Think You’re A Good Listener?

Good listenerMost of us probably think that we’re good listeners but that’s not always the case. How many times have you said to someone “But why didn’t you tell me?” and they’ve replied “I tried to, but you never seemed to listen”.

This is often particularly true in personal relationships, where it’s easy to take one another for granted and almost stop listening to your partner’s hopes, fears and general concerns about money, childcare or jobs (in fact, anything!).

It can also happen at work where a manager doesn’t listen to employees’ concerns, perhaps sifting through what’s worrying people in their team and deciding in advance what they’ll give credence to. Or you may have a colleague who, despite telling them several times, insists on doing things their way, however much it inconveniences everyone else.

So, what makes a good listener? Well, here are a few things to encourage you in listening to the people in your life:

  • Have some patience – it can several attempts before someone is ready to open up, even if you usually have a close relationship with them.
  • To show that you care, focus on the other person by making eye contact and putting away your phone.
  • Whatever they say to you, if appropriate, say it back to them to make sure that you’ve understood what they were saying.
  • Don’t interrupt or offer them a solution – sometimes, there isn’t one!
  • Be brave – don’t be put off if someone gives a negative response.
  • Don’t feel that you have to fill the silence – it may make you feel uneasy, but silence can open up new doors.
  • Ask open questions so that the other person needs to say more than “yes” or “no” e.g. instead of saying “are you feeling sad at the moment”, try “try to tell me how you’re feeling at the moment”. Closed questions put paid to many conversations!

See how you get on and you may find that your friends and family confide in you more than previously and find you helpful because you listen to them.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting or useful. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button. You can also find me on Linked In and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

Has Someone Close To You Died Recently?

First of all, this is a pretty long blog because, as a counsellor and psychotherapist, I feel strongly about bereavement and loss; it sometimes seems that society tends to skim the surface in dealing with this, whereas it deserves some time….so hang on in there if you can, and read on!

If someone close to you has recently died, you’ve probably already realised that everyone copes with bereavement and loss in different ways. I can’t emphasise this enough – there’s no RIGHT way and it’s most important to find your own way when someone close to you dies.

Although there are different stages of grief, they don’t follow a strict pattern and the whole process is more like a roller-coaster with lots of ups and downs.

Even years later, you can still feel a strong sense of grief and sometimes guilt too.  Why do we often feel guilty after someone has died? Well, often we mull over what’s happened and how we might have dealt with things better during their lifetime.  Sometimes it seems as if we’re hard-wired to feel guilty, no matter how much we loved the person. It’s as if we’re punishing ourselves, at least for a time. Allow yourself to be human – hindsight is a wonderful thing and, given our time again, we might do things differently but we can only make changes with what’s happening now and hope for the best in the future.

Whatever you’re feeling and reacting, it’s almost always normal and this includes anger. There are many different emotions and losing someone you love is very painful.

Try to accept that other people don’t always know what to say to comfort you – there are no words to adequately describe what you’re going through.

If you’re trying to comfort someone who’s had a loss/bereavement, try not to say “they had a long life” or “it could have been worse” – for them, maybe it couldn’t have been worse.

Lean on people for support and talk to them about what you’re going through and how hard it is.

How you cope with depend a lot on your personal coping style, life experiences and beliefs – do the best you can, taking one day at a time until there are more good days than bad days.

Why do we need to grieve?

The death of someone close to us may be one of the greatest losses we will ever have to endure and is often emotionally devastating.  Although death is an unavoidable part of our lives, the longing for the dead person can affect us in many different ways – emotionally, physically, spiritually and socially.

Mourning the dead person is one of the ways we come to terms with bereavement and part of that process is gradually letting go of what we have lost.  At the time, this might seem almost impossible but ‘letting go’ does not mean ‘forgetting’ the dead person but that we come to accept that we will never see them again.  Our pain and suffering is one of the prices we pay for loving.

In Victorian times, the bereaved person wore black clothing for a year following someone’s death and although this may seem very old-fashioned today, it gave other people a visual sign that the bereaved person needed to be treated more gently than usual.  Nowadays, it often seems that we are urged to ‘get over it’ within weeks of someone’s death.  However, there is no time frame for grieving and it’s different for everyone.

