November 17, 2010

How to move on after a break up

By Anthony Buono *
You have broken up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Your marriage you hoped would last has ended in divorce. Your spouse has died leaving you a widow. How do you move on?

Going through the end of a relationship is...... Hard? Difficult? Crushing?

Well, it’s kind of foolish to try and to describe something so indescribable. The mystery of the emotional experience that comes from a relationship being over has no benchmark, and cannot be consoled in any universal way. This experience is unique to each person who goes through it because every person is unique. Because none of us can be duplicated, no experience we go through can be duplicated by anyone else. Even if we have gone through the same kind of experience as someone else, it is never experienced exactly the same way at the personal level.

Therefore, moving on afterward is no easy task because there is no one else in the whole world who has gone through what you have gone through. Not really, anyway. Because of this fact, how we cope and get through it, and ultimately move on, is dependent on God and His grace.

This might sound very pious and a typical thing for some religious person to say, but it is no less true. Only God knows us completely, and only God can help us as we need to be helped. The fact is you are broken and in need of healing. You are in need of a physician to fix you and make things right again. What human person is qualified to do that?

What can another person really do to help? You break up with someone, or you get divorced, or you become a widow. What can someone else really do? They feel bad and try to console. But how much does this really help your bottom line?

This kind of help is called “sympathy." Sympathy takes the time to acknowledge another’s pain and suffering, but cannot identify with it, and therefore, cannot have a connection with the person. They are on the outside looking in. That is the best they can do. It’s wonderful when someone has sympathy, but this cannot work toward healing the suffering person. For example, a man is dying of cancer. His boss learns of it and shares his sadness to hear this news. He cannot possibly know what this man is going through, and therefore his level of concern stops at being on the outside observing the suffering.

The closest a human person can come to helping someone who is suffering is to have “empathy.” Empathy has to do with sharing in the experience; to enter in and be with the person or to go through it with them in some way. A person capable of empathizing with another person can do wonders toward helping that person.

A typical place to find empathy is from someone very close to you who knows you well and loves you deeply (i.e., a family member or a close friend) or someone who has gone through something very similar. These two kinds of people can empathize. If you are suffering, finding someone who can empathize with you can really help you heal.

Interestingly enough, any person can develop the ability to empathize. In fact, it is part of the Christian call to sanctity to be someone who can empathize. The more we are able to put ourselves into the shoes of another person, the more we are able to step outside of our own selfishness and develop the selfless love for one another Jesus commands us to have.

You see, only Jesus Christ has gone through whatever any human being will ever go through. He knows what it is like to go through what you are going through: the betrayal of a friend; the loss of loyalty and trust; the agony of physical, mental, and emotional trauma; the hypocrisy of words of promise not backed up with the action required; etc.

Jesus shared our human nature and therefore experienced all of the human condition. And being God at the same time, He knows us completely and has the power to heal us. He is the Divine Physician. His agony and death are how He ensured He would empathize with us. And as Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, no one could ever say, “What does God know about what I suffer?”

He is the only one capable of having complete empathy for every human being. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the only answer to how you move on after a break up, or a divorce, or the death of a spouse. He has the only answer to the question “why?” Look at the Apostles' Creed. His life is summed up simply as He was born, He suffered, He died, He rose from the dead. His life is our life. Our suffering has purpose because it leads to the resurrection.

Empathy is the road to resurrection. If we really want to help others (and God knows we need more people today who desire to really and truly want to help others), we would learn how to practice empathy. Get out of yourself and make the effort to make the deeper connection with what someone is going through.

Those of you who need to move on after a dating or marriage set back, and are certainly in inexplicable pain, find people who can empathize with you. They will share Jesus Christ with you just by their care.

We move on from our broken relationships by healing. Seek the help you need to heal. But the great source of healing is your prayer to Jesus that primarily comes through the Eucharistic Lord at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (which represents that great act of love on the cross to secure His eternal empathy for us), and visiting the Blessed Sacrament where you talk to Jesus and beg Him to heal you. The graces that come from turning to the Eucharistic Lord are immeasurable, and have healing properties greater than anything human scientists and physicians can come up with.

It cannot go without saying that the mother of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an important person to draw close to for empathy. Simply said, she was the Co-Redeemer along with her Son. She knows, full well, what all human beings go through. To be close to her is to be close to Jesus, and you will know empathy.

As you begin your healing process, never forget what you have gone through, and learn from it. At the same time, take your experiences and share yourself with others who go through what you go through. Become an imitator of Christ and His mother by becoming an empathetic person, and a vehicle of Christ to help heal others. This will bring you closer to God. It will also help give purpose and meaning to what you have gone through.

Anthony Buono is the founder of For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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