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How to Forgive After a Break Up

by Dr. Sonya Lott, studioD

You have just gone through a painful breakup with an ex-partner. It may have been recent or some time ago. However, you are still struggling with letting go. It may be difficult to imagine, but forgiving him or her will help you to let go and move on. Individuals mistakenly believe that forgiveness is a gift that you give to the person that you believe has hurt you. It is not. It is a gift you give yourself.

What Forgiveness Is

Forgiveness involves letting go of negative emotions that you may feel, according to the article “Five Reasons to Forgive” published in the “Harvard Health Publications Newsletter.” When you forgive someone, you no longer feel a need to retaliate or otherwise hurt the person you feel has harmed you. Forgiveness does not mean that you forget the hurt he has caused. It does not make any of that okay.

Why Forgive

Have you ever heard the saying, “Resentment is like drinking a glass of poison and then waiting for the other person to die?” The emotions associated with a breakup can lead to immune suppression, sleep interference, difficulty controlling intrusive thoughts and changes in brain chemistry similar to those experienced after a loved one has died, according to a review of the research on the romantic breakups and bereavement published in the July, 2011 issue of “Psychology.” Forgiving your ex-partner -- no matter what -- enables you to take back your personal power and responsibility for your own happiness. Forgiving your ex can improve your overall emotional and physical well-being.

How to Forgive

You know you cannot go back and change what has already happened. However, you can change the way that you feel about what has happened. The pain that you are feeling that makes it difficult to forgive him or her comes from the meaning you have given to the situation. If you can change the meaning that you have given to what happened forgiveness becomes possible. Meditation as a way to open your heart to forgiveness is recommended in the article in the “Harvard Health Publications Newsletter.”

After Forgiveness

Forgiveness does not mean that you have to reconcile with your ex-partner, even if that is his wish. Forgiveness simply frees you emotionally and physically so that you can move forward in your life. The lessons you have learned from the relationship and the forgiveness work you have done will enable you to become more available for a healthier relationship in the future.

About the Author

Sonya Lott, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, who offers online and in office counseling to individuals struggling with grief, loss or a life transition. She also facilitates mental health workshops for educational, professional, and community groups and maintains a blog on her website www.drsonyalott.com.

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