How people react differently

One of the things that people find most difficult is that there are no rules regarding grieving.  Everyone reacts differently because we all have different personalities, ways of coping and past experiences.  These differences can become apparent from the moment a loved one dies.

Although most people experience numbness and shock at first, it is this that usually helps them plan and work towards the loved one’s funeral.  Whilst some people will be very organised and telephone relatives and friends, register the death and make funeral arrangements, others will feel completely demotivated and want to leave it to other people to arrange everything that needs to be done.

The funeral itself is often a very important part of the grieving process and offers people a chance to remember the life of the person who has died in the company of others who are also mourning. The full reality of the death may not always hit people until after the funeral and then the real pain of grief begins.

Grieving is not always understood or acknowledged in our society and doesn’t always draw family and friends together as might be expected.  Previously, when people lived in smaller communities and death was more commonplace, losing someone was something that most people experienced from a young age and they were able to see how families dealt with this and how rituals sometimes helped with extreme grief.  This is rarely the case now and some people may well reach middle age before they experience the death of someone close.

The circumstances of grief can also affect mourning inasmuch as the death of an older person who has lived a long and fulfilling life, although very sad, may feel more appropriate than the death of a child or partner who dies young.  Making sense of this can be very hard for a lot of people and for someone who has been bereaved by suicide, the circumstances can be almost unbearable.

Different responses

“I can’t believe it”

It may take a long time to grasp what has happened.  It is hard to believe that someone important won’t be coming back into our lives

“Why did it have to happen?”

Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when you feel someone has died and you had plans for a future together

“I go over and over it again”

You can’t stop thinking about the events leading up to the death

“I feel nothing”

The shock can make you feel numb, as if you’re living in a different world from everyone else

“I feel so depressed; life has no meaning; I can’t go on”

Many people say that there are times after a death when they feel there is nothing left for them and they feel like ending it all

“If only……”

Many people feel guilt about things they had done or said

“One minute I’m angry and the next minute I can’t stop crying”

A lot of people find the mood swings, which they may never have experienced before, very frightening

There can be a variety of possible physical and emotional responses to losing someone.  Apart from feeling depressed, physical symptoms may include: hollowness in the stomach, over-sensitivity to noise, tightness in the chest or throat, weakness in muscles, lack of energy, a dry mouth, fatigue and breathlessness.

Feelings will often include: sadness, anger, guilt, self-reproach, anxiety loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, shock, relief, numbness and yearning for the dead person.

There can be behavioural changes including: insomnia and sleep interruption, appetite disturbances, absent-minded behaviour, social withdrawal, dreams about the dead person, avoiding reminders about that person, sighing, restless over- activity, crying, visiting places or treasuring objects that are reminders of the loved one.

Thoughts may include: disbelief, confusion, preoccupation, a sense of the presence of the dead person, auditory and visual hallucinations.  Apart from feeling very weepy, people often become apathetic, withdrawn or very tired.  They may lose their appetite or find difficulty sleeping despite feeling exhausted. Although it may be difficult to realise, there can also be a feeling of relief, perhaps because someone’s suffering is at last over or because a period of uncertainty has ended.

Although these effects can be frightening, they are not, in themselves, any cause for concern, as long as they don’t continue for too long.  After the initial impact, there may be a time of being up one minute and down the next – this too is normal.

Strange though it might seem, there can also be a feeling of relief, perhaps because someone’s suffering is at last over or because a period of uncertainty has ended.  Guilt can play a big part in the mourning process and sometimes people get stuck with regrets about things left undone and unsaid. In addition, people can become more aware of danger and develop a stronger sense of mortality, leaving them feeling insecure.  If we have suffered other losses in the past, we might need to grieve again for all that went from our lives at that time.

Grief often gives way to anger and the bereaved person may feel very angry with the person who has died, leaving them with such pain.  Alternatively, the anger may be levelled at a member of the family who isn’t grieving in the same way or a member of the medical profession who appeared not to do as much as possible in the time leading up to the loved one’s death.

