Have you just had a breakup? Sometimes, breaking up feels like the end of the world. If you feel your life is over and have no idea how to go on, here’s a stanza from the 1966 Skeeter Davis song End of the World that says it all:
Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these eyes of mine cry?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?
It ended when you said goodbye
Yes, breaking up with someone you love often feels like the end of the world. Overwhelming loss and sadness seem insurmountable. Your plans for the future have come crashing to a halt. Life is turned upside down.
Where do you go from here? Is there light at the end of this dark tunnel of grief? There is. It just doesn’t seem possible right now. Why does this loss feel so bad?
Here are 4 reasons why it does, and how to heal:
You’re Left with An Empty Space You Can’t Fill
You had someone and now they’re gone. You’re left with an empty space you can’t fill. A space you now live in. And, it doesn’t have any meaning without the one you loved.
That’s terribly hard. Especially when what enters that empty space is a complicated mixture of the feelings that make up grief. Sadness. Anger. Fear. Loneliness. Despair. It feels like the end of the world.
You were happy. Had hope. Now, your world is altered beyond any recognition. You may even feel betrayed. Especially if there were promises. Or infidelity. You thought this one would last. Maybe, you were sure of it. You feel blindsided. What happened?
This grief can bring doubts about how lovable you are, may affect your self-confidence in almost everything you do. Why were you left? Where’s the love you thought you had?
You feel lost in space, alone in the world, and you don’t have any idea what to expect next. You’re struggling. Every second. Minute. Hour. Feels like an eternity.
Time doesn’t pass when “the world is ending.” When time is emptied of the one you need. There is nothing to hold you. No one there. And, you feel you will fall forever.
You Feel Alone & Lost with No Arms to Hold You
You had someone to hold you. Now you don’t. You’re alone. The sadness takes over like a tidal wave. Constantly. You wish it would end. Because it seems certain it will kill you.
The hope of love – Gone. You know you won’t survive it. All these feelings. At least you feel you can’t. Not another day. Sadness will go on forever. That’s what you believe.
Love ending, a relationship you needed, not working out, brings despair. Often, it’s old despair mixed with the new one. A despair that, maybe, you’ve lived with since childhood. Feelings you’ve never been able to face. Terror of being alone.
A voice inside you screams: “Please, please don’t leave me alone with this.” The voice of a little child. You, who, likely, had no one secure, long ago, to listen to your feelings.
Everyone needs someone. Now you’re alone again. Floating in a daze of distress and loneliness. Like there’s no floor underneath you. No one to catch you as you fall apart.
If you don’t have that someone when you’re a small child; someone who answers your calls, that is trauma. It leads to terror. The fear of being left. And, now it’s happened.
Again. Most losses bring up old losses and hurts. You try to cope in old, familiar ways. Maybe you feel, this is just the way it is. Always was, and will be. You withdraw into it.
If you think of reaching out and calling a friend, you’re afraid. Will anyone be there? You aren’t sure. You try to say it doesn’t matter. That nothing and no one matters.
But that’s not true. And, really, that’s the voice of hopelessness talking.
An Unshakable Conviction of Hopelessness
The voice of hopelessness is very convincing. Can tell you that nothing will be ok again.
That you’ll be alone forever. Like the conviction, there’s no tomorrow after a breakup. Your love world is over. You’ll never find love again. That voice just will not stop.
The voice of hopelessness? It’s probably been around a long time. You’ve kept up a good fight. You’ve wanted love. You need it. You’ve stayed as open as you can.
Then you find it, and you think: Now, my loneliness is over. For a while, you feel secure.
But, when love ends, hopelessness is waiting to take over again. Why does this belief get inside your head and create an unshakable conviction? There are two good reasons.
The first is a childhood of trauma, of no one there to understand. That brings hopelessness about finding love. Creates a voice of certain loss around every corner.
Certainty (really terror) of loss is the stuff of conviction. Yet there is that second thing:
Your conviction of hopelessness can be intended to protect you. Sounds strange? It’s not. When you’ve been hurt or abandoned, you don’t want to hope again. You’re scared.
Understandably scared. So, that hopeless voice warns you: better watch out. Seal yourself off. If you try again, you know you’ll just be left. It always happens. Always will.
That’s a feeling and a fear. But conviction turns feelings into beliefs. Not, I feel like I’ll be left if I find love again. It’s, I know I will. And, certainties are hard to get out of.
Especially if you are terrified of ever feeling this way again. Since, right now, you don’t see an end. And, if love has been a struggle, you wonder why you can’t hold onto it.
Wondering Why You Can’t Hold onto Love
Has it seemed impossible to find love for a long time? Now, just when you did, it’s gone. You’ve broken up and it feels like the end of the world. You find yourself not only in terrible despair and sadness but blaming yourself.
Maybe you’re not lovable. Or, it’s your fault this didn’t last. Having a hard time finding love can leave you with a lot of feelings and doubts. Is there something wrong with you?
Are you not enough? Is what you ask for too much? Are you less attractive than that other person? You compare yourself all the time and only come up short. In your mind.
But you feel it must be real. Other people find love. Why not you? You just don’t know.
Maybe you find yourself with someone, over and over, who can’t put you first. Can’t make room for you or your wishes at all. You bend over backward to give and give.
You try so hard to be what he or she wants. When you can’t, you think it must be you. It’s not. These kinds of relationship problems always have roots in the past.
You’re likely repeating what happened to you as a child. Unknowingly “transferring” your experience with a parent onto your loved one or in the choices you make.
Whatever form your relationship problems take, it is very painful to want love, not to find it, and to be so scared that you believe nothing will ever work out. This can change.
But, of course, you’re not sure. How do you pick up the pieces of your life and of yourself and go on? It seems impossible. What can make you ok?
How to Heal & Remember There’s Life After Loss
There’s life after loss. If you’re in the depths of it, you need someone to lend a hand and an ear. Healing happens when your feelings of despair and grief have a home.
Therapy can offer that home. It’s important not to go through the loss of a relationship alone. Especially if it leaves you feeling breaking up is the end of the world.
Yes, there’s been an ending. Living after it – that’s the challenge. Getting through your sadness. Despair. Hopelessness. Doubts about yourself. Feeling it’s because of you.
Maybe the only thing you feel you can do right now, in a life that seems in pieces, is to keep saying; “I’m ok. It just is.” You try to reassure yourself, to accept it. It’s hard, alone.
Because grief comes in waves. That’s how grief is. You think you’re getting to the other side, and it hits you again. That can make you feel it will never end. How does it stop?
Even if it’s impossible to believe that anything can help, therapy can. Reach out. With therapy, you can find the other side of grief. The end of the dark tunnel you’re in.
You can learn why love hasn’t worked. Resolve your fears. Use this loss for deeper self-understanding. Get out of conviction that you aren’t lovable, and know this isn’t your fault. Therapy can lead you to the right kind of love. To a stronger, more hopeful you.
There can be many more tomorrows. Time to trust hope, not catastrophic conviction. And, there can be the creating of a different kind of belief. In the possibility of new love.
I’m Dr. Sandra Cohen, a Los Angeles and California based psychologist and psychoanalyst. I specialize in trauma, depression, and problems in love. Call for a complimentary consultation. Let’s talk.