After the Breakup
Do you have one that got away? Or were they the best thing you never had? That is the question. After writing Singleness and Self-Love: The Unspoken Benefits, I wanted to follow up with the ugly truth. The journey to self love sounds great in that post because I have healed. But the grief after the breakup was an actual mess. Specifically, I was the mess. We thank God for growth!
I’ve had a difficult time writing this post because I have lived my truth in semi-silence. Aside from sharing the occasional dramatic social media post, I’ve consistently tried to keep my relational rollercoaster to myself. I kept all bad things from my family and even my closest friends. This was between me, my ex, and God. No one else needed to know… (pathetic behavior).
I have no difficulty explaining the psychology behind the stages of grief. Instead, I’m having trouble with speaking bits and pieces of my story for any and all to see. For risk of judgment, maybe being relatable, or simply for no reason at all. Either way, we’re here. It’s happening. Let’s get into it.
The various stages of grief
Beyonce sang us through 45 minutes and 42 seconds of her grief stages with Jay. The Knowles-Carter love story ended happily with reconciliation and eventually twins, to make them a posse of 5. They are now living their fly lives, stunting on us all.
Zoey and Luca, from the hit comedy series Grown ish, gave us 20 minutes and 51 seconds of their grief stages. This particular episode ended in mutual closure, with both accepting that they could not casually hook up and still remain friends.
Meanwhile, after 9 years, 5 months, and 28 days of (insert word that isn’t love, that isn’t hate, but somewhere in between) my grief ended with me being left on read. So now, let’s discuss.
12 Stages of Grief
Many of us have heard, sang, and cried to Beyonce’s visual album. I, for one, was front and center with the TV on blast the night the visual dropped on HBO. She gave us life while sharing the hardship of her 12 stages of grief: intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, loss, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope, and redemption.
Although I must admit, when I would playback the album without the visual, I frequently stopped somewhere between Daddy Lessons and Sandcastles. Beyonce got her happily ever after, but at the time I hadn’t reached that peak. So I would end my jam session before her happiness got reinstated. You know, for the sake of my pride
5 Stages of Grief
If you are a fan of the Freeform show Grown ish, then you know that Luca and Zoey had a relapse. Because it began with this stage, their story looked a little different. They covered 5 stages of grief: denial, regret, shame, guilt, and acceptance.
The episode ended with them mutually agreeing not to hate each other. The acceptance was clear. It may not have been clean, but they were able to communicate that there was no need or want for bad blood. Watching this episode triggered me. Immediately I knew I had to cover the stages of grief after the breakup.
7 Stages of Grief
Then there’s me. I did not reach redemption like the Knowles-Carter’s and I did not get mutual closure like Luca and Zoey. Being 100% honest, I want to say as little as possible about the whirlwind of a relationship that I experienced. As I leave out the dirty details of how wrong we both were, I’ll do my best to make it make sense. Psychology Today gives a great description of the 7 stages of grief after a breakup. Their definition, unlike Lemonade and Grown ish, is the one my life story resembles the most. So lets trample through these stages, which are:
- Desperate for answers
- Initial acceptance
- Redirected hope
- Revision (an added bonus)
You know when you just NEED to know something? Like, you can’t stop thinking about it. And the more you tell yourself “don’t think about it” the harder you dwell on it? Then you inevitably do whatever you can to get the answers? Yeah, that’s desperation.
I began dating my ex in high school, April 9, 2010. We were long distance dating during undergrad, from 2013-2016. And we were in a very confusing situationship during graduate school, from 2016-2019.
I’m not sure how many times we broke up, but I remember the first time was around HS graduation in 2012 and the last time was around undergrad graduation in 2016. But neither time was the real end. I was desperate to make it work for many reasons. I invested time, secrets, laughs, and unfulfilled dreams into this. What do you mean it’s over?