As the weeks and months pass, most people become increasingly aware of their loss and the sense of isolation and loneliness grows.  The numbing effect of shock has faded and a feeling of mental and physical exhaustion can become more apparent.

How long does the mourning period last?

There is no set time for mourning someone who has died and although other family members, friends or colleagues may try to ‘hurry’ this process along, a bereaved person needs time to deal with all the varied emotions.  This stage cannot be ‘hurried’ and some factors may prolong the grief:

  • There had been a quarrel with the dead person which was never resolved
  • The death was in very difficult circumstances.  For instance, the death was due to a car accident in which the other driver was found to be under the influence of drink or drugs
  • There was no funeral to attend or the bereaved person couldn’t attend the funeral perhaps because they lived in another country or because they were not told about the death in time
  • Their relationship to the dead person was not publicly acknowledged  as in the case of the lover of a dead person who was married to someone else
  • The person is missing as in times of wars or disasters
  • The dead person committed suicide
  • The grieving person has little social support to fall back on or no spiritual practice/belief system

All these factors can prolong the depression that enfolds people after a death. It’s important that the person finds someone to talk to about these feelings. Emotionally, most people need to express their grief but this doesn’t mean that they are depressive personalities – they may well be depressed but that is reasonable if they have suffered a great loss. Talking can be very helpful in finding a way to a more joyful life in the present.

How can relatives and friends help?

Previously, it was thought that the purpose of grief was to sever ties with the dead person so that new attachments and a new identity could emerge.  However, it is now thought that maintaining bonds with the dead person is healthy.  Relatives and friends can help in this process by allowing the bereaved person to talk and without trying to find a ‘solution’ e.g. allowing the person to come to terms with their loss in their own time rather than suggesting new hobbies and interests ‘to help them forget’.

Everyone needs to recognise that there is no single set pattern to grief so there is little value in making statements about how a person should grieve, how long they should grieve or what is thought to be normal or abnormal.  The way to help someone most of all is to understand the person who is experiencing it.  Some of us may find this type of support difficult to give and may not know how to react to such strong emotions.  It’s not at all uncommon for those who have suffered a death to describe how people who would usually speak to them now appear to avoid them.  Although this behaviour is usually the result of embarrassment, it is dreadfully hurtful for the bereaved person, especially as this may be a time when they need to talk to someone.

Sometimes, practical support can be just as helpful as emotional support and many bereaved people say that, looking back, they really appreciate the way some friends cooked a meal for them on a regular basis and other friends helped out in different practical ways.  This can be very supportive, especially if the bereaved person is feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Other help available

General Practitioner (GP)

It is quite possible that the family doctor will have cared for the person during their last illness or, under other circumstances, will have had contact with the dead person and therefore they are in an ideal position to give help after the death.  Through their profession, they encounter a lot of death and this can make them good people to talk to.

Support groups

Support groups offer an opportunity to meet up with others in the same situation which can help break down feelings of isolation and show how others have coped.


Bereavement agencies such as Cruse use ‘counsellors’ or ‘befrienders’ who have been trained specifically in helping bereaved people and will be particularly good at listening to the bereaved person’s story.  Whatever is told to them will be kept in confidence.  Counselling involves talking to someone who is trained to listen and make appropriate responses as well as showing empathy and acceptance.  This enables the bereaved person to explore troubling issues and develop a greater understanding of their feelings.


The GP may offer anti-depressants or sleeping pills which can be helpful for a short period of time.  It is important for the bereaved person to discuss side-effects and possible withdrawal symptoms thoroughly with their GP before deciding to go down this route.

Other support

Some people will find that they drink or smoke more which may seem to help them in the short-term but can have a disruptive effect on their bodies over a longer period of time.

Not everyone will have family or friends to support them and may have to find their support elsewhere, perhaps from a health visitor, social worker or local priest.   There are organisations like MIND and The Compassionate Friends that can offer information and advice on practical matters such as housing or benefits.

How long will these feelings last?

Like any sort of healing, coming to terms with loss takes time – bereavement is a journey during which many changing emotions are experienced and for some, the strength of these emotions and the speed at which they change can leave people feeling helpless and confused.  Even when some of the intensity of these emotions has passed, there may still be a fair way to go on the journey.  Again, this will happen in different ways for different people.

