Physical illness has an emotional reaction such as anger, shock, denial or acceptance.

In most cases, the onset of a medical problem or condition has a range of underlying emotions. Illness imposes an impact on the person, moving from a place of freedom to a loss of control or to a type of confinement.

Rehabilitation is a course of therapy, a journey, to recover and return a person to her prior level of functioning, to the best of her abilities following an illness, surgery or injury. Unlike physical rehabilitation, where you are subjected to the manipulation of physical, occupational, respiratory or speech and language therapists; emotional rehabilitation is the strengthening of ones emotional ability to cope with a loss or change in their lives.

Working Through Loss

Emotional rehabilitation is a method of steps to work through the pain of loss and to return to a stable and healthy place.

A person must use the emotional muscles inside her heart and mind to help her get there and utilize resources to help move forward. As the individual builds her emotional core, she will also return to a stronger self– filled with determination, confidence and competence.

Emotional muscles are typically invisible. Other people have a spectrum of emotional use from poor to capable, with varying skills reflecting the different degrees of emotions, how they are processed and expressed.

In order to do emotional rehabilitation, one must be prepared and ready to process the pain and associated thoughts, typically ambivalent feelings. Some people have never had an opportunity to use these specific muscles because of their own past history and need to be taught how to identify their feelings and thoughts about themselves.

The 4 Ss in Muscle:

Stretch: Let yourself loosen up the feelings, give yourself permission to cry and get rid of the tension building up in your body. In essence your facial, neck, head, stomach and lung muscles get a work-out.

Slowly: One must not move too quickly or else will not really own the emotion, acknowledge and process the pain. One cant skip the process as the pain may return when one least expects.

Strengthen: Using various methods to improve ones emotional response to the loss is necessary in order to adjust ones thinking, feeling and insight. This approach takes practice, exercises and support to move forward.

Stronger: At the end of emotional rehabilitation, ones skills and abilities to cope will be improved. The outcome is improved positive self-regard and confidence. The emotions, attitude and behavior will be healthy and functional.

The process of rehabilitation takes into account the grief and mourning process. Grieving varies per person and stage per Kubler-Ross. The amount of time is dependent upon ones ability to process the intense uncomfortable feelings, bear them and then let go of the pain.

Mourning Well

Many people may be told to keep as busy as possible, yet that very action actually prolongs the grief process, as you will be repressing your feelings. In order to mourn well, one must consciously take the time to feel the pain and let it out in order to move forward.

Factors which impact the length of each Stage: 1. Age 2. Sex 3. The meaning of the relationship for the individual. How one defines the level of importance and significance for the one who is lost. 4. Length of time in the relationship. 5. The causes of the end in the relationship. 6. Past ability to cope with loss and change. 7. Resources and supports available. 8. Self-awareness or cognitive awareness of where one is the continuum of grief.

Stage 1: Acute Injury This period occurs when you made a decision to end a relationship or it was made for you. How you say goodbye depends upon your personal preference, maturity, intellectual and emotional strength.

Where one lives in relationship to the person you lost plays a factor in perception, attitude and actions.

Ending a relationship in person provides a greater sense of self-respect, acknowledgment and control.

Pain has multiple effects on people. Everyday actions may be altered, such as thinking and concentration, sleeping and eating. Emotions continue to change and can take on the following: numbness, intense pain, sorrow, grief, regret, disappointment, and anger.

The ability to tolerate the variety and ups and down of pain varies per person. This intense period of time can last from 24 hours and up to a few weeks or months; depending upon the extent of the relationship and meaning associated with the person.

Others may have thoughts to end the suffering by getting back together with the person because the pain is seen as intolerable, and if a persons internal resources are poor, think of suicide.

Stage 2: Active Grieving

The process of rehabilitation occurs when one is cognizant that he is purposefully working through each wave of grief. He recognizes that the intensity is not as intense, the crying bouts not as frequent and the black cloud is lifting. The emotional waves affect the muscles and one has to re-learn how to stabilize the ups and downs.

Memories attach themselves to ones emotional self. A different emotional work-out schedule is to be planned–rehabilitation. Re-strengthening your emotional muscles takes effort and determination and time. Reminding oneself that there are waves and it is normal to feel good and bad is vital to assist in coping.

However during this phase its important to recall the issues which led to this point. It is important to note that this stage is not time specific. It is necessary to focus ones personal needs to move forward by learning or continuing to nurture the self; this is not selfish.

Emotional Rehabilitation Methods:

A. Journal, with a specific identified task, for instance: Why the relationship ended, what are the changes I see in myself, today, yesterday, last week, etc? Writing a letter to the person (but not sending it) is therapeutic and may even hasten the process.

B. Talk with close trusted friends, family and if needed, a therapist.

C. Develop or return to an exercise program.

D. Work or return to work.

E. Return to or start a hobby, for instance, paint.

F. Connect with others spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially.

Stage 3: Emotional Rehabilitation Maintenance: Emotional stability occurs when one notices that his thoughts are clear, positive, feel relief and contentment. Laughter, enjoyment, and fun return as a result of removing the weight or burden from the heart, thoughts and body.

People will feel they are themselves once again. At this point in emotional rehabilitation, there might be brief periods of time that regression occurs. We learn from our experiences and our self-awareness grows as we become more aware of ones needs, strengths and weaknesses.

  • Identify positive self-affirmations and practice writing and saying them to ones self.
  • Meditate or do yoga.
  • Identify stress reducing and relaxation activities.
  • Find opportunities for emotional, spiritual, vocational and physical growth and take steps toward doing these activities.

Emotionally you are not yet ready to let go and move forward until you have completed the rehabilitation process. The wave in adjusting to the loss will diminish as your muscles are used effectively. The end of a relationship, regardless of the type and length of time, has as its goal to disentangle and uncouple from the painful loss toward connection and stabilization.

Recognizing that you are moving forward is freeing and powerful. Once your emotional muscles are strengthened, you will feel more like your old self and think, Im back to myself. Emotional rehabilitation is complete when the heart muscles are calm and at peace.

Sad woman photo available from Shutterstock