from the


from the Top of the Mind


from the
Top of the Mind

“Dr. Crawford’s presentation was the highlight of the conference and a much needed reminder for all of us (especially nurses) to keep it all balanced. Bill’s psychology background surely protruded through his messages and I know it was well-received by all!”

Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL

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“Surviving a breakup is hard – especially if you are the one being ‘broken up with’.”

~ Bill Crawford

5 Steps To Surviving a Breakup

As a psychologist, I often find myself helping someone survive a breakup, and it is one of the hardest things to do because, while I want to help them feel better and move on, I also know that the sadness and deep emotion that accompany breakups is part of the healing process.

Therefore, I have created a five-step process that is designed to both make room for the pain, while, at the same time, giving those who are wanting to move on from a breakup a map for doing so.

Step 1

The first step is to acknowledge that the pain is real. While this may seem obvious, there are those who suggest that one should just forget about the past and move on as if nothing has happened. This, in my opinion, is not only impossible, it’s not even a good idea, because it denies what is true. When we lose someone special, we feel the pain of loss, and that is not only natural and normal, it’s actually something to be proud of (more on this later).

Step 2

Step two is about separating the feelings of grief from the pain of self-doubt. It’s common for those who find themselves “being broken up with” or rejected, to begin to fear that the breakup was their fault, or that they are “not enough” somehow. While I do believe that there are things to be learned about why a relationship may have ended, feeding the fear that “we are not enough,” or that “no matter what we do” is never a good idea.

Step 3

Once we have gained clarity about the difference between these two types of pain (hint: grieving is simply about the pain of loss, not “what’s wrong with us,” or the fear of the future), we can begin to give the grieving a more purposeful meaning. The way I help people do this is to become clear that feeling sad after a breakup is not our failure to cope. It speaks to who we are. In other words, it says that we are someone who, when in a relationship, cares deeply about the person we love. Frankly, we don’t want to be someone who just shrugs our shoulders and says “Next!” after a breakup. We feel bad, and that is a feeling we can embrace, because it says something about who we are. This step also allows us to feel the feelings of grief as part of the healing process, which again, while certainly not pleasant, does give the process meaning in a healthy way.

Step 4

As we are allowing these feelings to wash over us (people often describe the process as a “wave of emotion”) we can move on to step four. This is about becoming clear with respect to who we are at our best. This is important because of the tendency to see ourselves as “less than” when we are rejected by another, and, therefore, becoming clear about the qualities and characteristics we bring to life. This is also why someone will be lucky to have us in their life, and it can balance the scales in a way that gives us hope for the future.

I encourage people to create a list of at least 20 qualities and characteristics of them “at their best” in order to lay a foundation for these more positive views of the future. Often people have trouble coming up with 20 (because we have not been given permission to think of ourselves in this more positive way) and therefore, I suggest that they ask their family or friends, or even consult a thesaurus. Then, put these on your phone, and read through them on a regular basis until you have them memorized, or until you totally accept the validity of this self-description.

Step 5

The fifth and final step is about creating a new vision of what we want our life to be like in the future. The truth is, when we were in a relationship, choices about where we live, what we eat, how we spend our time have always, by necessity, been tempered by what our relationship partner wanted. Now we get to choose based only on what we want. This sort of freedom is worth celebrating, and the experience of creating our life without needing to compromise can be a nice part of being single.
There is a concept created by a psychologist in Chicago by the name of Ken Moses. He calls the process of dealing with loss, “grieving the shattered dream.” Here is a quote from his work that I have adapted into this five-step process of surviving a breakup. It says:

“Grieving is not the problem, it’s part of the solution. It is an unlearned, self-sufficient process that helps us to move from the past to the future, from inaction to action… from shattered dreams to more purposeful dreams based upon who we really are and what we can create.”

Therefore, if you would like to have a more purposeful way of moving through the feelings of loss, and moving on with your life, I suggest that you try completing these five steps.

As you work this process, you will realize that you are doing more than surviving, you are beginning to thrive, and that can be a wonderful foundation for the future.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill

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