By: Matt Stickel
Breakups happen. They’re sloppy, they’re ugly, and the emotional distress they create is undeniable.
It’s because the emotional distress is real that you must take breakups seriously, even when no one else seems to care.
When I encountered my first broken heart, it was the loneliest I’d ever been. I grieved as if someone in my life had vanished. Outside a few friends my age, no one else showed sympathy or concern for me. The people I looked up to and depended on for protection didn’t seem to see or care about the emotional turmoil I was contending with in my heart.
Not only did I get rejected by my love interest, I was forsaken by everyone else, too.
Breakups cause real grief
Back in high school, I wasn’t allowed to date. My parents half-jokingly, half-seriously outlawed dating until I finished university. Ignoring their wisdom, I tried dating a classmate anyway.
Long story short, my heart was shattered, and I was dealing with some new emotions as a youth. I was grieving, and I didn’t know how to.
I didn’t tell my parents because I expected a response like, “Serves you right for breaking our no-dating rule” (which they would never have given me). And the friends and co-workers I shared my story and grief with didn’t seem concerned.
In a single breakup, I lost a dear friend, trust in others, a piece of joy, a bright dream and a lump of the identity I’d invested in the relationship.
The pain in my heart was undeniable. I was grieving a real loss in my life. In a single breakup, I lost a dear friend, trust in others, a piece of joy, a bright dream and a lump of the identity I’d invested in the relationship.
Everyone else treated my broken heart like I’d just lost puppy love: Listen to two Taylor Swift breakup ballads, watch The Notebook and call me in the morning. The advice was simple: Get over it. It’s not that big a deal.
But it was a big deal in my inexperienced heart.
Make sure you take a breakup seriously
If you know someone dealing with a breakup, here are simple ways you can support them.
The first thing is essential. Take the situation seriously. It’s not a joke. There’s a real grief and emotional vulnerability in your friend’s, sister’s, brother’s or child’s heart that needs reassuring, loving and grace-filled words to heal. Be sincere in your concern for them and don’t downplay their loss.
Here’s a recommendation when chatting with a person healing from a breakup: If you wouldn’t say it to a grieving widow, then don’t say it. Yes, you’re right, he or she isn’t dealing with the death of a spouse or a loved one. But how a person grieves a breakup as a young adult will set the stage for how he or she grieves future tragedies the rest of their life.
For example, as an adult, I internalise my emotional distress when grieving because I didn’t share with others after my teenage breakup. That’s not anyone else’s fault but my own. But I discovered this bad coping habit as a grieving teen when there was seemingly no one to turn to.
Second, because those healing from breakups are grieving a real loss and dealing with real emotional distress, encourage them to guard their hearts.
Satan and temptation will take advantage of their broken hearts. TV, movies, music and books provide awful examples of how to get over a breakup. They also do an excellent job of massaging where it hurts. But being immersed in romantic tragedies only helps the wounded heart bleed worse. So, whatever you do, don’t let the ones you love self-medicate on the terrible ideas and offerings ever-present in entertainment.
Instead, sit with them, talk with them, listen to them, pray with them, and tell them you love them as often as you can. Remind them about their identity in Christ. They feel lost and abandoned. Encompass them with your love and point them to God’s unlimited love as their hero in seasons like these.
If you are someone healing from a breakup
If you are that “someone” who is healing from a breakup, there are simple things you can do to encourage others to help you during this time.
First, don’t be alone. The temptation to do so is a self-fulfilling prophecy. After my first broken heart, I felt all alone. The person I loved left me and the people who said they loved me didn’t seem to care. I thought I had no one, and I made sure of it by avoiding everyone. This tactic ensured that I was all alone, and it only made things worse.
Instead, surround yourself with people who love you, even ones who minimise your despair. Your hurt and your pain won’t go unseen and unresolved for long amid your family and friends’ deep love for you. Eventually, they will notice. So, be patient, give them time, and don’t be afraid to show your grief.
There’s no shame in crying. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, and yet, it’s one of the most comforting: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
The people who love you most can’t always tell you’re hurting. Don’t be afraid to cry in front of them and send a clear message you’re hurting and need some big loving to make it through this situation.
Instead, surround yourself with people who love you, even ones who minimise your despair.
Finally, forgive, forgive and forgive more. Dealing with family and friends after a breakup can be discouraging. It’s irritating when you’re leaving hints about the emotional turmoil you’re dealing with and no one seems to pick up on them. Odds are they’re not avoiding your pain to spite you or be petty. They just aren’t aware of how much you’re hurting inside.
So, be strong, share your feelings, ask family and friends for help, ask God to restore your joy and take all the time you need to heal. This may be the first time you’ve grieved, but it won’t be the last. Learn how to grieve from this dreadful ordeal, and depend on God’s love and the love of others to accompany and comfort you.
© 2018 Matthew Stickel. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published on Boundless.org.
Article supplied with thanks to Focus on the Family Australia. About the author: Focus on the Family provides relevant, practical support to help families thrive in every stage of life.