Instead of taking my L and carrying on, I stayed. It was ugly. I begged for answers. Begged for acceptance. Acted a plum fool with this dude. At one point I even sent a clip of Meredith and Derek’s “pick me, choose me, love me” scene in the scrub room. My Grey’s Anatomy fans know how cringe worthy that was. I cringed the moment I sent it to my ex, and even as I’m typing this. But I did whatever I had to do to keep things going. Out of desperation
FYI, the video did nothing for my ex. I tried to play it off. I think he even ignored it and started a different conversation. It was just that cringey and embarrassing.
He never ignored me. Sooo that means it’s working, right? We didn’t really end, but we did. It was so confusing that I began to wonder “were we ever really exclusive?” That’s neither here nor there, because he was mine and I was his. It’s all about the bond. At least that’s what social media said, and I did my best to believe it. It fit my situation so I became that person that said things I didn’t mean. Just to ease my own discomfort.
We would text, sometimes hang out, and every now and then we might even talk on the phone. And the days he would hit me up first? Talk about me being giddy! He always said goodmorning and goodnight. So I would technically start and end my days with him. That was all I needed to hold on to the idea that we would one day be together again. Whew chile, the delusion.
It also helped that he would say nice things and elude to the idea of us being together once we were out of college. Lol at me for convincing myself to agree to these terms and conditions, even though I thought “yeah but we could just be together now, no?”
Then again he wouldn’t reply if he didn’t want me… so we’re good…
One of the biggest reasons breaking up in 2016 was hard is that was the year we both graduated, and a time of relational shifts. Friends were graduating, moving away, and graduate school was around the corner. I wanted something familiar. And that something, more like someone, just so happened to move back in town to continue his education. We started attending the same graduate school, and boy oh boy do I wish either one of us had gone elsewhere.
Now I know we should’ve been over. We had just broken up a few months ago. But listen, too many changes had occurred. I could finally have him in person. We could be better. Things would work out. Everything was fine. I would do whatever he wanted me to. Even if that meant not seeing him often, not getting a reply to every message, not having phone calls… anything he wanted…
I feel my body tingling with “wow sis, you was really wylin for ol dude.” I bargained my self-worth right out the window and settled for texting all day and getting late night invites. Like sis, this is not eBay. We are not looking for the best deal to sell. I am who I am (friggin amazing btw) and if he wasn’t with it I should have just kept it pushing. But as the old saying goes, we live and we learn.
Now when the relapses happened I wish I could say I was on a high. In reality I would think “man, if only he would open up to me more, we could have this forever.” I would take those small relapse moments and do my best to milk them.
If he allowed me to come over I would be as polite and sweet as possible. If he decided to visit me I would be the best host ever. If we were out in public I was pulling out my freakum dress and getting my hair and makeup just right! Crazy part is, it wasn’t hard to do these things since I was genuinely excited to be around him.
Make the most of the moment
With every encounter I could tell that my time was limited. I had to make the most of every moment. It felt something like giving an acceptance speech at an award show. The time moves faster than my words and actions. Sooner than later he was sending me on my way to wait for my next opportunity to impress.
Wow. The sadness. It really wrecks me to reminisce on all the things I encouraged, accepted, and allowed to continue for so many years. All the things that I said and did are honestly disgusting to think about. I would often overreact just to get a reaction out of him. Because as I stated earlier, he never ignored me.
I wish I could say he made me angry. There are plenty of times I should have been angry. But around summer of 2017 I finally just felt it wasn’t fair. Life was not what I expected. Everything was falling apart. I couldn’t see or feel my own happiness all because I wanted to be the girl that never gave up on the boy. I was just so focused on forgiving him quickly. Because that’s what love does, right? It keeps no record of wrong?
All my anger turned inwards. I was so hardened by the fact that I loved someone who never did and likely never would reciprocate that same feeling. My focus was so set on not losing what I had worked so hard to keep, that it literally drove me crazy. I was self destructing before my own eyes. I was so upset with myself. No matter what I did or who I was with, all I could feel was anger and deep sadness at my stupidity.
