It’s always hard when you break up with someone. It’s like a part of your heart is gone and you’re never going to feel the same way again. It’s like you were living in this perfect world and now it’s shattered. And now what’s left is a void where the relationship once stood, all you feel is empty.
Your emotions are all over the place. You’re confused, upset, VERY sad. You want to be with them, but you also know it’s no longer possible. You can’t seem to make sense of it at all. You might be torn between holding onto love, hope, or memories, and trying to forget everything so that it would just stop hurting.
All you want to do is get back the happiness that you had before. You know you have to forget about it, and move on, but what is there left of your life now that you have experienced what you’ve experienced? Is there really a way to just “go back” to your life the way it was before?
Knowing you have to move on, and actually taking concrete steps towards a healthy recovery from a devastating breakup are two very different things. You might know in your mind that you need to move forward with your life, but you may feel like all you’re doing is standing still, stuck in sort of a “breakup limbo”, not quite willing to face reality, but knowing it’s all you have left.
What is the next step after your breakup?
Cut it off
Shock and denial are a very real stage in every breakup process. It might even be our first reaction to it. But another stage closely linked to denial is the bargaining stage, where we wonder how we might possibly get our ex back, or try and weasel our way into their inbox again. This calls for a big fat NO. If it was going to work out, it would have worked out. No amount of wishing and hoping and thinking and praying (ala Dusty Springfield, revealing my age here) will help bring them back.
“Acceptance is the key to moving on when a relationship ends,” says Judith Orloff, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life. “Even though it may not have worked out the way you wanted, accepting that the relationship was limited and is over is very important.”
So accept it, and make it a clean cut, otherwise you’re just dragging on the inevitable. It may be so tempting to just avoid dealing with it, but even crying it out under your blankie is better than stalking their Facebook. So if possible, block all means of communication with them – WhatsApp, Facebook, delete their phone number from your phone, take a break from mutual friends or their family members you may know. We all know breakups cut like a knife – so now what you have to do is make sure the wound is clean before you let it heal. Make it a clean cut.
Let your emotions do their roller coaster thing
Your emotions are gonna go all haywire. You’ll feel sad, sorry for yourself, angry, betrayed, maybe they never cared for you at all, maybe they were faking it, but that can’t be because it was true love, but now it’s gone, and you’ll never love anyone else again.
You’ll cry, you’ll yell, you’ll think about them, you’ll be pissed off, and in the end, you probably don’t even know how you feel, or you might feel everything all at once.
It’s okay. It’s normal. You’re human. Let yourself be human. If you want to cry, cry. But then take a deep breath, take out a journal, and write down what you’re feeling, all of it. Studies show that writing about your breakup may just be one of the best ways to heal.
Elle Huerta, breakup expert and founder of the breakup app Mend, says “Research shows that regularly reflecting on how you’re coping with your breakup in a structured way reduces post-breakup loneliness and distress because it helps you redefine your sense of self. It’s also a really great way to practice letting go, and release the thoughts and emotions that have built up during a breakup.”
Feelings are complicated things. We might not always understand them fully, or we might have difficulty pulling apart all the different thoughts we’re having. Journaling can help slow your mind down, and really think about what you’re going through, and give you the opportunity to process your overwhelming emotions and gain clarity on your thoughts.
It’s also a completely safe space to admit to yourself certain truths that you may not be ready to admit to anyone else. Perhaps a part of you already knew it was never going to work, or you are struggling with certain limiting beliefs that were masked by the veil of a happy relationship, and now that it’s over, that negativity is all that you’re stuck with once again. It can be very hard to admit these very personal truths about ourselves to others, especially if we don’t have close friends we can talk to about it. Journaling is a great way for us to see into ourselves for who we really are, and help us decide what we really want.
Take a break from social media
Needless to say, anything that will remind you of your ex and that relationship will definitely be a sore spot for some time. There’s just no possible way for you to wake up tomorrow and watch The Notebook or P.S. I Love You and not cry fat, ugly tears that are somewhat linked to the romance you experienced with your ex.
(Although if you’re the sort who can watch a tearjerker romance movie, cry your heart out, and then shake yourself off, and move on, feeling better, then by all means, do so. We all have different coping methods!)
Your social media feed might be full of pictures of happy couples and boisterous kids who stem from happy couples, so maybe it might be wise to take a little break from social media right now. It also helps keep the temptation away from wanting to unblock your ex and peek if they’ve updated their profile picture, or worse – if they’ve changed their relationship status to “In a relationship with someone new who isn’t you.”
Breakups bring with it a ton of emotional pain, don’t inflict more upon yourself by lounging in areas where pictures may pop up to make you feel sadder, or sorry for yourself. You’d only be taking two steps forwards and one step back in your breakup recovery process.
Focus on yourself
It’s very easy to feel half of yourself, because a big part of you feels like it died when the relationship ended. But really, it’s a chance to be totally you. In every relationship, even the healthiest ones, we may come to be dependent on our partner’s acceptance, love, affection, confidence and encouragement.
It might be what we loved about being with them, it might have been what made them the best thing to ever happen to us. Well, now the challenge is to become dependent on your own acceptance, love, affection, confidence and encouragement. Who are you without your ex now?
Close your eyes for a moment and envision yourself without your ex. Are you someone who is desperately wishing they come back to you, or are you someone who exudes strength and kindness to yourself, allowing yourself to be stronger, better, and more fulfilled even without them?
One of my favourite quotes of all time is this:
“The best revenge is a life well lived.”
