Leaving any relationship can be a tumultuous experience. We all know that someone going through a bad breakup needs both a bit more care and a bit more space. It’s a sensitive time when emotions can rise and fall rapidly for reasons that only make sense to the subconscious.

Leaving a toxic or narcissistic relationship is even harder. Your self and your state war with each other. You’ve been denied and marginalized for so long that now you do it to yourself without considering it. When you realize you’ve done to yourself what he or she used to, anger and shame well up at yourself for falling back into the old pattern.

This is not something that can be fixed in a ten minute pep-talk. This is not a one-and-done scenario. This is a process, and it is measured in smiles and baby steps and small acts of kindness toward yourself.

Two people will rarely heal from the same situation in the same way, and there are many strategies and methods that have been developed. Some methods are advocated by professionals, and some are self-taught coping mechanisms that provide a stepladder.

One method is to delve into the past and all its reasons with a therapist or other neutral party. Some people find this to be extremely helpful. It can give you closure and clarity to a situation that has caused confusion and grief. It may also illuminate some patterns or tendencies you have that made you more susceptible to the advances of your ex.

Another option is to seek a coach who will help you define and attain goals as a method of moving forward. This approach puts the past away and focuses on improvement from wherever you are at the moment. It downplays trying to backtrack how you got where you are, and focuses instead on defining where you are and where you want to be. This can be helpful for people who like to accomplish concrete goals and get a sense of achievement from taking steps toward those goals.

Both of these methods have merit, and indeed, both can be used by one person. Some professionals do both, starting out as a councilor and moving into coaching as the person is ready.

Some former victims move forward on their own, forging ahead and cleaning up without any direction from outside sources. This method takes willpower and determination, and it will only work if you’re willing to do the legwork and research on your own. One word of warning: this method is often the toughest, the most painful, and it takes the most time, but it does give you the most control and privacy. That can be a double-edged sword.

The last option covered here is to recruit a group of people, be they friends, family, or a support group, with whom you can share your experiences in a less formal, more social way. Be sure, if you are going with this option, that the people in your group are willing to listen even when it’s hard for them to do, and be sure to give a listening ear when they need one in return. This can be helpful, but it relies on forging relationships and there need to be agreed-upon rules. The level of confidentiality agreed upon must be very clear, and judgement-free compassion must be offered by all.

How you heal is ultimately determined by you. These options are by no means all of the methods on offer, but they are the most readily available, and the easiest to implement on short notice. Most people looking for personal rejuvenation will find one or more of these methods useful. The exact hows and whys will, of course, vary greatly.

The main point here is not the method of healing you choose, but your willingness to undergo the process. This is not, as I said, an activity for a single sitting. There will be starts, and stops, and detours, and wrong turns. Along the way, your story develops. You grow and learn, and if you find yourself changing in ways you don’t like then you can correct your course based on your goals.

You can heal. You can recover. Life is dynamic and everything changes. Don’t give up. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

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