In June 2017 the light went off that I had to let go. Soon after I acknowledged the anger I recognized this couldn’t be my life anymore. I would still interact with him. Go on dates. Hug. Kiss. Whatever. Yet I knew the sun was setting on our time together. I mean, I wasn’t going to let it go on my own. He had to be pried away by God Himself. I was too comfortable. Comfortable with the level of distance I was given and the unfulfilled love. I became used to expecting little to nothing and being overjoyed with scraps.
So I figured it would be good to stay where I’m comfortable until I’m ready to grow. Not the healthiest decision but I did what felt logical. Not cold turkey, but a weaning process. I stayed close enough for comfort, but I also grew apart mentally. We saw each other less. I cried about it less. But at the end of the day I still had a glimmer of hope ‘cause he still had all the right things to say.
I had only seen him a handful of times around town in 2018, but our interactions had become easier during this time. More enjoyable. Somehow we were eventually planning to take trips in 2019 and I was getting excited to visit him (I had graduated from my masters program in May 2018 so we were separated once again).
All throughout 2017-2019 I told myself (a whole lot) “he doesn’t want me.” A friend also made sure to tell me this, the few times I chose to open up about my ex (the ugly truth I wasn’t tryna hear). But in January or February of 2019 he said something to the effect of “I never said we would definitely get together after graduation. I’m still not ready for commitment.”
There was something about him saying it that changed everything. While I knew the truth, the lie was easier to believe as long as he kept saying “one day.” But this grieving heart will never forget the day he said it straight. The moment that non-reciprocal love was confirmed from the source himself.
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Now I didn’t let it all go immediately after this incident. But I did notice that I was being more logical. I set boundaries and expectations. I constantly reminded myself that no matter how much fun our conversation was, if those expectations and boundaries aren’t being respected then no dice. I had to give up on making excuses for his lack of contribution to my well being. Having my needs met through honesty and respect is not expecting too much. To be told and to feel any other way is beneath me.
As I started to respect and show love for myself, I noticed the distance grow between us. I brought it up and he denied it. Instead of trying to mediate the distance, as I did far too often before, I simply let it be. I had prayed for clarity and direction on our relationship all these years. But this time I was no longer trying to assist God in creating the path.
The big day
October 6, 2019 is the best day I have ever experienced. I would always tell my ex “I want you happy and honest.” But this day it got to the point where his dishonesty was revealed in a light that couldn’t be covered. And for the first time, he didn’t reply. Which was surprisingly okay with me.
Being left on read didn’t matter. I knew my heart and my actions were all in the right place. I had done no social media stalking, trash talking, gossip spreading, etc. Yet all things ended in one fell swoop, almost as if it was meant to be. Then the most unexpected thing occurred. I felt peace. His non-response was the beginning of a new life for me. The cycle had officially ended. The grieving was over. I could finally listen to “Forward” and “Freedom” on Lemonade, while having hope for my All Night to one day come… Just not with him.
Revision is my special 8th stage. It’s not in Psychology Today’s grief stages but it’s my life and I get to name it what I want. The most insane part to me is that to this day I have not cried about losing him. So much joy has sprouted up on its own now that I’m no longer in the cycle of emotional decay. I have been able to redesign what type of future I imagine for myself. There have been so many wins on this journey of singleness that I couldn’t be any more grateful for the opportunity to enjoy it without distractions.
Working on my blog, learning how to sew, starting a life coaching business, traveling to see the world, living my best life! I’m finally able to feel the happiness that was always overshadowed by being angry with my choices. God didn’t want me to go through all of this, but He needed me to be ready and willing to let it all go.
Obedience can supply an abundance of peace. And I am forever grateful for the opportunity to walk fully in both. I hope my life story helps you heal, helps you get out, or helps you avoid the same cycle. Mistakes happen, but if at all possible lets avoid turning an 11 day journey through the wilderness into a 40 year death through disobedience. Moses and his followers gave us the blueprint on what NOT to do. Clearly I have done the same in a modern, yet so common, love story gone wrong. From now on I challenge us all to live our best life, and avoid the traps of decaying cycles!
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