I'm Finally Giving Myself Space to Feel


A Mender

My boyfriend (now ex) of three and a half years and I broke up four months ago. The period of time that has followed has been one of the most emotionally painful in my 27 years. He was my home –and my closest friend– in a city 1,100 miles from my family. We had more intellectual and physical chemistry than I have experienced with anyone.

When we broke up, I realized that it wasn’t just our relationship that was broken. As I stepped back, I realized I had let my life spin out of control in the past two years as I tried to balance work, graduate school, personal relationships, and recovery from a significant back injury. When my relationship ended, I was mentally, physically, and emotionally devastated – I felt likeI was broken too. And I became determined to do everything I could to get back on track.

After our breakup, I threw myself into recovery mode. The day we broke up, I repainted my bedroom and rearranged my furniture for a change of scenery. Soon after that, I bought new sheets and towels.

Then I set out to process everything. I filled an entire journal with my anger, relief, frustration, sadness, acceptance, and gratitude. I examined the roles we each played in our relationship’s demise, and sought lessons. I listed reasons it was right to break up: toxicity, inability to meet each other’s needs, communication problems. I talked with close friends, and sought counseling.

And I kept busy. I planned four months’ worth of weekend trips and visits with friends and family. I also made a conscious effort to eat, sleep, exercise, and rediscover my own interests.

In short, I did everything I thought I needed to do to recover.

Last Friday, I awoke with a clear and calm mind for the first time since our breakup. I started getting ready for the day, checked email, showered, and dressed. And then, in the midst of getting ready, I broke down. I sat on my couch and cried in a way that I haven’t in a long time – with sobs that reverberated through my entire body. I felt, in every way, the entirety of the loss I had experienced.

I also felt release. For so many months, I had used structure and activity to propel myself forward. I had also allowed myself to feel many emotions while assessing what had transpired. But I hadn’t been able to do the thing I needed to do most to start healing: I hadn’t been able to give myself space to feel without analyzing or rationalizing.

Since last Friday, I’ve broken down a few more times. And each time, I have experienced greater release and renewal. In finally connecting with the depth of my grief, I have begun to heal. I have let my grief wash over me, and I have started to have much greater certainty that I will be – that I am – well.

I know other feelings will come and go in the coming days. I may feel rage, gratitude, happiness, or devastating sadness, and those feelings may overtake me when I don’t expect them. But I also know now that by allowing myself the space I need to feel – without analysis or judgment – I will be restored.

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