“I think our lives are going in different directions.”
Whether you’ve heard a statement like one of these or the person you were dating disappeared (aka “ghosted”), breakups are never fun, especially if you are the one who was on the receiving end. No matter whether you saw it coming or it came as a complete surprise, you’re left reeling with some combination of sadness, anger, hurt, or rejection.
How do you deal with all of these emotions and even begin to think about moving on? Plus, it doesn’t help that your family and friends are often eager to give you unsolicited advice. Surviving a breakup is hard.
In my work as a psychotherapist, many clients tell me that after a breakup, their family and friends encourage them to forget about their ex and start dating again. Of course, this is well-meaning advice, but it takes time to heal from a breakup, expected or not. So skip the ice cream binges and press pause on signing up for dating apps. Here are some more helpful suggestions for surviving a breakup.
Your first instinct might be to take rash action. While this is perhaps one of the more difficult things to hear because it requires some degree of patience, it’s true. In the days and weeks following your breakup, it’s tempting to act in a reactionary way. For example, you might be tempted to contact your ex in the weeks after breaking up, post angrily on social media, or jump immediately back into the dating scene, but these things will most likely not help you heal and thrive when you’re hurting.
Trying to contact your ex to convince them to get back together will most likely hinder you from getting the necessary closure that will allow you to be free to move on. And turning to dating apps to “find someone better” or to make your ex jealous won’t close those wounds. In fact, it’s keeping that breakup wound from healing properly. Instead, don’t make any big decisions in the weeks after your breakup and try to focus on self-care and staying close to supportive family and friends.
Give it time
As frustrating as it is, it takes time to go through the process of healing from a breakup. When I am working with clients who have experienced a breakup, they are understandably very upset immediately after it happens. Over time, though, they are able to work through their emotions, understand their reactions, and choose how they want to live their lives going forward.
But that process cannot happen overnight. Many clients have lamented to me that they wish they could fast-forward time and “just get over it” — but it just takes time. As time goes on, they heal from their breakup and get to a point where they can look back at what happened without it feeling so raw, like it happened yesterday.
Expect conflicting emotions
I often tell my clients that going through a breakup is like going through the grieving process because in both instances, you’ve lost someone who was very important to you. With that loss comes the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
When going through a breakup, you may move back and forth between these stages as you figure out how to move forward in life. For example, one day you might find yourself believing that your ex will be pleading to get back together with you (this is denial), but the next day you might find yourself coming to terms with the fact that they won’t be coming back (acceptance).
Experiencing conflicting emotions that change from one day to the next is very normal and is something that you can expect. Don’t shy away from your emotions. Instead, try to understand what they are telling you about yourself. For example, if you are feeling angry, try to figure out where that is coming from. Are you angry at yourself? Are you angry at your friends for not warning you about this person? Are you angry at your ex? This can help you better understand how to take action and move forward. If you’re having trouble figuring this out, a good therapist can help you untangle things.
Surround yourself with your support network
It’s so easy to feel lonely in the aftermath of a breakup, especially if it was unexpected or messy. You might even feel tempted to isolate yourself from others when you feel sad or upset. Sitting alone in your room listening to sad music might sound preferable in the moment, but spending time with those who support and love you is very important during this time.
The people who make up your support network are the ones who know you best, love you, and can help you focus on the world beyond your breakup, which can be hard to see on your own in a moment like this. You might also want to consider working with a therapist if you sense that you are having trouble figuring out how to cope with everything you are feeling and experiencing.
The point is, you don’t have to go through it alone. Family, friends, and even a therapist can be right there along with you.