The way I see it, there are fundamentally two ways you can go about getting used to being single. The first is to attempt to ride the memory wave by overwriting painful memories (by forcibly creating new ones). This is by far the most common form of advice; get traveling, go on a dating spree, draw up a list of awesome single-only advantages, switch it up. In short, get busy.
While this isn’t the kind of advice I will be discussing in this particular article, I will say that this kind of approach does have one thing going for it, and that is that what may begin as a manic and somewhat fake attempt at accepting our new life by refusing to be defined by our grief, it actually does have the virtue of creating a new routine for our minds to cling to, and ultimately accept.
The problem is that it is all rooted in denial, and that the house of cards we erect does have a tendency to come crashing down every now and then, dragging us kicking and screaming backwards through the healing cycle (which also leads to a haunting sense of not being capable of getting over it).
Right-o, so what’s the second way of doing it?
The Meandering Road To Acceptance
If the ultimate goal of “getting over it” is rooted in acceptance, then at some level it makes sense that we define our goals with this in mind. But there’s a caveat here I tend to stress; that of stripping away the expectation of getting over it from our day-to-day expectations. Because if we do consciously expect to get over it, then every day we wake up to a draining, ghostly image of our ex is fundamentally a failure. Given how often, and how natural these pangs are, that can conceivably mean years of self-inflicted torture. Sub-consciously, we have little control over how often these retrospective hiccups occur, so attempting to define our present with this in mind is futile.
Instead, I would argue that “getting over it” is inextricably linked with pain. It is precisely because we are processing and healing that we feel pain. It might feel as if our attempts at healing are going nowhere, it might even feel as if it’s all getting worse, but these feelings are a direct result of braving scenarios devoid of false hope. Grief is neither senseless nor without point.
In general, there seems to be a consensus that healing means things get progressively easier. The reality, however, is that grief is navigated in waves. It is not a linear process. We can detach judgment and refuse to identify as being broken once we understand that just because today feels worse than yesterday, it isn’t a sign we’re sliding backwards. It’s usually the reverse, it’s that today is the today that we busy ourselves with processing a raw emotional detail. It may be a drop in a bucket, but sooner or later it will fill.
Accepting this doesn’t make any of our healing less painful, but it does mean we can objectively view grief as a process that is there to carry us forward, rather than hold us back.
Getting Used To Being Single Again
Now, in more practical terms, how can we translate this realization that grief is friend rather than foe into something that works for us?
Quite simply, we let it happen, because it’s going to regardless of how we feel about it. This means not judging ourselves or the “state” of our healing based on the present intensity of our pain and discomfort, and letting grief take whatever shape it wants. There’s no right way to navigate grief, so we may as well make it a process we can identify (if not judge ourselves) with. Do what feels most comfortable. Don’t feel like partying despite the incessant chants of your well-meaning social networks harping on about how much it will help? Don’t.
Lastly, not to play devil’s advocate, but there really does come a time when allowing grief to dictate our lives becomes damaging, because at that point, despite our best intentions, progress is only ever relative to grief and we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. Whereas grief is only ever a part of getting used to our new lives. Being single means a new routine, it means new goals and new objectives. Like it or not, life becomes about making the most of what we have, and are in direct control of.
If nothing else, even if it all feels so wasteful, the occasional bout with grief is a fantastic reminder that we can adapt and survive just about anything, even the fallout of a love we felt was our be all and end all. And this realization can carry us forward and give us the strength to attempt things that, until today, we never thought were possible for us to achieve, because at some level we are aware that no matter the fallout, the rejection or the failure, we can and will get through it.