Three days after a mutual decision to call it quits with my fiance of two years, my friends decided to take me out for a hip-shredding afternoon at the movies. Appropriately, we selected “How to Be Single” from the movies list and proceeded to the dimly lit cinema, anticipating the laughfest of our lives.
Instead, we were met with a motion picture that, although funny, was enormously heartfelt in its message; being single is not the worst thing to ever happen, and although we all do it differently, it is more than anything an opportunity to grow.
That was slightly idealistic, because as Dakota Johnson transitioned from needy to totally independent, the empty feeling in the pit of my stomach only intensified.
Independence is Great, But Take Your Grief Time
What many resources and media outlets tend to forget to mention is that breakups, no matter how toxic the relationship, have grief time. This ranges from the time immediately after a breakup when you feel like your entire world is ending, to the point at which you become complacent with being alone in some sort of subconscious hope that what is lost can be restored.
Grief is not in any way unhealthy, although it may seem that way at first glance or experience. It is the normal first step of healing and an important part of growing. That being said, grieving for too long and with no real intention of moving on becomes unhealthy at some point.
So, How Long is Long Enough Before Moving On?
I would love to be totally non-cliche by placing a total definitive number of days, weeks or months that are socially appropriate for grief, thereby giving a pretty useful and hassle-free guide to breakups, but i can’t. That would be unethical, to say the least.
What I can say is this: every single breakup is different, just as people all people are different. Everyone has their own individual needs and wants. As we grieve for people differently, our individual grief for the end of a relationship will be different not only between individuals, but from breakup to breakup within the same individual.
The only rule is to not let grief take over one’s life for so long that it hinders the ability to function effectively within society. Only when grief has taken place can we begin the process by which we grow into ourselves.
You Can Grow While You Grieve
The transition between growth and grief though is not entirely seamless. Most of us will begin to grow while still grieving, and we grow greatly through our ability to deal with our own emotions. Some of us will continue to grieve for years while allowing growth to become the main focus of our lives; this is where the film faltered in the perception of life post-breakup. Because three weeks on, although the emptiness only comes in waves and is no longer part of the background, I choose to allow myself time to be completely okay with the disintegration of a relationship I thought would last a lifetime before allowing myself to become open to the idea of allowing people into my life in a romantic context. This does not mean that I am not growing as a person, rather that I would like to outgrow this “life mishap” before experiencing something entirely new.
Bottom Line: There is No Guide
We will all have different ways of moving on. While some of us will move on to the next person quite quickly, allowing them to become a part of our healing process, others will choose to rough it out on their own. As with almost everything, no way is correct, and no way is ideal. Finding out what works for you without heading down a spiral of self-destruction is the only rule when dealing with any kind of breakup; romantic or otherwise.
As I recognise the “How to Be Single” poster on a tram stop panel on the way home, I come to realise that although the characters staring back at me have not changed, my interpretation of them has. This is how I know that I have begun to use my time as a single person as an opportunity to grow.