I was always the girl with the boyfriend.
So, when I found myself out of my three-and-a-half-year relationship, my wedding called off and living back at home with my parents, I wondered how I would ever get to the other side of my heartbreak. Here I am, eight months later, healed and ready to share how I got through one of the hardest seasons of my life.
These 16 things helped me in the journey to healing my broken heart:
1. Do whatever you need and want (safely) for one to two weeks.
The initial shock of a breakup can turn life upside down. During the first week after ending my relationship, I hardly knew up from down. This is survival time—sleep, drink wine, take a day off work, do what you need to get through the day. Know that getting out of bed or brushing your teeth is an accomplishment.
2. Make a “next best thing” to-do list.
I’m a big proponent of not doing everything on your own. So much of my anxiety and stress in the early stages of my breakup was from the overwhelming “to-do’s.” I would lay awake at night or wake up at four in the morning thinking, Oh sh*t, I need to unbundle our car insurance. Oh yeah, he’s also on my Spotify account. I need to call the landlord. When am I going to move out?
Ask a friend to help you brainstorm and make a list of all the things you need to do to untangle your life together. As my friend who helped me make the list said, “Hey, people move out all the time. This isn’t that big of a deal.” When we have it written out, we realize we can check off the next best thing to do off the list and that the breakup is more manageable than we may have thought.
3. Make plans.
Being a relationship person, I was used to always having someone to hang out with and something to do after work or on weekends. When Friday approaches and you realize you don’t have any plans, it can make it easy to spiral into loneliness. I found it helpful to make plans with friends early in the week, and then if Saturday came and I had nothing to do, I would make plans with myself. Even if that plan was “tonight I’m going to watch ‘Real Housewives of New York’ and then order Thai food.” Knowing what the night had in store made it easier to cope with my new normal.
4. Identify trigger days and times.
I started to realize that I was consistently having a hard time on Sundays at around 3:00 p.m. This time of day my Sunday scaries would sink in or I would feel sad, seeing couples grocery shopping together at Whole Foods. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I realized that this day and time was a trigger. I decided to make plans and do something that would spark joy or find a way to treat myself. I now take Sunday afternoons to get my nails done, play golf with my sister, get a massage, or treat myself to an overpriced salad from Sweet Green.
5. Take a break from drinking.
In the first 14 days of my breakup in mid-December, wine felt necessary to get through the day. When I woke up on January 1, 2020, unsure how I got home the night before, I realized I needed to take a break from using wine as an escape. I took a month off from drinking, and I’ll be honest, it was hard to have no “release.” However, it forced me to soberly face the pain and the hardship of what I was going through. I felt taking a break from booze and not checking out of my pain was a way to fast forward the process. It forced me to dive headfirst instead of taking a long way around adversity.
6. Make three playlists.
As odd as it sounds, during the first month of ending my engagement, I felt I couldn’t watch TV or even listen to a podcast. I couldn’t handle the noise or filling my brain with anything. Similar to wine, I also did not want to use TV to check out or avoid my pain. I made three playlists and listened to them on repeat depending on my mood: sad, mad, and hopeful. Sad when I needed to cry, mad when I wanted to scream, and hopeful when I needed the reminder that I won’t be alone forever.
7. Know it gets better in time.
This is the only breakup advice I’ve found to be true and helpful. Time will heal you and this feeling won’t last forever. Hold onto the truth that the function of time will make things better. There was a season when I couldn’t get out of bed, and now I go weeks without thinking about my breakup.
8. Make a list of why you weren’t a fit.
Whether you dumped someone or got dumped, we can easily find ourselves in the place of glamourizing our last relationship. We tend to focus on how they were “perfect,” all of the amazing times together, and ignore the reality that we broke up for a reason. I created a note on my phone, listing all the reasons why I left. When I found myself wallowing and romanticizing the relationship I would read the list and remember, Oh yeah! He used to tell me I wasn’t funny. I’m better off with someone who appreciates me.
9. Be honest about the reality of your relationship.
I spent years covering for my ex, or pretending like I was content with him, in front of my family and friends. I found it so cathartic to finally be honest with the close people in my life about the reality of my past relationship. We get stuck thinking things that occurred in our relationships are and were normal. Discussing what went on behind closed doors helped validate my decision to leave and kept me accountable to not repeat destructive behavior.
10. Balance self-care with staying busy and having fun.
I am a feeler—sometimes to a fault. Daily journaling, meditation, yoga, Reiki, therapy, massage, walks, baths—all are things that I and we all need to move through a breakup or a hard season of life. However, I often found myself too deep in my feelings or constantly thinking through the breakup in my head. Sometimes we need to just stay busy with work, call up a friend, go get a margarita, and not take life so seriously.
11. Acknowledge your worth.
Remember, you broke up for a reason. Whether you walked away or were blindsided by your partner, dig deep, and acknowledge your worth. You are worthy of a relationship where you are loved, understood, and a priority. If you do not feel that way, write down “I am worthy” three times every morning. When we affirm our worth over and over, we eventually start to feel and believe that yes, in fact, we are worthy.
12. Read the book Attached.
I wish I had read this book 1o years ago. It would have saved me some time and hardship. I read this book recently as a single woman, and it has not only helped me understand why my past relationship did not work, but also how to objectively weed out the men who will not be a fit for me in a future relationship. I spread this book to single and coupled friends like the gospel—it’s a game-changer.
13. Throw it away and go shopping.
I know you love that cozy flannel he got you for Christmas last year, but do you really want to wear it, or have that reminder of the past? No matter how much you adore something they gave you, get rid of it. It’s an energy that no longer serves you, only taking up physical and emotional space. Put all reminders, clothes, or gifts in a box and drop it off at the Goodwill. Light up some sage, open a window, and clear out all of the stale energy.
14. Go shopping and get dressed.
Now that you’ve cleaned out your closet, go treat yourself. Prior to my breakup, I wore yoga pants and hair in a ponytail most days. I now give myself a budget every season and buy new clothes that make me feel good and only wear workout clothes when I’m working out. Make it a priority to wake up, shower, brush your hair, and put on makeup if you desire, or an outfit that makes you feel confident. Look good, feel good!
15. Be gentle with yourself.
Remember, moving on from a breakup takes time and healing isn’t linear. You might find yourself feeling fine and moved-on for weeks at a time, and then months later hit over the head with emotion. If this happens, give yourself grace and be gentle. There’s no one solution or quick fix. Feel what you feel and know that it is normal for your grief to come in waves.
16. Forgive yourself.
I kept hearing how forgiving him was a gift to myself—I still felt angry; I felt he did not deserve my forgiveness. While I wasn’t in a place to let go of my anger, I wondered, instead of wasting my energy trying to forgive him, what if I forgave myself?
What if I forgave myself for not leaving earlier than I did, for putting up with his emotional manipulation and abuse, for not knowing what I know now? I thought, perhaps once I forgive myself, then I can come to the place where I can forgive him. If I’ve learned anything from this season of ending my relationship, it’s that I am worthy, powerful, and it’s not selfish to prioritize myself. Forgive yourself first, and then you can truly move on.