When trying to get on with life and establish some new form of normality, people may find themselves in situations where they momentarily manage to ‘forget’ their grief, only to feel their heart sink as something reminds them – shopping for two, for instance.

The most important thing to remember is that the intense pain does pass.  It’s not so much ‘getting over it’ or ‘gaining closure’ but more a realisation of how much the experience has changed life and learning to live with and accept those changes.

As time goes on, most bereaved people begin to realise that they are dwelling less on the past and looking ahead to a new future.  Although life will never be exactly the same again, most people do eventually realise that they have a future and look forward to it with hope again.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting or useful. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button. You can also find me on Linked In and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

“It’s Not Honest and It’s Not Fair”

What does that mean for most of us? Is a half-truth or a ‘white lie’ really just a lie – honesty, like fairness, can mean different things to all of us.

Most of us expect honesty from others in our life although if someone has grown up in a family or community where a lot of people lie, that can be an expectation too. They often don’t trust people, having learnt from a young age that people don’t tell the truth or indeed, behave fairly.

When we’re honest, it can often keep us out of trouble as well as give us credibility – if we’re in a difficult or embarrassing position, people are more likely to believe us if we’re known to be honest. Honesty can also mean freedom as most people realise when they finally divulge the truth to someone that they’ve previously lied to. If we have a sense of trust, it leads to better communication which enables us to feel closer to people we like and love.

So what stops us being honest? Sometimes we avoid it because we’re scared of what other people might think about us or we might be trying to avoid responsibility for something that we’ve done or might be asked to do. Basically, we’re trying to avoid conflict but learning to deal with possible conflicting situations is part of being an adult and realising that some things can be dealt with assertively without getting into an argument.

Fairness is part of this too – it encourages co-operation between us and without it, some of our social structure is at risk. If we trust someone to behave fairly, or know that a system is fair, we feel it’s worthwhile giving in order to receive justice or co-operation. For any group, fairness is crucial and if people feel they’re being treated differently, naturally they’ll feel resentment to the extent of not being part of that group. Honesty about feelings also plays a part here – how are other group members going to know that you perceive some things are dealt with unfairly if you’re not honest (and assertive) enough to verbalise your feelings?

Our instinct is to say “well, they should just know that things aren’t fair” but, surprisingly, a lot of people don’t realise until it’s pointed out to them. Often they will resent being pulled up on it but hopefully, with mutual respect, they will be able to make changes towards a more honest plan for the future.

Most people don’t mind working if they’re being properly compensated for their work and also, even more importantly, feel that others doing the same tasks are paid at the same rate.

In voluntary groups where people aren’t paid for their work, it’s important that people feel that the work that they do is apportioned fairly between the members, rather than one or two people taking on most of the tasks. This is a common complaint about groups inasmuch as some people feel that others don’t pull their weight – again, honesty expressed in a positive way, is a good way of dealing with it although others will put up resistance; it’s in their own interests to do so!

So, how do you feel when someone jumps a queue? Some people might say that extenuating circumstances make that admissible but others will disagree. Those circumstances might involve an explanation from the person jumping in front and, knowing that they might ‘get away with it’ they might lie about their reasons. Can we always sense this with other fellow human beings? Do we know when we’re being lied to and does it incense us? I think the answer’s “yes” but what do you think?

Do you expect your friends to be fair and honest and do you feel that you treat people honestly

fairly and equally?

Feeling that “life’s not fair” is hard for people to come to terms with – we feel that it “should” be fair, even though it’s not. Accepting that some things can’t be blamed on others is part of counselling and psychotherapy, as it helps clients to deal with people who behave unjustly and jeopardise some part of their lives.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting or useful. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button. You can also find me on Linked In and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

Mindfulness – Could It Work For You?

You may have heard ‘mindfulness’ being spoken about or read about it in a magazine and wondered what it’s really about. Hopefully, this post will explain a bit more about it.

Basically, in this busy world, our minds are constantly pulled from pillar to post, scattering our thoughts and emotions and leaving us feeling stressed, highly-strung and at times quite anxious. Most of us don’t have five minutes to sit down and relax, let alone 30 minutes or more for a meditation session. But it is essential for our wellbeing to take a few minutes each day to cultivate mental spaciousness and achieve a positive mind-body balance.

