In life, we face many losses. They might come in the form of a job loss, losing our home or other possessions, the death of a loved one, or losing a relationship. Sometimes we sense the loss of plans we’ve made for the future that will never become realized or we grieve the loss of ourselves as a result of being in an unhealthy relationship or giving up our heart’s desires to fulfill our many obligations. Whatever form loss takes, it weighs heavy on our hearts.
We call it “heart break” for a reason. We’re left feeling broken, torn apart, like a giant gaping wound. It takes time to heal ourselves and become whole again. We aren’t taught how to grieve the losses we encounter throughout life. We’re often left to figure it out on our own through trial and error….which often results in making many mistakes along the path toward healing.
Here are 5 mistakes women often make after a heart break and what can be done to correct them:
We dwell on all the good we’ve lost.
We fixate on what was but is no longer. We think about all the good things we’ve lost and all the happy times ended. The mind will torture us with visions of how things were in the beginning of a relationship or when everything was going right in our lives. When we tap into these memories of elation and compare them to our current state of devastation, we feel like total crap. Our clever mind convinces us that we’ve lost the best thing in our life, and now, nothing will ever be as good.
We need to catch ourselves in these moments and challenge these thoughts.
Were things ever really as good as you’re making them out to be? Was your Ex really the most wonderful person in the world or were there things about him that really drove you up the wall? All situations and all people are both good AND bad. Nothing is all peaches and roses, nor is anything all poison and thorns; everything is a combination of both. Our brains don’t have the ability to remember history with accuracy. We unconsciously twist it and change it in order to remember it how we “want”, not how it really was. Keep this in mind during the times you’re dwelling on what you’ve lost.
2. We blame ourselves.
Women have a tendency to take responsibility for things that we aren’t really responsible for. It seems to be a natural part of our DNA. When we get hit with heart break, it’s a sharp blow to our self esteem. We instinctually think of all the things about ourselves that led to someone not wanting us anymore. We think of a thousand reasons why we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, or fun-loving enough to keep life in check.
Taking responsibility for the error of our ways is a sign of maturity. Gaining awareness into ourselves and how we behave in relationships or with money helps us to learn from our mistakes and make healthier choices in the future. However, taking full blame and constantly beating ourselves up isn’t the answer. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s impossible to handle every situation in the best way possible, especially when intense emotions surface. Acknowledge the role you played in any loss, reflect on what you could have done different (if anything), and then let that shit go.
YOU ARE ENOUGH. You are good enough, pretty enough, and smart enough. But you won’t be for everybody. And you’ll still experience loss in your life even being ENOUGH. Heart break is bound to happen, but the important variable is how you choose to handle it. Please don’t handle it by blaming yourself.
3. We doubt ourselves.
Doubt is a dangerous thing. Doubting yourself is not trusting yourself. If you can’t trust yourself, who the hell can you trust? Here’s the truth: you are the expert on yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about you or your life. If you lost a job, you’ll doubt you are capable and competent. If you lost a love, you’ll doubt you’re special enough to find love again. If you lost you’re house, you’ll doubt you’ll ever manage money well or get back on your feet financially. Just because you feel these things, doesn’t mean they’re true.
Give yourself a little credit. We all make the best decisions we can at the time with the information we have in that moment. Hindsight is 20/20. Sure, you can look back on history now and see very clearly what you could have done differently to prevent heart break. But when you were actually going through it, you didn’t know what you know now. We’re all doing the best we can. You’re best will look different depending upon whether or not your healthy or sick, tired or well rested, stressed or carefree. Give yourself permission to just always do your best and accept whatever that looks like.
Now if you’re struggling with the loss of a relationship, I have to add one more thing about self doubt. Love is blind. We love with our hearts, not with our minds. The mind creates a reality we want when we start to fall in love. Our perception of reality is skewed by our heart pulling us in the direction it wants to take us in. We don’t choose who we fall in love with; it just happens. But we do choose who to be in a relationship with, which is a conscious, brain-powered decision. Never doubt that you will find love again. There are billions of people in the world and our hearts long for love. You will fall in love again and it will be magical because that’s how love is.
4. We listen to the remarks of other people.
“You know, you should feel lucky your situation isn’t worse than it is”. “Time heals all wounds. Just give it time”. “It’s better to have loved and lost than never loved at all”. Really? I should feel lucky? This feeling of pain and anguish will just suddenly disappear with time? Am I really better off losing someone a deeply loved?
