Coming out of a relationship through a difficult break-up can be tough – especially if you lose love while you are living overseas, many miles away from home. This article has tips to help you deal with the heartache and start the process of healing.
Facing your days with heartache is rough, particularly if you’re far away from your friends and family. This can be a very lonely time, with life around you seeming to carry on as normal despite the burden of your pain. The loss of love is invisible to others but for you it is very present and painful.
Tips to help you heal from heartache
What follows is not a recipe for instant happiness – and we are sure you have your own coping strategies. Use these pointers to help you move gently through your heartache or send this to someone who’s struggling right now.
Consider this a virtual hug from me to you in your moments of loneliness or when you feel you don’t know what to do or that your pain is unbearable.
You can do this! It’s okay to feel afraid; to experience the fear of being alone, the fear of being rejected, the fear that you will never love again or that you will never be loved again. But remember, you can successfully meet these challenges. You are alive, you will survive!
Take it slowly: Take it day by day until the pain of your heartache lessens. If it hurts, let it hurt, but know that it will be better one day. In periods of emotional distress, it helps to take a ‘day in, day out’ approach.
One step at a time: Instead of seeing your heartache as a huge mountain, try to break it down into manageable parts – small hills – and decide which one you will deal with first.
You may have questions like… ‘Is the relationship on or is it off?’ or ‘Is the break-up a gain or a loss?’ Know that it’s normal to have doubts. Allow the rise and fall of these questions, without needing to answer them right now.
You may feel… helpless, tearful, empty, despairing, guilty or angry; you may pretend that everything is OK when deep down you know it isn’t. Allow yourself to feel any, or all, of the above. This is part of the healing process.
Connect with others: This is a great time to strengthen the other relationships in your life. Be sure to connect with friends and family at home. Skype, online chat and email make communicating quick and easy! Connect with those who’ve supported you in the past; reach out to someone who always helps you to feel more positive about life.
Reach out to people in your location too, whether local or expat. Sharing will deepen these friendships and, of course, many expats will understand how hard it is to face challenges while far from home and your support base.
Seek professional help if you:
- feel you are ‘coming apart’ or no longer have control;
- feel empty, numb or that there is no meaning in life;
- feel overwhelmed or isolated, with no one to reach out to;
- turn to alcohol or other substances to cope with the difficult emotions.
This list is not exhaustive and you may experience the pain in other ways – you know when it is time to ask for help. The sooner you ask for support, the better for you. It doesn’t have to be this way and you don’t have to go through this on your own.
Use this opportunity to heal from past wounds
You may find that earlier losses begin to surface. A break-up often scratches old wounds, including previous break-ups or rejection of any kind. Allow these to heal as well.
Trust the healing process: It sucks, we know. You are hurting and unfortunately there is no easy or fast way to get through this. Try to see this pain as the beginning of a healing process that will empower you.
The only way out is through: The sooner you allow yourself to be with the pain, the sooner it will pass.
Refuse to dwell on ‘what ifs’ and ‘should haves’: Don’t punish yourself. We understand the need for self-reflection so that you grow as a person, but this is different from exhausting yourself with regrets. Disregard any thought that begins with, ‘If only I had/hadn’t done/said…’ as this just makes the heartache more intense. Immediately ask yourself: ‘What purpose is this thought serving?’
Give yourself time: Take your time and make space for new beginnings, when you feel ready. In the age of fast food and instant gratification, it can be hard to accept that some things take time. Give yourself this rare gift.
Find small ways to care for yourself: Schedule comforting activities, like a hot bath, with candles and relaxing music or walking barefoot. Continue with your current hobbies or explore new ones. Get plenty of rest. Prioritise fun. We know this feels difficult, so just do what you can – healing thrives on fun and laughter!
Let it go: Remaining distraught is not a ‘proof of love’. Of course, you really loved this person! You may think letting go is easier said than done, but you need to start the healing process for your own good and your state of mind, when you are ready.
See beyond the here and now: You may feel that you’re going to be alone for the rest of your life, that you will not love again. Remember: you are simply projecting your current feelings into the future. Take a moment to visualise a positive outcome: that you will be happy again, that you will fall in love again, that your life ahead is full of magic and surprises. You have a choice as to how to spend your energy: do you want to think about a dark future, or allow light to come through the cracks?
And when you are ready…
You may have lost today but you will win tomorrow. When you feel ready – and without this burden on your heart – continue your search for a partner who meets your standards, who understands your vision of partnership, love and sharing. A new love will come, sooner or later. For now, you have a choice as to how you want to spend your time until this day arrives.
Sent with love and compassion!
Consider this a virtual hug from me to you in your moments of loneliness
Note: Many of the tips above are inspired by the bestselling book How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Harold Bloomfield, Melba Colgrove and Peter McWilliams. (It helped me through a difficult break-up.)
First published on Expat Nest.