I read yesterday that a break up is so painful it’s like mourning a death, and when I analyzed my emotions, it rang very true. When breaking up you’ve lost a loved one, someone very close to you, and trying to move on is heart-breaking. You have good moments and bad, and when you think your done thinking about them, they enter your mind out of nowhere and the tears begin to fall. In a way, I believe breaking up can be more painful because there isn’t any real closure. That person is still out their living their life, and you can’t reach out and wrap your arms around them.

There is something to be said for healing times, times of transition and recovery, after a break up. Granted, the times needed to recover are going to differ depending on whether you were the breakee versus being the breakers, as well as the circumstances of the break up, but there still ought to be a cooling off time if only to allow your feelings to settle.

I know many folks who go with the “Scorched Earth” policy (I, of course, have never been guilty of this), wherein the person they were involved in is essentially dead to them. To facilitate this “death”, the circumstances of the break up are particularly … sharp. Usually in a very loud and messy way – kind of like flouncing. They burn the bridges of any future type of relationship, including friendship. Sure, on the surface it may allow you to move on faster, but in reality, it is not dealing with the emotions of a situation. It’s a way of running away from them. Also, if we’re told to love each other as we love ourselves, we have to ask ourselves if destroying all bridges to further contact is what Christ had in mind.

We have a tendency to want to rush through grief. We don’t want to make others feel bad and, let’s face it, grief makes people feel uncomfortable. So that feeling of abandonment is increased as you fear friends avoiding you. It is also increased by the fact that you really have withdrawn from contact. You have a lot of emotions to sort through and deal with. To figure out if you want the chance to salvage a friendship for later. Wondering if you (or they) can ever be “just friends” ever again, and if it’s worth the natural phases of awkwardness and sensitive feelings. You have hurt and anger to have to sift through. Not to mention their absence has left a void, one that we feel needs to filled as soon as possible.

Because we’re afraid of being alone.

Don’t be afraid of time alone. Being alone is a perfectly natural response, a stage of grief as it were. A phase where you keep your head down, keep a low social profile, and lick your wounds. You don’t want to wallow there, thinking that bad things can’t keep finding you if you’re ducking life. Bad things may still happen, but you may also miss out on all sorts of interesting opportunities while you were busy hiding. A few things to do while in your self-imposed retreat:

Mourn. Let yourself really mourn, to fully experience the stages of grief. It is a heart-wrenching time and you are allowed to feel hurt or sad. Something you’d come to depend on died. I’m also a big fan of mourning rituals. We don’t appreciate ritual and tradition as a culture. Symbols have power and there is a power to ritual. So burn pictures, pack up the stuff they gave you, delete them from your top myspace friends. Do what you have to do.

Learn. This is a great opportunity for reflection. We have to avoid the trap of self-pity and self-defeatism (“I’m just one of those people meant to be alone” type talk). Re-examine and re-assess how you approach relationships. Take a look at your behavior and decision making that led to your choice of that prospective Significant Other – especially if you have a history of making bad choices. Then keep in mind that you may be doing everything right and, well, they were an ass. Or maybe they weren’t and things just weren’t meant to be. Also keep in mind, self-blame is not the same as learning

Go to God. Another role of the quiet time is one of prayer (for healing or thanksgiving, depending on the break up). Spend time with the Father of Compassion, the God of all comfort “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (II Corinthians 1:4). Let your friends, church, community be His arms of comfort. In other words, know when it’s time to come out of your exile.

Move on. Drunken nights aren’t dealing with anything, they are attempts at masking pain. Considering the nunnery isn’t dealing with anything, it is running away. Watching re-runs of Friends while eating Cheetos is not moving on, it’s not even living. Get (or reclaim) a life. Re-connect with old friends (and shame on you for dropping them just because you got a S.O.)

Sometimes break ups are necessary, so we strive for as clean a break as possible. In so doing, we have to always be considering what are the best ways to love one another. Even when you don’t want.

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