There’s no getting around it—breakups are very painful.
Musicians have written songs about heartbreak. Writers have penned entire novels about the rise and fall of a relationship. We’ve all watched (and cried over) movies about love gone awry. Taylor Swift has even made a career out of them!
Not only are they difficult, they also have their own unique ups and downs. One minute you’re totally alright and ready to go out for brunch with your friends, and the next you’re sobbing into your eggs benedict.
It doesn’t help that social media is filled with reminders. You and your ex may have been tagged in lots of photos together, and it’s all too easy to click onto their profile to see what they’re posting.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic trick to get over a break-up instantly. Breakups are one of those events that you simply have to process in order to move past. Find comfort in knowing that after those first few brutal days and weeks, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Breakups are usually the fracturing prelude to a new, better you.
That being said, there are some guidelines you should definitely follow in order not to prolong your breakup. And when you know what to expect, it can be easier to understand your current feelings and what to expect next. Here are a few ways to start feeling better, today.
How to Deal With a Breakup
After a breakup, you’ll be dealing with grief. Dealing with grief is especially challenging when you have so many conflicting thoughts and feelings swirling around your head.
Think of the different stages of grief as an emotional roadmap. By understanding and relating the different stages, you’ll be able to anticipate what comes next.
The 5 Stages of a Breakup
Shock and sadness
The shock of a breakup usually settles in immediately after the break-up. It’s raw, emotional, and can feel physically painful, like a persistent knot in your stomach. There’s nothing that can prepare you for the jittery-yet-numb feeling of it actually being over. Past memories may flash across your mind. After the initial shock wears off, the sadness will likely settle in.
This is all totally normal. Humans have a hard time dealing with change. Just like how it took awhile to get used to the idea of being in a relationship, you’ll have to warm up to your newly single identity.
While your emotions feel intense, try to do your best to accept them. Practice self-compassion: talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend who just went through a fresh breakup. Put your phone away, put on a clean set of clothes, and take a walk outside. Treat yourself to something nice. Cry if you need to—this is a rough stage, and it’s healthy to release all that emotion and tension.
Try to remember that this tsunami of feelings will pass and you’re not broken or alone.
After the initial shock and devastation, you might find yourself unable or unwilling to accept reality. You might talk yourself into thinking that this is only temporary, and you’ll get back together soon enough. This is a normal response, especially if the breakup was abrupt.
However, being in denial can be tricky. Understand that when you skip over how you feel or distract yourself from your feelings, you’re simply prolonging the inevitable. You’ll eventually need to come to terms with the breakup, because how else will you make room for the life that you want?
After a relationship ends, you might experience a drop in self-confidence. That’s because your world has shifted in a big way, and you’re likely feeling a little lost.
You might be questioning things like:
Why did we really break up? Was it because of me?
Am I too flawed to be in a relationship? Do I deserve to be in a relationship?
Should I reach out to my ex? Should we get back together?
One way to avoid the self-doubt slump is through practicing self-care. Do all the things that make you feel good:
- Watch a funny movie
- Go for a run
- Hang out with your best friends
- Engage in the creative arts
- Clean out your closet, desk, and straighten out your room
Most importantly, make time to reflect. After all your emotions have settled down, set aside one or two weeks to focus on productive reflection by asking yourself thoughtful questions about all the lessons you learned.
- What did I learn about how I handle conflict?
- How did I feel about myself when things were difficult?
- How do I manage my hurt feelings?
- What positives can I take from this experience?
- What is something I would change if I could go back in time?
- What are non-negotiables for me in terms of a partner?
- What do I want from this separation?
Avoid rumination, which doesn’t lead to any meaningful progress. If you find yourself feeling stuck, talk to your most trusted and honest friend. It can be helpful and comforting to hear a third-party perspective.
After self-doubt comes the irritation, frustration, and anger. Your anger might be directed at yourself, or it may be directed outward. This is usually the stage when you say or do things that you may regret down the line. Your common sense is hazy. So, you might consider egging your ex’s house or supergluing their school locker shut. You might bad-mouth your ex to anyone who’ll listen, throw away all the sentimental items you’ve collected throughout the course of your relationship, and block them on Instagram for good measure.
That’s okay. Breakups are extremely upsetting! Allow yourself to feel angry (but try not to act on it). The good news is that you’ll tire yourself out, and this windstorm of wrath and rage will dissipate just as quickly as it arrived.
Acceptance and peace
And one day, you’ll wake up and everything will feel normal again. You’ll understand that the relationship is over, and it doesn’t feel like the end of the world anymore. This stage is brought on by a deep realization that it’s not worth the emotional investment anymore. It’s finally time to move past the relationship, into a new, better chapter of your life.
The most terrible parts of the breakup are behind you now. You’re back to being you. The big secret is that breakups really aren’t about getting over the other person—they’re about getting back to being your most blissful self. Pat yourself on the back, because you made it out of a breakup!
What to Do After a Breakup
Now that you’ve been through the breakup, here are some best practices to follow.
Distance yourself from any communication channels.
That means deleting your ex’s message thread, phone number, social media profiles, email address—anything that you could use to reach out during a weak moment. Archive or delete all your old photos. And feel free to remove their friends and family in the name of mental health.
Do a little deep cleaning.
Get rid of all the keepsakes. All Polaroids, movie tickets, stuffed teddy bears, and holiday cards need to go into an old shoebox. Out of sight, out of mind.
Make plans with friends.
Especially early on, it’ll be extra difficult to be alone. It’ll be a huge relief to have friends around to distract you from the raw pain of your recent breakup. Make sure you hang around the friends who make you feel good about yourself.
Make a breakup playlist.
Music has powerful mood-boosting effects. Pick songs that make you feel energized, empowered and independent.
Break a sweat.
Put on that breakup playlist, your running shoes, and get moving. We all know the powerful effects of endorphins. Get out all your anxious energy through physical movement.
Get lost in a book.
Sometimes, there’s nothing more comforting than losing yourself in a good book. Bonus points for reading outdoors—it'll get you out of the house and you’ll feel less prone to ruminating.
Do things just for you.
Were there any activities that you used to enjoy doing, that your ex didn’t? Now that the relationship is over, it’s time for you to reclaim your unique little joys. Do all the things that you put on the shelf for the sake of compromise.
Push yourself to explore new places.
If you’re feeling stuck, it’s probably because you’re running on the hamster wheel of sameness. Hike a trail you’ve never seen before, check out that new neighborhood restaurant, or visit the farmer’s market two towns over.
Resist the urge to get back on the dating apps.
It’s tempting to have someone to fill the silences with, but you also need time to reflect and heal from the breakup. Skipping this important step puts you at risk of entering another relationship without much self-growth.
And finally, when you’re ready, forgive. Forgive the other person for the things they did and said, and forgive yourself for your own mistakes. Letting go of grudges will help you move on and move forward.