So if you are running around, finding it hard to cope, try using these simple mindfulness exercises to empty your mind and find some much-needed calm amidst the madness of your hectic day.

Mindful Breathing – this exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time. All you have to do is be still and focus on your breath for just one minute.

Start by breathing in and out slowly. One cycle should last for approximately 6 seconds. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body. Let go of your thoughts for a minute. Let go of things you have to do later today or pending projects that need your attention. Simply let yourself be still for one minute.

If you are someone who thought they’d never be able to meditate, guess what? You are half-way there already! If you enjoyed one minute of this mind-calming exercise, why not try two or three?

Mindful Observation – this exercise is simple but incredibly powerful. It is designed to connect us with the beauty of the natural environment, something that is easily missed when we are rushing around in the car or hopping on and off trains on the way to work.

Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower or an insect, or even the clouds or the moon.

Don’t do anything except notice the thing you are looking at. Simply relax into a harmony for as long as your concentration allows. Look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time.

Mindful Awareness – this exercise is designed to cultivate a heightened awareness and appreciation of simple daily tasks and the results they achieve.

Think of something that happens every day more than once; something you take for granted, like opening a door, for example. These touch point cues don’t have to be physical ones. For example: each time you think a negative thought you might choose to take a moment to stop, label the thought as unhelpful and release the negativity. Or, perhaps each time you smell food, you take a moment to stop and appreciate how lucky you are to have good food to eat and share with your family and friends.

Choose a touch point that resonates with you today. Instead of going through your daily motions on autopilot, take occasional moments to stop and cultivate purposeful awareness of what you are doing and the blessings it brings your life.

Mindful Listening – this exercise is designed to open your ears to sound in a non-judgmental way. Select a piece of music you have never heard before. You may have something in your own collection that you have never listened to, or you might choose to turn the radio dial until something catches your ear.

Close your eyes and put on your headphones. Try not to get drawn into judging the music by its genre, title or artist name before it has begun playing. Instead, ignore any labels and neutrally allow yourself to get lost in the journey of sound for the duration of the song. Allow yourself to explore every aspect of track. Even if the music isn’t to your liking at first, let go of your dislike and give your awareness full permission to climb inside the track and dance among the sound waves.The idea is to just listen, to become fully entwined with the composition without preconception or judgment of the genre, artist, lyrics or instrumentation.

Mindful Immersion – the intention of this exercise is to cultivate contentment in the moment and escape the persistent striving we find ourselves caught up in on a daily basis. Rather than anxiously wanting to finish an everyday routine task in order to get on with doing something else, take that regular routine and fully experience it like never before.

For example: if you are cleaning your house, pay attention to every detail of the activity. Rather than treat this as a regular chore, create an entirely new experience by noticing every aspect of your actions: Feel and become the motion when sweeping the floor, sense the muscles you use when scrubbing the dishes, develop a more efficient way of wiping the windows clean. The idea is to get creative and discover new experiences within a familiar routine task.

Instead of labouring through and constantly thinking about finishing the task, become aware of every step and fully immerse yourself in the progress. Take the activity beyond a routine by aligning yourself with it physically, mentally and spiritually. Who knows, you might even enjoy the cleaning for once!

Mindful Appreciation – in this last exercise, all you have to do is notice 5 things in your day that usually go unappreciated. These things can be objects or people – it’s up to you. Use a notepad to check off 5 by the end of the day.

The point of this exercise is to simply give thanks and appreciate the seemingly insignificant things in life; the things that support our existence but rarely get a second thought amidst our desire for bigger and better things.

For example: electricity powers your kettle, the postman delivers your mail, your clothes provide you warmth, your nose lets you smell the flowers in the park, your ears let you hear the birds in the tree by the bus stop, but…

  • Do you know how these things/processes came to exist, or how they really work?
  • Have you ever properly acknowledged how these things benefit your life and the lives of others?
  • Have you ever thought about what life might be like without these things?
  • Have you ever stopped to notice their finer, more intricate details?
  • Have you ever sat down and thought about the relationships between these things and how together they play an interconnected role in the functioning of the earth?

