Updated: Feb 26
ELEMENTS is a project which explores heartbreak through the 4 fundamental elements: Fire, Earth, Water and Air.
Heartbreak isn’t something people speak proudly or openly about leading to intense feelings of isolation for people experiencing it. We want to open up the communication lines in regards to heartbreak and alter the stigma of shame attached to these vulnerable experiences shared by all at some point in life.
We are surrounded by the elements in all aspects of our lives.
We drink, wash with and secrete water.
We breathe in air and feel the wind brush across our faces.
We walk upon, are surrounded by and are the Earth.
We feel heat from the sun, use fire to cook and keep us warm.
These elements do not only hold an external position in our lives but they are also housed within us. Those who engage in astrology are aware of the relationship between zodiac signs and the four elements. Depending on your birth chart, you have a cocktail of these elements which are expressed through personal traits, characteristics and stereotypes. For instance water signs are seen to be more emotional whereas earth signs are grounded and stubborn.
We have all gone through heartbreak, whether with a romantic partner, a friend or a family member and if you haven’t as of yet, at some point it will happen - we believe it is in the cycle of life.
Within society we only express greatness, we rarely see someone proudly express their pain or heartbreak or loss. Pain and feeling are more often than not covered with a facade, feeding further into the pain we feel when we cannot escape misery.
We want to break the stigma, empowering people to feel acceptance and freedom with their sorrow, instead of entrapment. This is an experience for the public, something they can feel, experience and relate to - a moment of reflection.
In this phase, our heart rules over our heads and takes over our belief systems as we try to adjust to the idea of life without the person we have lost/are losing. Even though we know the relationship is over, we really don’t believe it. Against the better judgement of everyone around us, we can’t help but entertain fantasies of things somehow working out. We see hidden glimmers of hope buried in clear indications that it’s over, desperate for answers.
The drive to know the unknown consumes us and comes at the expense of rational thoughts and behaviours. We want to know why the break-up happened beyond anyone’s ability to explain it. You fixate on things your ex/loved-one said that contradict the break-up and hold on to them now as gospel.
The pain, disorganisation and confusion become all you think and talk about. Initially you remain driven to understand what happened at any cost. The desperation to make sense of something so jarring compels you to debate friends, family, coworkers, even strangers about why the relationship ended while you justify to them the reasons it shouldn’t have, as if convincing them equates to convincing your ex.
Yet, somewhere within you, you have moments of clarity. You swing back and forth between foggy disbelief and the daily, moment by moment re-discovery of the magnitude of your loss. There are flashes of painful clarity that of course, it’s over.
Anger can manifest in many different ways – anger at your ex...
“How could he do this to me?"
"Why can’t she stop being selfish?”
...anger at God or the universe...
“Why can’t anything ever work out for me?"
"Why am I cursed?”
...anger at people or situations associated with the break-up...
- anger at the other woman;
-anger that your partner lost her job, because that is when she “changed”
...and anger at other people who don’t agree or stand with your anger...
“Can you believe George and Jane still want to be friends with him after what he did to me?”
This is the phase where we think it’s a great idea to tell anyone and everyone what a psycho-crazy vixen our ex was. This is also when we think it’s crucial to send our ex hateful emails because we don’t want him thinking he got away with anything.
Initially, you may not be able to connect with feelings of anger. Breaking up plummets you into the unknown, which can evoke immobilising fear and dread. Fear, at that point, trumps anger. Therefore, when anger sets in, it's because you have let go of some of your fear, at least temporarily.
When you’re able to access anger, the experience can actually be empowering—because at the very least there are shades of remembering that you matter too, of feeling justified in realising that you deserve more from a relationship.
Depending on your specific temperament, life, and family experiences, as well as your unique breakup, your anger may be directed at your partner, the situation, or yourself.
The good news is that your anger, no matter where it’s directed, is meant to empower you, whether you choose to see it that way or not. When anger becomes accessible to you, it can provide direction and create a feeling of aliveness in a world that’s become deadened by loss.
It can also remind you that you deserve more. Even anger at yourself, as paralysing and self-defeating as it may be, is still part of the grieving process. The fact that you are on the trajectory of grieving the loss is a sign that you are working through. It indicates that somewhere within, you are creating enough internal discomfort to help shift your perspective about how the relationship has actually been, and it can compel you to make proactive changes, if you are ready to let it.
Depression, like anger, also surfaces in many different forms. Feeling tired all the time, not wanting to do anything but lay in bed, feeling disconnected from people even when you’re with them, being on the verge of tears most of the time, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of appetite or overeating, increase in drug or alcohol use, and, the big one, hopelessness.
Hopelessness is the most pervasive and debilitating emption. It is the thing that leads us to believe that nothing will ever be or feel different than it does right now. Hopelessness makes it feel like you will never move on and that nothing will ever work out for you in the future.
Finally, this is the phase in which we are able to make peace with the loss. It doesn’t always come on suddenly; it often happens gradually, little bit by little.
Acceptance is not always filled with harmony – there is almost certain to be lingering sadness. Acceptance is our minds making peace with the loss, letting go of the relationship and slowly moving forward with life. Sometimes it feels like this phase will never come, which usually means you’re still struggling in an earlier phase.
Knowing your phases of grief can help normalise your break-up experience. It’s also important to know that there are no time limits - you can't rush the process. Grieving is like digestion: there is nothing you can do to hurry it along. It takes time and the only thing you can do is try to get through it. But take heart in the fact that this, like everything else, will eventually pass.
This is the kind of acceptance that, when it happens early in the process, can feel more like surrender. You are holding up your end of the breakup because you have to, not because you want to. Over time, this initial, often tenuous acceptance becomes more substantive, as both of you begin to recognise, independently, that there are boundaries that at least one of you must maintain in order for the breakup to stick, because it has to. You are finally grasping that's it’s just not good for you to keep trying anymore.