly reading text messages trying to make sense of what went wrong. We might find ourselves replaying the last argument over and over, wishing we had reacted differently. We might also become obsessed with what’s “wrong” with my ex and spend hours online researching potential mental health diagnoses. All of these are attempts to understand the “why” to make rational sense of the painful occurrence. If it makes sense, then maybe I can fix it. If I can fix it, then there’s hope for reconciliation. Sometimes reconciliation is a viable possibility, other times is just us struggling to move out of denial.
With break-ups comes a longing for reconnection. A craving to come into contact with our beloved. We might persistently engage in reconnecting behaviors such as calls, texting, liking posts on social media, messaging via social media, and cyberstalking. We can be creative when coming up with justifications for our actions. We might convince ourselves that we need to check on them, that we need to return their book, or that we need to know if they are back on the dating scene. Truth is we don’t need to know any of that. Knowing is not going to change what is and will probably create more confusion and pain for us. It will not allow us to grieve properly and eventually become emotionally detached.
Figuring out healthy boundaries after a fresh break-up can be hard. There’s a lot of variables: living together, having a pet, owning a place, working together, mutual friends, relationship with families, communication, and the list goes on. It’s important to remember that boundaries are created to protect ourselves. We are deeply hurt and our reality is tainted by the trauma we’ve experienced. Being intentional about setting healthy boundaries, will help me move through my pain at a pace that feels comfortable for me. It will help me heal and make it to the other side.
It’s not human nature to enjoy living with pain. Heartache can feel eternal and impossible to overcome. So naturally, we find ways to soothe it. Unfortunately, a lot of the times the methods we engage in are not the healthiest and can bring with them a host of other problems. To self-medicate, we can find ourselves drinking more than often, using drugs, overeating, restricting food, and engaging in risky sex. All this to lessen the pain and give us a fake sense of control over our situation. None of these things, lead to healing. They feel good at the moment, really good. They distract us from reality, but they don’t heal us.
In confinement, these challenges are amplified because we are isolated. Our entire routine has changed, not just because of the heartache but because of a pandemic. We can find ourselves lacking structure, with limited support, zero accountability, and an endless amount of time to sit with our thoughts without an escape. This is the recipe for severe depression, grief, and loneliness.
How to cope if you live in the same house?
Living together but separately is its own kind of painful. It’s hard for the mind to accept the loss when you continue to share the same bathroom and sit across each other at the dinner table. However, your goal right now is survival. Ensuring that everyone is physically and mentally well, that’s the task at hand. Discuss how you can accomplish this task together and set boundaries that allow the two of you to have space despite continuing to live together.
Boundaries are essential to protect yourself and prevent things from getting blurry. It’s hard to make big decisions right now because we are all undergoing collective trauma which taints our perception of ourselves, others, and the world. In the midst of this chaos, we need boundaries that keep us emotionally and physically safe while we continue to quarantine together but separately.
How to cope if you have your own space to process the loss?
Physical space does not equal emotional space, focus on creating emotional space by setting boundaries with yourself and them. Find activities within your home that can help you self- soothe (yoga, journaling, baking, bike rides, & hot showers). Reach out to your support system via technology, don’t isolate yourself with your pain. Allow the emotions to come and listen to the messages they are attempting to deliver. Practice self-compassion and acceptance.
Break-ups although very common are oftentimes traumatic, so at this point, you are living with a minimum of two ongoing traumas your break-up and surviving a pandemic. That’s a lot even for the so-called, mentally strong. This would be the time to start your healing journey from the comfort of your home. Teletherapy is simple, practical, and effective, and safe. You don’t need to put your emotional well-being on pause when there are psychotherapists available to help you despite COVID-19.
Dealing with Breakups During Quarantine- Dr. Menije
Life continues while in quarantine and that means breakups happen too! My colleague, Genesis Games, LMHC, and I talked about how breakups feel different during the quarantine. We shared practical and effective coping skills including online therapy.