Among the many difficulties that come with a breakup, the worst may be when the person who broke up with you will not discuss it and may even cut off contact altogether. I have one friend who was talking about marriage one day, and the next, literally, could not get her to take his calls. Eventually, he got a letter saying it was over and she refused to talk to him ever again. What the?! Or one person thinks everything is fine when, out of the blue, her partner comes home, says it’s over, she’s moving out, and does not want to talk about it. I get emails from people who have been broken up with by email, text, and, in Sex and the City style, by post-it. This is not an urban legend. It really happens.
When the break up is communicated in one of these ways, you can be sure the person breaking up is not interested in much more conversation. No one knows why.
When someone leaves you like this, you are simply—and understandably—in shock. It just feels impossibly stressful and anxiety producing. You think you are now stuck with a gaping wound that will never close because the only way to close it is to hash it out in relationship. And that’s not an option.
You’ll have to figure out a way to create closure on your own.
I can suggest a particular journaling exercise that may help. I offer it during Wisdom of a Broken Heart workshops and it is also presented in the book. It sounds deceptively simple, but for many has been a healing experience. See if it works for you. If you try it out, I would of course love to hear about your experience.
The exercise is to tell the story of your relationship in 3 parts. The first part covers the period from when you met until your relationship took its form. The second part is about the duration of the relationship, up until the time it started to fray. The third part starts when you began to breakup and ends in the present moment.
I’ll suggest a sentence to begin with and a sentence to end with for each part. Whatever you write in between those two sentences is up to you.
You will be writing this story in the 3rd person. So instead of writing “I met him on a Monday,” you’d write, “She met him on a Monday.” Instead of saying “he first noticed her at the gym,” you’d say “they first noticed each other at the gym” or “Bill first noticed Emma at the gym.” You get the idea. You view yourself and everyone else in your story as characters and, as with characters, you can describe them in any way you like, attribute to them the qualities you think are relevant, and put dialog in their mouths as befits your story.
You can write it any way that you like—as a short story, poem, or, if you’re feeling wildly creative, a screenplay. If you hate to write, you can write it in bullet points.
I suggest doing this exercise in three different periods lasting ninety minutes to two hours each. Whether over the weekend or on three successive nights, let there be time in between writing sessions, at least a few hours. Take your time and let it unfold. You never have to share this work with anyone, so look deep and be honest. Start at the appointed time and—very important—stop at the appointed time. Contain your writing periods cleanly.
Before beginning each writing session, sit quietly for a few moments. Maybe light a candle, place some fresh flowers on your writing table, pour yourself a glass of wine, or make yourself a delicious cup of tea or coffee. Make it special. After you’ve settled your mind down a bit, make the aspiration that this writing session help create healing for all involved, especially yourself. At the end, sit quietly for a few moments and, again, offer your words up to be used for healing, somehow, in some way, starting now.
If you have any questions about the instructions for this exercise, please ask in comments and I’ll respond.
The first sentence of the first writing period is: “They met like this.” The last sentence is: “That’s when s/he knew they were in a relationship.” As mentioned, feel free to tweak those sentences to suit your story. It’s rare that a story is that black and white, but do your best to cover the period between the time you first encountered this person and the time your relationship took a particular form, whether it lasted one night or 32 years.
The first sentence of the second writing period is: “S/he knew s/he was in love (or hooked or connected) when_____. “ The last sentence is: “That’s when s/he knew something was going wrong.” Again, just fill in between these two sentences as best you can.
The first sentence of the third writing period is: “It dawned on her/him that this was really ending when_____.” End with this sentence: “That’s when s/he knew that the relationship in its current form was over.”
When you are done writing, walk away from the exercise. Do something else–read, sob, walk, cook, sleep. Let it lie there for awhile. Then, if you’re moved to, journal (and/or post below) about what you saw, learned, felt, as you did this exercise, if anything. In my programs, I suggest finishing by doing Loving Kindness practice (instruction here) for yourself and the one who broke your heart.
It’s my sincere hope that by doing these exercises, you’ll take on the task of creating closure on your own and emerge on other side, whole and at peace. This is a very brave and difficult undertaking and I wish you all the strength and softness you’ll need. xoxoS