Have you ever hesitated to end a relationship because of the intricate ways your lives were intertwined?

Or have you ended a relationship and struggled to move on because of a profound sense of loss?

Then you are in the right place. I am breaking down the secondary losses we experience after a breakup: what they are, their impact, and how honoring our secondary losses helps us pick up the pieces.

Prefer the audio? Listen here.

The Nature of Grief

Let’s begin by dispelling the myth that grief is only reserved for the loss of a beloved person or pet.

Grief can also come up around the ending of a friendship, career, lifecycle, or romantic relationship.

Our ability to grieve our losses is often influenced by how good we are at goodbyes.

When faced with an ending, it’s common to jump into the victim’s position or quickly move on. We also tend to feel angry as it is easier to feel than hurt or sadness (which are usually present underneath the anger).

Honoring our losses is incredibly important for our mental health. The guide for this episode contains questions to help you determine how you feel about goodbyes and why. If we want to change how we relate to endings, we need to understand how we relate to them.

Identifying + Mourning Secondary Losses

We experience many layers of grief in the wake of a breakup, even if we initiated it.

One of the biggest secondary losses of a breakup is the future we were creating with the other person.

We have to mourn the hopes and dreams we had for our relationship, often more than the relationship itself.

We also need to mourn the loss of our routines with this person: walking the dog together, weekly date nights with siblings or friends, and eating dinner together after work.

If you had a mutual friend group, you may need to mourn this loss as well, depending on how your friends handle the breakup.

If you lose an income, you may need to mourn the lifestyle you used to have, too.

Maybe you’re also experiencing a loss of identity. This can happen if, for example, you really liked how you looked with this person or what they did in life.

I had a client who really wanted to be in a relationship with a doctor or dentist. (It was a status thing.) Eventually, she married a dentist, and despite being miserable, she stayed with him because she lived in a mansion and could do whatever she wanted.

Had they divorced (they didn’t), she would have had to mourn her dream of being with a dentist and all it afforded her.

You may also need to mourn the loss of your relationships with your partner’s family. Inside the guide are strategies you can use to thoroughly mourn these secondary losses.

The Importance of Honoring Your Emotion

In my experience, grief can come when you least expect it. You might feel perfectly fine one moment and then spontaneously burst into tears when something reminds you of your relationship.

These waves of grief are painful, but if you don’t honor the truth of how you feel, your emotions will manage you.

Allow yourself to feel sad, angry, frustrated, abandoned, rageful, empty, or guilty. Maybe you have regrets or feel blindsided.

You have a right to your feelings, regardless of why or how the relationship ended. Honor those feelings by being honest about your experience. I have journaling prompts you can use for this inside the guide, which you can download here.

Practical Steps For Mourning + Processing

Beyond mourning and honoring your feelings, here are practical steps to take to help you process your breakup.

#1: Block your ex on all social media. If the split is amicable you can initiate a convo about blocking each other so you can both move on. It can be challenging not to cyber-stalk your ex, and it can be painful if they seem to be doing well and you feel horrible.

#2: Create boundaries to let people know you are not open to receiving their unsolicited advice or updates about your ex. Setting healthy boundaries makes moving on easier.

If your friends and family didn’t like your partner, they may expect you to be as happy as they are that the relationship is over. Do not let them tell you how to grieve. Let yourself feel how you feel.

#3: Self-Soothe. Be kind and gentle with yourself. You are recovering from a massive loss. Give yourself grace and protect yourself, especially if you still need to see your ex because you are co-parenting or getting a divorce and attending court proceedings.

#4: Take a relationship inventory. Getting honest about the good, bad, and ugly you experienced in the relationship helps you learn from it more than getting caught up in hindsight and rose-tinted glasses does.

#5: Fall madly and deeply in love with yourself. Carving out time to focus on you is one of the most profoundly healing things you can do. If you spontaneously meet someone and fall in love, great. But why don’t we just fall madly and deeply in love with ourselves…first?

See your friends. Take a break from dating. Focus on self-care, self-consideration, and self-love. Follow your curiosity and what lights you up.

In my 20s and early 30s, I was a serial monogamist, going from one long-term relationship to the next. But right before I met my husband, Vic, I was single and ready to be alone for the first time in my life.

During this time, I processed why I felt compelled to get into past relationships, the red flags I missed, and what didn’t work and why. It was incredibly liberating to fall madly and deeply in love with myself, and it needed to happen.

For boundary scripts, relationship assessments, and self-soothing tips, download the guide right here.

I hope this episode added value to your life, and if you are hurting or mourning the end of a relationship right now, I hope it was soothing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this on Instagram (@terricole) or in the comments. What secondary losses have you experienced in the aftermath of a breakup? How did you mourn them and move on?

I hope you have the most amazing week and as always, take care of you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I am coming on 2 years single this summer. I have taken all of the above steps. Grief comes and goes. I thought I would get over him, the dreams of a future together, the little lovely things….much sooner. Getting over good things turned out to be much more painful than getting over bad ones. In a way, I feel, that the relationship will go on forever, the unlived parts of it, the parts that come alive today in different ways….resemblances, memories, smells, pain, tears, softening and laughter. It has taught me more that I want to admit, or allow even. It is funny how we attract people in our lives who help us live out our unresolved pasts.
    Thank you and Best wishes

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}