It applies to haters, negative people, doubters, anyone who has tried to bring us down in the past, or doesn’t believe in us. I suppose it can apply to exes too. They didn’t value you enough to keep you in their life. It’s their loss. But they will only see that loss if you blossom into someone they look at and go, “Oh wow, they’re so happy, successful, and strong. I wish I hadn’t let them go.”
Don’t be that person that when they look at you, they think, “Oh thank god I let them go. I’m doing so much better now.” No!
This Lifehack article suggests “having a mindful conversation with yourself” and doing an “in-depth discovery into your inner-self”, by asking yourself questions like:
- If “Love myself more” has the top priority in my life, will I still do what I am doing now?
- What do I want to achieve in my life and how should I start?
- What is the most important thing I should improve?
Allowing yourself this time to focus on yourself will allow you to become the best version of yourself EVER. And then, when the time is right, your best self will attract someone else’s best self. So don’t worry that you will never love again. Just focus on YOU first.
Do what you love
This time is all about you. A breakup, as horrible as it is, gives you an all-access pass to treat yourself well. Give yourself a break, have a staycation, go out for Saturday high-tea or Sunday brunch with friends, take an hour-long bath with rose petals, wine and soft jazz music. Is there really a limit to letting yourself feel better, in whatever way that works?
Amy Chan, founder of the Renew Breakup Bootcamp (yes, a bootcamp for getting through breakups, it exists!), suggests getting your “feel-good chemicals from spending time with friends, community, and self-care. Get your endorphins going by exercising (hey, this is a great time to try out that new dance class you’ve been considering).”
If an actual physical class isn’t possible, what about an online course? Domestika, for example, has a ton of courses where you can learn to make your own resin jewellery, ceramic plates, refashioned clothes, or even upcycled vintage furniture. If you’re interested in handmade soapmaking from scratch, ask me! I can help you out with resources to get you started!
Who knows, you might even discover a new hobby or passion to fall in love with. Yes, people aren’t the only things we can fall in love with. This is time to do what you love, love what you do, and fall in love with yourself.
Talk to people
Talking to friends can help get things off your chest, feel like you’re heard, and end up in a comforting hug – even a virtual hug if you’re chatting online!
“In the early days after a break-up, you’re likely not to feel great, so try to distract yourself as much as possible,” says Charly Lester, dating expert and CEO of Lumen, a 50s+ dating app. “Make plans with friends so you don’t have time to wallow.”
Just keep in mind that you’re talking to people who will listen, support you, and be honest with you. You don’t want to hang out with friends who, instead of helping you get over your ex and survive your breakup, extend the heartbreak by suggesting ways to win your ex back, or to jump in bed with a “rebound” fling as a distraction. These are not healthy responses to a breakup, so make sure you do a little quality check and make sure your friends have your best interests at heart, and aren’t afraid to tell you like it is: That it’s over. (Sorry.) It won’t be easy to hear, but it will be better than friends who tiptoe around your broken heart or give you false hope that your ex may come back to you in the near future.
There are going to be moments when you’re feeling awful, you can’t seem to cry it out, and you just want someone to talk to. I’ve been there. I found great comfort in a website called 7 Cups of Tea, where trained, volunteer “listeners” are on hand to provide a listening ear. They were such a huge help for me personally, I trained as a listener too and gave back to the platform, helping others in their time of need. As with any free platform, there will be unsavoury characters, so avoid these by looking at the online listener list and picking those with great reviews. There are even listeners who specialise in helping you through a breakup – perfect! Sometimes you don’t need someone to give you advice, or walk you through a 12-step recovery programme, you just want someone to listen to you. And 7 Cups is perfect for this.
And if you need a little bit of additional help, don’t feel ashamed or like a failure to talk to a therapist. They are there for this reason, and a big plus is they usually can suggest some help, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) tools, to guide you along on your breakup recovery. CBT focuses on linking triggers to behaviours so our thoughts don’t run away with us, whereas NLP is all about making changes on a more unconscious level so it becomes automatic.
If you’re having issues such as not being able to focus on anything but constantly thinking of your ex all the time, feeling tired all the time, or if the breakup has led to stress-related disorders or depression, then it’s definitely beneficial to consider talking to a therapist. A lot of therapy has now shifted online as well, so you can easily speak to someone via video chat without even leaving your home.
Let yourself heal
The overarching advice you can probably see throughout this article is this: Be kind to yourself. Breakups are a huge shock to our system, and our mental, emotional and even physical selves are all reeling from the shock. You might have a ton of contradictory feelings one day, and feel totally numb the next. You might dip your toes into the mire of self-hatred, low self-esteem, loneliness, or feel like you’re losing grip on happiness altogether. I’m not going to lie, breakup recovery is a process, and not an easy one. So just try to be kind to yourself.
The most important thing to do is simply move forward. As long as you’re moving in the right direction, and no longer clinging on to the past, it doesn’t matter if you’re taking 1 step a day, or 1 step every 10 days. Trust me, nobody’s counting! All your friends and family just want to see you happy again. All you have to know is that you are 100% capable of creating your own happiness and that you will find it again.
Don’t rush into another relationship thinking it’s the other person’s responsibility to provide you with happiness, it isn’t. The best kind of relationship is when a happy you meets a happy other. Two people who are never dependent on each other for their happiness will ensure that the happiness in the relationship will last a loooooooooooong time.
So give yourself this time and space, however long you need, to take care of yourself, learn about yourself, grow into yourself, and become the best version of yourself.
Perhaps one day you might meet someone else, who might become the love of your life. But for now, let yourself be the love of your life. Love yourself well.