Once you have identified your 5 things, try to find out everything you can about them and their purpose to truly appreciate the way in which they support your life.

In Summary – the cultivation of moment-by-moment awareness of our surrounding environment is a practice that helps us better cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that cause us stress and anxiety in everyday life.

With regular practice of mindfulness exercises, rather than being led on auto-pilot by emotions influenced by negative past experiences and fears of future occurrences, we harness the ability to root the mind in the present moment and deal with life’s challenges in a clear-minded, calm, assertive way.

If you’ve found this blog useful, you can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button. You can also see me on Linked In and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

Things Can Change In A Heartbeat

This is an adaption from a quote by the author Margaret Overton in her book about divorce, dating and ‘other near-death experiences’. What she says is so true, as I’ve found in my own life – everything can change from what and who you trust, your health or that of a loved-one, your home and family…..the list goes on.

Of course, we all know that but, even so, when the moment arrives and everything you depended on changes, it’s often still a huge shock. Then, we have to try to change and adapt and that all takes time. Some people find change easier than others and can ‘roll with the changes’.

It’s not only about how we adapt to change though, but about living in the moment and appreciating what we have right now rather than yearning for what we hope to happen in the future.

Whether you’re a young person, saving up a deposit for a mortgage or to travel, that’s your current goal, but it’s important to enjoy what’s going on now as well. Does that sound impossible? Well, your youth and hopefully your health are at optimum levels right now – make the most of them, revel in them, enjoy what you can do now rather than what you’ll achieve in the future.

If you’re a young parent experiencing sleepless nights and the endless needs of young children, try to enjoy this stage – soon your children will be teenagers and that will bring its own issues. You probably won’t get this time again, unless you start a second family (and that will come with its own challenges!) so try to hold onto the fact that this time will pass, your toddler will stop throwing food around, you will eventually be able to have a cup of coffee in peace and have a tidier house, if this is what you yearn for.

Later on, middle-age brings its own challenges – maybe a partner leaves, you have the care of an elderly parent or you’re made redundant. These aren’t easy challenges to deal with although previous life-experiences may help you through. Again, make the most of this time – it will have its advantages, even though you can’t see them right now.

If you’re older and feeling your age, beset with health problems or money worries, this is possibly the most challenging time of all as youth and its optimism aren’t on your side. But, life is still there to be enjoyed and even simple things can help you through.

This isn’t a lecture about the stages of life though – it’s about enjoying what’s going on right now, trying to see the positives even though they might seem elusive. Throughout my life, I’ve seen how some people have a very positive world view, despite negative or sad things happening to them.

Some of my work as a psychotherapist was about challenging clients’ views about themselves and other people – if you’ve grown up in a negative environment or one where you were often pulled down, it can be hard to change your views of yourself and what happens, but it’s not impossible and, with some work on yourself, you can look at things in a different way.

However, the main thing is to enjoy this time, not ruminate too much about yesterday or fret about tomorrow. Take today, enjoy it and take the good things from it to reflect on. Good luck with this – let me know what you think.

If you’ve found this blog useful, you can use the ‘follow’ button on your phone to make sure that you receive my future blogs.

Coping With Heartbreak

It’s one of the hardest things to overcome – you thought you’d be together for the long-term, possibly forever, and then you find that your partner doesn’t want to be with you any longer.  There may not even be another person involved but he/she wants out and there’s no persuading them otherwise.

This is often a particularly difficult time of year to experience a break-up, although sadly, it’s also a time when many relationships falter. After an extended holiday period such as Christmas, many couples realise that their relationship just isn’t working.

Here are a few things that may help on a day-to-day basis – they won’t solve the awful feelings of loss that you’re experiencing but they will hopefully get you from day to day until eventually you feel slightly better.

