How to grieve the end of a romance

Hermuda asks: At the beginning of this year, I got dumped by the boyfriend whom I was madly in love with. We were very loving towards each other and we loved to play and fool around with each other. I was so much in love with him that it got to the point I’d actually trust him in stealing my innocence in bed. During the first month of our breakup, I was a major wreck. I skipped meals, my grades dropped, my sleeping schedule went whack, I lost interest in everything I loved to do, I had constant suicidal thoughts, and I ignored most of the friends I was extremely close to. I’ve had a handful of boyfriends before him, but never before have I actually done something like that. It never bothered me before when I lost a boyfriend, but during the first month of our break-up, I was breaking down whenever he ignored and walked past me. But now, we are close friends and we both have normal teenage conversations with each other. The only problem is, while he brags about how much he’s in love with a girl he met, I’m walking right next to him thinking about how I wished we were still in a mutual relationship. I was so determined to get over him that I actually decided to help him in trying to hook up with the new girl he’s trying so hard to get. Now that I know he’s happily close friends with the girl, I’m supposed to be happy for him, but no. I’m actually extremely mad and jealous and heart-broken. My friends are doing their part in trying to get me to let him go. Taking me to parties, giving me some of their advice, making me join social groups, occupying me with all the fun activities we used to do, sometimes even giving me rewards for ignoring him (and a penalty for talking to him) but nothing ever seems to work. I can’t get over him. I meet guys who try to hit on me, but none have actually caught my attention. I’ve never held on to my feelings for someone for more than three months before and it really hurts a lot. I want to let go of my feelings for him, but everything everyone has been telling me to do just never worked. Sometimes, I’m even afraid of letting him go. My friends are still trying, but I’m very certain that everyone’s on the verge of ripping their hair out. I’ve sent myself to student services a number of times, but their advice doesn’t really work out for me. So now, I’m turning to you. Please, help me, Shirelle. I want to move on, but I’m still bound to a part of life that holds me back from everything, even my dreams. I want to fulfill my dream, but I can’t when I’ve tossed everything away to regain what is now a memory. I want to be free.

Hi Hermuda –


Before I say anything else, I have to say, this is one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, and poetic letters I’ve ever received.  While your story made me go outside and howl at the moon in chorus with all the lonely heartbroken souls of eternity, it was also your writing that affected me so.  I hope you’re taking your talent seriously – you could easily become a famous novelist or poet!


But you didn’t write me for literary criticism.  So let’s get on to this very difficult situation.


First of all, I’m just so sorry.  I know, it’s very very hard to move on after a breakup.  Especially with a truly special love like this, who just gets into your mind and heart, and haunts you like a ghost.

It’s great that you have good, loyal, and imaginative friends.  And I’m not the one to tell you to disregard any of their specific advice:  Date other guys, or avoid all guys, or take a vacation, or dye your hair a new color…  I can’t tell you that any of these are right or wrong.  I don’t even disagree with your staying friends with him, unless it’s hurting you too much.

The fact is – you just have to get through this time.

What you’re experiencing is actually the Grieving Process.  Your brain is going through the same stages it would if someone you loved died.  Years ago, a very brilliant psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kubler-Ross broke this process down into five parts:

Denial (where part of you just refuses to believe it’s happened)

Anger (where you feel fury at the fact of it)

Bargaining (where you try to take some control over it by offering things to change the fact)

Depression (Where the pain really hits and you feel hopelessness and misery about it)

Acceptance (when you’re able to move on, even if you will always miss that loved one)


I’m going to guess guess that you’re wavering between the Bargaining and the Depression phases.  You miss this boy!  Of course you do, you loved and still love him!  And you’re trying one method after another (Bargaining) to feel better, but then falling into despair over how none of them completely work to free you from the pain of missing him (Depression).

Also, you say this was the first boy you ever felt this strongly about.  You know what?  You’ll never forget him.  You will move on and have great loves and passions and maybe get married and have children and all the best in love I could ever wish for you… but you’ll never forget that first love.  We don’t.  I’ve never forgotten Kuma (an Akita-Chow mix I was absolutely crazy about, who died way too young from a cruel cancer).  I love, I play, I have a great full lively life today… but Kuma will always be in my heart.

So don’t worry if this boy “sticks around” in you.  Your job isn’t to forget him; it’s to move on with your own life, having learned what you needed to from your time with him.  And the more you do, the more okay you’ll be with everything.

But here’s my big statement to you, Hermuda:  Your Job Is To Not Stop.  When he comes into your mind, figure out why he’s there, and what that means you need to do.  Don’t just try to keep him out of your mind – that’ll just keep you stuck and not moving forward!  Grief is never fun, it’s miserable, but the sooner you can work through it, the better.

The problem is, that would be a lot easier if the boy weren’t around!  So I’m going to make a suggestion that is pretty different, I imagine, from what others are telling you.

You see, one area we dogs have over you humans is that we never lose touch with our own feelings.  Our brains aren’t as big as yours.  So when we feel like walking away from something, we know it.  Always, in the moment.

You humans, on the other hand, sometimes suffer from your thinking brains taking power over your own awareness of your own feelings.  So you’re a lot more inclined to do things (or not do things) because it seems like a good idea, and ignore your gut feeling against it.

The best key I know to overcoming that human quality is quiet, simple, contemplation.  If you’re willing to try meditation techniques, that can be great (sitting upright, eyes closed, breathing deeply, and trying to keep your attention on your breath).  Or just sitting somewhere quietly and watching the world go by.  If you’re a believer in prayer, that’s of course glorious as well.  But I don’t want you to focus on religion or your surroundings, or anything else.  Just to let your body talk to you.  And hear what it says.

All of your friends have great ideas.  But they’re just that – ideas.  What you need is to hear yourself talk to you, and tell you what to do.

At first, this technique is likely to bring up a lot of pain.  Yes, even after all these months, you might still have more grieving to do.  Try doing this for ten minutes every morning and ten minutes every night, so it’s not too much to bear.  But keep it up.

Because then, after a bit, you’re going to feel other things.  Like some freedom.  (Maybe you’ll even start to think that other girl is in for a rough time with this guy, and that you’re a bit lucky!).   And then, after some time, what will come up is Wisdom.

Wisdom about your situation in life right now.  Wisdom about the boy.  And best of all, Wisdom about what is best to do.


And that might not be the same every day.  In fact, when it’s not the same every day, I say you’ll be in just the right place!  That place where on Monday you decide it’d be fun to have lunch with that boy and hear about everything going on in his life, including this other girl.  And on Tuesday, you avoid seeing him because it makes you too vulnerable.  And on Wednesday you think “He’s a jerk, I’m better off,” and on Thursday you help each other with your homework, and on Friday…


Do you see what I’m saying?  YOU get to determine what’s going on.  Not a friend’s very smart advice, not what the boy wants, and not even anything a very friendly dog tells you.  It’s just You.


Heartbreak makes some people distrust all their own feelings.  I’m suggesting you do the opposite.  You’ve done lots of smart things (and please, if you start to feel like hurting yourself again, do that smart thing of going to Student Services another few times.  They might not be perfect, but they’re a lot better than doing something awful).  You’re probably in better shape than you realize.


So now it’s time to take charge of your own life, especially the part that involves him.  Check in with yourself constantly, and do what feels right, deep in your gut.


And if you can do that, I can 99.99% guarantee you, you’ll be able to move on soon.  To other thoughts, other dreams, other ways to spend your time… and yes, other boys!


Best of luck!  Let me know how it goes,



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