How to Deal With Heartbreak
The end of a romantic relationship can be a storm of conflicting emotions, piercing memories, and intense loneliness and grief. Breakups can interfere with our ability to function on a daily basis, make a once-bright future feel vacant and bleak, and leave us wondering if we could ever possibly find love again (or if we even want to).
While these feelings may be crushingly immediate, it can be some solace to know that many people have been through and recovered from heartbreak. Any number of timeless songs on the subject can prove this point.
But in the emotional aftermath of a very personal and intimate loss, it can be tough to press forward and see the light at the end of the tunnel – because no one else’s heartbreak is ever quite as real as your own.
So if you’re not sure how to move forward after a bad breakup, here are some things to keep in mind:
Give yourself time to grieve…
Though we often associate grief with death, the end of a relationship can also come with profound feelings of loss: loss of the beloved’s presence in your life and the security that gave you, and the loss of a future that included that person. These are, in fact, very major and losses and it’s appropriate – and necessary – to grieve them.
Grief can take many forms and hit at different times, and can involve emotions ranging from sadness to anger to confusion – or sometimes an unsettling lack of emotion. However your grief unfolds, allow yourself to feel it and be patient with the amount of time that takes.
Unless you allow yourself to process, and ultimately release, these feelings, they’ll get stuck inside of you and prohibit you from moving on.
… but don’t allow yourself to become too isolated
You will likely need some privacy for your feelings after a breakup, and it can feel tough to reach out when you’re physically and emotionally exhausted. But even so, there’s only so much time you can and should spend alone in your bedroom crying along to Taylor Swift.
Talking to people who care for you can help you process difficult feelings, and companionship will prevent you from getting too isolated, which can worsen your heartbreak and make it more likely to morph it into depression. Additionally, while you need to give your feelings some time and space, if you allow them to completely rule your life, this can stop you from taking the active steps you need to move forward.
Turn to art for comfort
We’re not talking about making art, though that can be a very rewarding way to process and express your feelings if you’re creatively inclined.
Perhaps because of that, there is a truly endless amount of great (and not-great) music, literature, and film< out there that deals with heartbreak. The fact that the subject remains so timeless proves that heartbreak is a part of the human condition, and many people find solace in the knowledge that someone else has been where they are.
Or, it can simply be nice to distract yourself with a fun TV show.
Allow yourself to remember the good and bad
While the initial stages of post-breakup grief will likely involve mourning the good things you lost, this can lend itself to a one-sided, rose-tinted view of the relationship. If you idealize the relationship and your partner, it can be tempting to see yourself as the problem, or think that you weren’t good enough for the other person.
The truth is likely a lot more complicated – things were clearly amiss, or else the relationship wouldn’t have ended. And if you thought things were perfect and thus were blindsided by the breakup, that in itself is a signal that you and your ex were either misaligned or uncommunicative about your feelings.
So rather than idolizing your ex or vilifying them, take some time to think about the good and the bad. Recognizing what went wrong, and the role both of you may have played in the disintegration of the relationship.
Doing this kind of objective reflection can also help you build a stronger relationship with the next person, whenever you’re ready to jump back into the dating pool.
Care for your mind by caring for your body
While it can be difficult to motivate yourself or keep up routines after a breakup, tending to your health is another important way to make sure your heartbreak doesn’t spiral into depression. Emotional pain can wear you out, but on the flip side, feeling physically healthy has a huge effect on your energy levels and state of mind.
So do your best to stay physically active, and try to avoid turning to a diet composed solely of junk food – though we’d never begrudge you the occasional pint of ice cream. Simply getting out of the house for a walk can make a big difference on a day when you’re feeling down, especially since time outdoors is known to be great for your mental health.
Create new routines and traditions
If you recently got out of a relationship, chances are that the structure of your daily life has changed dramatically. Everything you used to do with someone, and the routines you built around your shared life, are now gone.
This is why it’s important to build a new structure around your life as a solo person, whether this means reorganizing your home a bit, developing a self-care routine, or embracing new activities alone or with friends. It can take some time to rebuild your life after a breakup, but doing so is one of the most important parts of healing, and feeling positive about your future.
Don’t jump into a new relationship too fast
Rebounding – or jumping into a hasty relationship before you’ve had time to let go of the last one – gets a bad rap for a reason. These relationships are often both intense and superficial, as you try to fill the void left by the last person while being unable to honor the new person on their own terms. Rebounds can end in drama, or with someone getting hurt.
When you want to dip your toe back into the dating pool, we’d recommend you start cautiously and casually. Take things slow enough to be able to assess your own reactions, and warn any new partners about where you’re at and that you may not be ready for something serious.
Seek help from a professional
Breakups can be especially hard when they trigger painful feelings of unlovability, deep fears about the future, or unresolved emotional traumas from our past. If a breakup is making you feel hopeless, adrift, or self-loathing, and those feelings aren’t going away, it may be wise to see a therapist who can help you unpack the deeper, more intractable emotions that breakup might have unleashed.
While a breakup can be a life-altering event, it shouldn’t leave you unable to cope – or unable to experience joy in other areas of your life – for an extended period of time. If this is what you think is happening, you should get to the bottom of what’s going on inside you, because you deserve a happy and fulfilling life.