  1. Accept that your feelings of anger, uncertainty, agitation, fear and shock are normal. There’s no right or wrong about feelings and you’ll be on a roller-coaster of emotions for a long time.
  2. Tears are healthy – you may feel numb for some time but it’s important to allow yourself to cry too.
  3. Write a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings your partner’s behaviour and why it feels so painful.
  4. It’s still alright to laugh. Try watching a funny film or TV show and, if you can bear it, spend some time with people who make you smile.
  5. Ask all the questions you want to – however, be aware that you may not get the answers you want or even any answers at all. You can’t make someone give you reasons, frustrating though that is.
  6. Do not make any major decisions about how you want things to be – this is the time for reflection and recognising that even though you thought things were okay, maybe there were some things that needed to be dealt with.
  7. If you have children, they need to know that you are going to be okay. You can’t hide the fact that you are going through serious stress or trauma and your ex-partner may well be their other parent. If not, your ex might well have been someone important in their lives. Being honest with your children is usually the best approach depending upon their age, but don’t weigh them down with details.
  8. Take it one day at a time and try not to look too far into the future.
  9. It takes time to get beyond the pain of having break-up. Don’t expect the mixture of feelings, the sense of confusion and limbo, and the mistrust to go away immediately. There are stages to loss (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and hopefully acceptance at some point) – you can’t fast-forward through these, much as you’d like to.
  10. Think about practical things – look at your finances, housing situation, transport etc. Make sure you have thought out where you will live, if you have enough money to pay for your essentials and how you’ll work out the new practicalities.
  11. Only confide in people that you can trust – it’s good to talk but be careful that you only open your heart to people who can keep things confidentially.
  12. Seek counselling if you’re struggling too much to cope – it can really help to talk to a professional who can listen and give strategies for the future.

If you’ve found this blog useful, you can use the ‘follow’ button on your phone to make sure that you receive my future blogs.

Also, any comments gratefully received!



Did Your Ex Spend New Year With Someone New?

Maybe you broke up with your ex-partner just before Christmas, which was bad enough – somehow you got through the whole holiday with your family trying not to make tactless remarks (not including Uncle Billy who got drunk on Christmas morning and managed to say enough insensitive things to make up for your entire family), huddling under the duvet for as long as possible and eating enough to fill a small supermarket.

You may have gone out with your friends on New Year’s Eve (they insisted that you shouldn’t be alone “to wallow”) but it was a relief to get home and cry some more.

Now, though, you’ve just been flicking through Instagram and there they are – kissing someone else, looking happy and, frankly, better than they’ve ever looked! Your friend’s just told you that she saw them out together and they looked really loved up. How could they do this? So soon after your split? You both said you’d take your time before getting together with anyone else and now they’re behaving as if they can’t remember that conversation at all.

There will be lots of soul-searching – ‘is he/she funnier than me? are they better looking than me? have they more in common?’  There probably isn’t a logical answer to this but you’re bound to ponder on it, sometimes for a long time.

If you had been in a long-term relationship and maybe had children together, this is particularly hard (if you look on various social media sites you will see how other parents try to deal with this situation and also, how hard it is).

But whatever your situation, here are a few ways to try to come to some sort of acceptance of the situation whilst keeping your dignity:

  • First of all, try not to contact them about the photos you’ve seen and the rumours you’ve heard – whatever you think now, it’s not going to help in the long-run! You will want to know if something was going on when you were actually together, but ask yourself how much it will help you right now if you get an answer to that.
  • Don’t go to that party if you know they’ll be there – it’s a definite route to unhappiness. If they look really happy together, it will be like a knife in your heart and if one of them looks unhappy, it will make you think that there’s still a chance it will work out for you but repeating the same things results in the same endings.
  • Instead, try to go out to different places and do different things – you’ll meet new people and it might be fun, even though it will be hard getting out there alone.
  • Don’t get drunk when you’re alone – chances are, you’ll end up crying into your glass and feeling worse than before. The hangover won’t be much fun either!
  • This is a good opportunity to do some of the things that you put on hold when you were with them, perhaps because it wasn’t practical or because they didn’t like it.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – take one day at a time until things begin to get a bit easier and you can make a bit of a plan about your future.

If you’re struggling with this or other issues, maybe this is the year to give counselling a try – you may already be seeing a therapist but, if not, it would be worth looking into this as you can talk about your feelings in a confidential setting and work on strategies that will help you  deal with what’s going on.

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