No one wants to get their heart broken—yet we all do and we all will at one point or another.
A breakup or the loss of a relationship makes for intense emotional pain: love is the reason we are on this planet after all, so losing a partner can feel like losing a part of yourself or your entire life’s purpose. But could something positive come out of such a challenging, life-altering situation, where you are forced to question everything — yourself included — and feel such intense loss and uncertainty?
It might be hard to hear this, especially when you’re in the midst of a breakup, but the shockwaves you experience when a romantic relationship ends can be life-transforming—in the best way possible. Experiencing that kind of loss and managing to come out on the other side can only make you stronger. It pushes you to face yourself in your most raw state: the guards come down and your insecurities are laid bare. It sounds scary — and it can be — but in that state you finally get to deal with those vulnerabilities, rebuild a stronger you, and gain a new level of appreciation for your resilience.
This isn’t just theory, I’m speaking from first-hand experience. A few years ago, one of my only long term relationships (I thought I had finally hit the jackpot) ended abruptly, when I found out that my then-partner had a parallel life in another country.
It did feel like one of the most painful experiences I had ever faced: I let myself forget what happiness feels like, I didn’t feel like eating or socializing, and I was convinced my chance at love had come and gone. Yet that period of navigating my breakup was also the reason I got my priorities straight, opened up to spirituality and gratitude, and became a more self-assured, conscious version of myself.
So how can we best deal with the uncomfortable, to say the least, post-breakup period? And is there a way to fast forward to the part where you start to heal and transform? The short answer is: no.
Feel Your Feelings
One of the most essential parts of any successful healing formula includes a period of accepting and embracing those early feelings of grief. You need to let them run their course. Who ever said that we are only meant to feel joy 24/7 anyway?
“The heartache, pit in the stomach, uncontrollable tears in the initial stage of a break-up make for incomparable pain. The best way to alleviate that pain is to feel it. We can’t speed through the grieving stage: the age-old saying ‘time heals all’ applies here,” said Grace McCahon, life coach at Beingwell. “As time passes, you’ll start to feel a bit better, a bit more cheerful, less tear-y. Allow yourself time to feel these emotions.”
Seek the Long Term Solutions
It’s easy, and simply human, to fall into unhealthy habits and behaviors when dealing with those intense grieving stages, early on. Everyone is conditioned to look for the quick-fix first, an easy way to numb the pain, be it lying in bed and hiding from the world for days on end, one too many drinks or cigarettes, skipping the gym, or eating junk food.
“We tend to stick to our defence mechanisms (things that protect us short term) rather than our coping mechanisms (things that help us muddle through long-term) when we’re hurting because we need to feel some form of protection. We might start to withdraw, isolate ourselves or use risky behaviors to help us through the challenging feelings we’re experiencing. Sometimes this can make us feel better, but it’s only a short-term solution,” explains McCahon.
But by becoming aware of the unhealthy patterns, you can start to break away from them and seek the kind of indulgences which will make you feel better in the long term. In my case, I replaced my initial, desperate urges to chain smoke and skip meals with exercise (boxing worked particularly well), quality time spent with friends, and mindfulness.
- Surrounding yourself with family and friendswho simply make you feel good will help your mind find new areas of focus and their positivity will slowly but surely transmit to you, too. It’s always useful to open up and share how you feel with close friends, but don’t go overboard with breakup talk. Instead, try to take your mind to new and more carefree places (even for a little bit) with group activities you and your friends can enjoy together. It can be anything from a spin class that will give you a much-needed endorphin rush or a museum visit to get your creativity going.
- Monitor your social media use even closer, and stop yourself from too much scrolling, looking at pictures of other couples, and comparing yourself. If limiting your usage is proving tricky, you might want to consider a full digital detox for a few days? It means more time to clear your mind and think about how you want to rebuild your life, without external influences and social pressures. If you do choose to stay active on social media, stick to self-development accounts and memes that will make you smile.
- Fuel your body with healthy food and regular exercise: it’s an act of self love and a reminder of how resilient and magical your body can be. If you’re feeling physically strong, your emotional wounds are bound to heal faster.
- Dig deep into your emotional world with mindfulness practices like meditation, reiki, sound baths, or journaling. You can tailor your spiritual practice to suit your own needs. Whatever path you choose will help you gain new insight into any difficult emotions that might have come up during the breakup, understand their root cause, and let them go.
Gratitude is the Answer
It always comes back to gratitude, right? I remember how post-breakup, self-worth issues I had probably been burying inside me since my teenage years started bubbling up. In an attempt to make those feelings go away, I resorted to The Five Minute Journal: instead of writing short sentences every morning, I spend some extra time writing what I’ve learnt from all my past partners and why I’m grateful for meeting them, even if the relationship didn’t have a ‘happily ever after’ ending.
It’s a simple exercise that can radically transform your mindset and help you feel better––to focus on what you’ve gained instead of what you’ve lost. Even if you’re not ready to look back and feel gratitude for your past relationship, expressing gratitude for other aspects of your life will still ensure that positivity and optimism are running through your system.
Watch Your Language
In the same spirit of gratitude and positivity, be more mindful of the language you use in relation to your former partner. Putting them down and using derogatory language might feel good or even instinctive in the moment, but just like alcohol and cigarettes, it’s a very temporary fix. Honor your own past by refraining from negative language.
Similarly, think twice about how you describe your own state: simply switching from telling everyone you are “miserable” to saying you are “going through a difficult time” can make all the difference in how you wire your brain to interpret the situation.
A Powerful Time of Reinvention
As you put in the work, it’s only a matter of time until you begin to see gleamers of hope and feel more positive about your future prospects again. Make sure you stop and celebrate every win, however small: a peaceful night’s sleep, a day gone by without your mind veering off to old memories, or a day out with friends where you genuinely laughed for the first time in a while.
This is the stage where you can start building yourself back up—a rebirth of sorts. You’ve just gone through a giant learning curve, experienced love, joy, and loss, and are coming out the other side as a wiser, stronger, more courageous version of yourself. This offers a powerful opportunity to reintroduce yourself to the world and pursue the goals and dreams that will shape this new chapter in your life.
“This is an opportunity to check in with yourself, for yourself, to find what your next path is. Reflect on your current situation, what’s bringing you joy in life right now? What isn’t so pleasurable? Where would you like to be? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t or wouldn’t before?” said McCahon.
“Think about your goals—any kind of goal you have. There might be some small steps you can take to get closer to achieving them, maybe you’ve always wanted to travel or you’ve been thinking about a new career path? You’re in a great position to focus on yourself. Whatever it is, if it’s bringing you joy, and you’re ready for the push—go for it.”