Does any of this sound familiar? I find these remarks particularly annoying. Sure, when people say these things, they’re just trying to help and are most certainly searching for the right words to say. Yet, they inevitably say the wrong things. We aren’t taught how to support the grieving. We don’t know how to be helpful to the broken hearted. This is something to keep in mind as you listen to comments from the peanut gallery. No one really knows exactly how you’re feeling and no one really knows what to say to help. In many instances of heart break, there is NOTHING anyone could say or do to actually take the hurt away.
Take all comments with a grain of salt. They aren’t you. They’re not in your shoes. They weren’t in your relationship. They didn’t own the things you once owned. They didn’t work at the job you worked at. They didn’t love the person you’ve lost like you did. They don’t really get it. You’re allowed to feel shitty and upset about the loss you’ve suffered regardless of what other people say. But try to see their good intentions for what they’re worth. Maybe provide some suggestions for how they can support you better. You might have to just come right out and tell them that what they’re saying isn’t helpful and share with them what you truly need.
5. We try to heal without help.
This mistake is a biggie. Not only do women often make the mistake of not asking for help with their heart break, they frequently hold in their hurt and keep it secret. Women are wonderful, loving, nurturing, sensitive creatures. We are rockstars at helping others. We totally kill it at playing the role of “the strong one” and supporting other people in their times of need. But we really, really suck at asking for help. Here’s a tip: you can’t be “the helper” all the time. You have to share the role. Sometimes you’re the helper and sometimes you’re the one being helped.
As women, we’ve got to stop holding everything in and denying our own needs. We tend to keep our feelings tucked away because we feel embarrassed, ashamed, or fear making ourselves vulnerable to others. We fear what people will think of us if we reveal our inadequacies, our mistakes, or our raw, emotional, hot-mess selves. (By the way, can we all just pause for a second and own up to the “ugly cry” we’ve all experienced at some point in time? You know what I’m talking about…the kind of cry where you almost start dry-heaving, you’ve got mascara running down your cheeks, your face is burning red, and you’ve got snot and drool coming out everywhere. Yeah, we’ve all done it.)
We do ourselves a disservice by pressuring ourselves to hurry up and get the hell over it. “Put on your happy face and pretend everything is fine”. We don’t give ourselves permission to feel rotten. Feel sorry for yourself. You heard me right. Do it. Feel retched and angry. Feel miserable and broken. Allow yourself to be filled with sorrow, pain, and lots of Ben & Jerry’s. You deserve to let these feelings flow because you’ve been through the wringer. None of us are all that successful at pushing these feelings away or ignoring them anyhow, so give it up. Let it out.
Talk about it. Women problem solve and heal by talking…and talking…and talking. Talk is healing medicine. Talk to your trusted friends and family. Talk to your dog. Talk to yourself. Talk with a therapist. For many, therapy can seem scary or stigmatizing. Many people worry that if they choose to work with a therapist, it means they’re crazy or too weak to deal with their problems on their own. I can relate to this. I’m a professional counselor and I’ve seen a therapist many times to work through my own shit. The beauty of working with a therapist is that you can throw it all on the table, get their support and guidance, and you don’t have to give anything back in return. It’s the only relationship you’ll ever have that isn’t reciprocal, and that is a precious, wonderful thing. We can’t be our own therapist. You deserve to be treated with love, kindness, and compassion during this time of heart break. Reach out and take it.
Heart break isn’t easy, which is why it’s so important for you to be kind to yourself. Please resist the urge to beat yourself up for anything you think you did wrong, kick yourself for the things you regret, or curse yourself by saying you’ll never find love or happiness ever again. Be gentle and good to yourself. Reassure yourself that you’ll be just fine, because you will be. Know with confidence that this low point in your life will soon improve and there are wonderful things in store for you. Treat yourself to things you never did before, celebrate small successes, and allow yourself to feel comforted in whatever feels right for you. You deserve to be pampered and cared for during this time of heartache. Please give yourself the kindness you deserve.
If you or a friend is struggling with the loss of a relationship, we can help. “Break Ups Suck: A Girl’s Guide to Surviving a Break Up” by Nicole Iacovoni, is a simple and humorous guide to healing, personal growth, and moving on from the break up. Check it out here.
Nicole C. Iacovoni earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Denver. Through her vast experience working in the mental health field and her own personal self growth work, Nicole has developed valuable skills and tools for enhanced self awareness, self care, and improved relationships. Her passion and life’s work is to help women overcome life’s many challenges, become the best version of themselves, and live the lives they envision. She currently serves as the Founder and Executive Clinician at Willow Tree Wellness & Counseling in Bloomsburg, PA. Nicole is happily married and has two young daughters. She is already preparing herself for their first break ups.