By Lexy Ulrich, LCPC
I remember sitting in my office one evening as a young woman told me about her recent breakup. She said,
“He is the one who ended things. And I don’t want to be that girl who can’t get over it, but people keep telling me I need to move on. Everyone assumes that our love was shallow, and so the pain should be shallow too.”
Losing someone you love is devastating at any age. But with young love, that can be hard for others to remember. Some people use the term “young” as a synonym for dumb, shallow, frivolous, and unimportant.
But there’s another definition that’s more accurate. When someone is “young,” it means they are new, fresh, and lacking experience. “Lacking experience” is not the same as unintelligent. It simply means that you’re new at this.
It’s like when you first start a sport. You may not know the rules or how to play, but you learn as you go. And it’s the same thing when it comes to young love. But as someone who has gained some experience with love, let me give you seven pointers for those seeking to understand how to move on when young love comes to an end.
- Acknowledge your pain as real. People might tell you there are plenty of fish in the sea, that you’re a total catch and you don’t need to worry, and that you’ll forget this after awhile. While all of those things are true, losing someone is always hard, and acceptance of that is what can bring about real healing from this loss.
- Remember that this pain is temporary. Our feelings come and go. Every last one of them. So the pain you are now feeling will not be a permanent resident in your life. It’s just crashing on your couch for awhile, until it’s ready to leave. Just like hosting someone can throw off your daily routine, you still get to keep living your life and doing what is important to you.
- Get help if the pain is too much. We don’t always have the skills we need to deal with our feelings, even if we know they aren’t permanent. If thoughts of suicide become a reality for you because of this loss, please tell someone about it. Seek professional help so that those feelings get smaller as the care for you gets bigger.
- Care for yourself while the pain is around. “Self care” is a buzzword right now, and I’m glad that it is! It’s important to treat yourself well when bad feelings enter your life. Go for a walk, read, listen to music, write something, create something, do something that makes you feel in awe of the world.
- Bring in back up to care for the pain. Your friends and family can be of major support to you during this time. Rely on them for a listening ear. Tell them about what you’re going through. Be honest and vulnerable. And then try asking about their lives, too, and ways you can support them right back.
- Leave behind the pain that you need to. Sometimes, it helps to get rid of possessions that remind you of the person you lost. But it may not be physical things you need to leave behind, but parts of yourself that were hurt in this relationship. Did your partner make you feel shame? Or that you had to be someone else? This is a time to let those things go.
- Learn from the pain and move forward confidently. Remember how I said before that “young love” means you’re just new at this? Well you’re not as new anymore, and that’s a good thing. So now it’s time to assess what you’ve learned. You may have heard that love is blind, but it really isn’t. Love keeps learning as it goes. Real love is smart. Ask yourself what you need to learn from this relationship, and take that with you when you’re ready to try again.