Grieving the end of a long-distance relationship

Distance doesn't always make the heart grow fonder

Eventually, you’ll be able to cherish your relationship for what it was.
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For people in long-distance relationships, virtual communication isn’t just an alternative to a ‘real’ relationship—it’s the only connection to a loved one that happens to live far away.

In turn, when a laptop or cell phone is used to end a long-distance relationship, it feels just as real as any breakup. The only downside is that you can’t tell what the other person feels as easily as if you were face-to-face. Perhaps due to the general (misguided) belief that long-distance relationships aren’t as fulfilling as ‘regular’ relationships, you start to question if your often-online romance was actually important to your ex in the first place.

In an effort to figure out how to get over a long-distance breakup myself, I wanted to share the process of healing from one. I documented my findings under the five textbook stages of grief associated with mourning—because losing someone who was a huge part of your life does indeed include a mourning period.

1. Denial

Whether or not you say it out loud to the other person, for a second, you can question if this breakup is even legitimate. You think that you should get another chance to do this in person. You’re almost certain that if they could see you, and if they weren’t hundreds of kilometres away, they would feel differently, and this wouldn’t be happening.

For the first few mornings and nights after your breakup, you instinctively want to call them to chat, because it’d be odd not to. You’re convinced for a long time that this is temporary, and eventually they’ll come to their senses. They have to, right?

2. Anger

You blame everything on circumstance. Yes, the breakup happened, but you’re convinced that it shouldn’t have. You shared a deep connection with someone, and it seems unfair to you that it was tainted by outside factors.

It wasn’t that you weren’t right for each other—of course not. It’s just the distance was too much pressure, or made you feel like you were missing out on better things. You’re not just angry at the person who ended your relationship. You’re angry at the universe, because you feel like your relationship didn’t get a fair shot to stand on its own.

3. Bargaining

Long-distance breakups can lead you to convince yourself it’s possible to stay close with your ex as friends. You evaluate all the ways that you used to interact with them, and, on a surface level, they all seemed platonic. The bulk of your relationship was through Skype, texts, and phone calls—nothing is particularly romantic about those mediums.

It’s tempting to keep this routine, and even more tempting to hold onto someone who was such a big part of your life. You might convince yourself for a while that it’s perfectly healthy to keep talking to them, and that there’s nothing toxic about it.

4. Depression

You realize you’ll never have the same hold on this person that you used to. Interactions with them only make you more upset, but the idea of cutting them out of your life seems even more devastating.

If you were lucky enough to have had visits with this person, everything they’ve left behind reminds you of them. You hate any presents or care packages they sent, but you can’t bring yourself to get rid of them. You start to count up all the ‘lasts’—the last time you saw them, the last time you held their hand, and the last time you spoke to them—from before the breakup. You feel robbed because you didn’t realize that those moments were the last times you’d get to do those things.

You realize that this is real. This is usually when all you want to do is huddle undera pile of blankets and throw your phone as far away from you as possible.

5. Acceptance

Eventually, things will run their course and you’ll learn to cherish your relationship for what it was. You’ll let go of your resentment for them, but you’ll still delete their number and your photos of them. You’ll realize that they’re a different person now, and so are you.

You’ll take this as an opportunity for growth. As much as you loved being in your long-distance relationship, you can experience life outside of it. You can meet someone else, or not. You can stay out late without wanting to go home and hear your ex’s voice.

You can learn to look back on your relationship as a good part of your life that’s now over. More importantly, you can look forward to all the good things that are still to come.

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