Breakups can be tough and painful for many reasons.
There is this person we love—with whom we shared so many memories, maybe lived together—who broke up with us. All our hopes and dreams about a future together get shattered instantly. Suddenly, we are shocked, confused, frustrated, hurt, angry, and crying.
The pain from a breakup is unbearable.
We may blame or unconsciously torture ourselves by playing what-if scenarios in our head. We start doubting ourselves. Our minds may be consumed with a desperate need for answers. It can be hard to concentrate, let alone tend to our basic needs. We may also feel the fear of never finding another love partner ever again and spending the rest of our lives alone.
All of this is normal and human.
Breakups can also unearth old trauma or unhealed issues from past relationships. So without realizing it—all of a sudden—we are dealing with the current experience compounded with wounds from the past, which can make a breakup even more overwhelming.
And the truth is, breakups are inevitable.
Our family and friends will try to console us and give us advice that—while well-meant—is unhelpful most of the time. The most common advice I’ve heard is: time heals all wounds. In my experience, time doesn’t heal all wounds. In fact, it may prolong the pain longer than needed.
My good friend Courtnee—who is a grief counselor—says: “if you have a flat tire, do you sit by the road and wait for it to get fixed?” The same is true for healing after a breakup. Time may help, but it is feeling our feelings that heals.
The second most common advice I’ve heard is to get busy, which works temporarily, but it doesn’t really take the pain away. When we stop our busyness, we find that the pain is still there.
Heartbreaks are hard because we don’t know how to heal from them truly.
Here are eight suggestions that might actually help you:
1. Feel your pain and your strength.
Allow yourself to feel everything that you are feeling right now. It may sound contradictory but feeling our pain is what helps us move through the pain. It takes 90 seconds for an emotion to move through the body. When we shut down and disconnect or distract ourselves, we prolong the pain.
2. Find a quiet and comfortable spot.
Curl up with your favorite blanket. Take several deep breaths and find a memory of a time when you got through something really difficult in your life. Visualize yourself back in that moment as you breathe. Find in your body where you feel your own strength and resilience. Remember how you’ve pulled through something challenging in the past, and now you will get through this.
3. Allow yourself to feel.
Feel the feelings from the breakup as you take deep breaths. Hold both the pain from now and the strength from the past simultaneously; stay present with both. If you get lost, take a deep breath, go back to the last moment you remember, and continue.
4. Connect with your inner child.
Visualize the little girl or boy inside of you, make eye contact with that little one, and imagine that you cradle him or her in your arms. There is a young part in you who is also in pain right now. Breakups can trigger old wounds from childhood, whether you felt rejected by the kids in school or felt abandoned by a parent who wasn’t there physically or emotionally for you. Hold that little one with tender care.
Take a moment every day to journal about your experience, what you are feeling and thinking. Journaling is a healthy outlet and a positive coping mechanism for facing overwhelming emotions.
6. Practice self-care
Whether taking a bath or getting a massage, do something nourishing for yourself as often as you want.
7. Physical movement
Gentle movement in nature and fresh air helps emotions move through. Maybe you enjoy going on walks, gentle yoga, or Thai-chi. Whatever it is, commit to a daily routine for as little as 15 minutes per day.
8. Check-in with yourself
Check-in where you are at with yourself. If you feel more collapsed or depressed, or like you’re judging yourself or blaming the other person, that means you need more effective help from a therapist, a counselor, or a relationship coach.
Heartbreaks are hard because we don’t know how to heal from them truly. I’ve been through more breakups than I can remember.
And if this is you right now, I want you to know that you are not alone and you matter. Everything you are feeling is valid. You will get through this.