Ten Things To Do After A Breakup To Get On With Your Life:
1. Know that grieving someone and missing them does not necessarily mean you want them. It means you hurt because you’ve had a loss. Perhaps that loss is the best thing but it’s still a loss. Don’t mistake grief for love. It’s normal and natural to grieve any loss…even if the relationship was the worst in the world. Don’t let your grief cause you to second guess your feelings. Part of the grief process is “review and relinquishment” where it is necessary to process through the relationship. Unfortunately this review comes in the form of having the ex on your mind constantly. It’s a “working through” and it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get over it, or that you still love the ex. It means your mind is doing the work it needs to do to process through it and get over it.
2. Even if you do still love him or her, you don’t have to act on it. You don’t have to make contact or find ways to see the other person. Grief is a long, hard process and often contact will TEMPORARILY alleviate the pain or take your mind off the pain you’re in. But it’s not really alleviating it. It’s just postponing the inevitable. The emotions of grief are anger, pain, confusion, searching, pining and anxiety. There is a roller coaster ride of confused emotions before you end the process. Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes you think you are done and then you recycle. It’s normal. You’re not doing anything WRONG. Trust the process.
And remember this is about YOU. This is your work and your “getting over it.” Detach from the ex and what he or she is doing. It’s none of your business and what you are doing is none of their business. It’s hard but don’t text, don’t call, don’t email, don’t send “jokes” or chain emails or funny emails and if they send them ask them nicely to stop. Just don’t communicate.
3. Try not to date or get into another relationship right away. It’s tempting but know that another relationship is not going to help until you get over this one. Everyone does the “rebound” relationship once or twice in their life but it’s usually not the best thing. When that ends, you might have two relationships, instead of one, to get over.
4. Journal. Pour your heart and soul into a journal. Write letters to your ex in the journal. BUT DO NOT SEND THEM. Write down the things you wish were different…the things you’re angry about and hurt about…write down the things you would like to be forgiven for…write down any significant statements you’d like to make…work on the letter a little every day…pour your heart out. When you are getting to the end of the lists, write a letter to the ex asking for forgiveness for what you did, forgiving them for what they did and again DON’T SEND IT but read it out loud to a friend or a therapist. Then burn the letter. Rituals like this help you move on. This is about YOUR closure and you moving on. It is NOT about them.
5. Take a relationship inventory. Write down all the pros and cons of the relationship. All the good points and bad points of your ex. All the highs and all the lows.
Look at it as objectively as you can……Use this breakup as a LEARNING experience. LEARNING ABOUT YOU. Ask these questions:how this person was like other people you had unsuccessful relationships with…what does this say about you? What early warning signs did you ignore? Why did you ignore them? What will you do next time if the same early warning sign comes up? What do you need to work on in you and in your past? Is this person like a parent? What unresolved issues with your parents or early caretakers (could be teachers or older siblings) are playing themselves out in your life? What do you need to look at/ work on? How did you get into it? What unmet needs of yours were running the show? What does that say about you? How can you avoid this in the future? What work needs to be done?
6. Find support groups. If you have a therapist, ask him or her if there is a group (for women, women’s groups, for men, men’s groups) that you can join. It doesn’t have to be a therapy group. Find a hobby group, a reading group, some social group to be involved with. This is not the same as keeping busy. This is rediscovering who you are and that there are people like you out there. Remember, social and hobby and therapy groups are not the singles scene. Go with a clean objective–to rebuild your life–and not to be on the prowl.
7. Putting yourself out there is hard. Ending a relationship and doing grief work is hard. Sometimes we go out with high expectations that we will feel better and come home feeling worse. We didn’t like the people, the group was awful, no one liked us. There were other people who were clicking and that makes us feel more alone. Maybe they’re not your people. You will find your kind of people. Trust the process.
That doesn’t mean that no one will ever like you or that you should stop putting yourself out there. It only means THAT group wasn’t for you. Keep looking. And when you’re journaling ask yourself if you’re giving everything enough of a chance or are you at a point in your life where you just hate everything and everyone that is not the ex. If so, just keep going out there. One day you will wake up and find you’re not so cranky and finicky.
8. Be good to yourself. Give yourself a treat. Buy a new book or something nice to wear. Take a bubble bath. Go to a movie. Play a rousing game of golf, or pool, or basketball or racquetball. Join a gym. Make sure you are eating right and exercising. This will not only make you feel better, but look better. Do something that says, “This is important to me.” If it’s something that your ex loathed, EVEN BETTER. Do things for you on a daily basis, but also schedule a “me” night once a week and stay committed to it. If you need to relax, do that. If it makes you feel better to be active, do that. But give yourself ONE NIGHT A WEEK where you make a date with yourself to do good, validating things for you….things that say, “I’m okay and I deserve this.”
Sometimes after a breakup, our self-esteem takes a big hit. We start to think that something is wrong with us. We start to blame ourselves for things. If our ex is the type to tell us what is wrong with us, we are not only dumped but dumped on. Two things to stop this particular train wreck: a) stop communicating with the ex…tell the ex what she or he thinks of you is none of your business and b) do positive self-talk and affirmation exercises to keep your self-image up. Don’t buy into any scenario that places this breakup squarely on YOUR shoulders. Don’t let this breakup drive your self-esteem into the ground. Being good to you includes positive self-talk and rejection of criticism by others (especially the ex!).
Know that you will not always feel this way. There is life after a breakup–a very good life. Stay optimistic that maybe today is not the day you’re over it, but that day will come. And be good to yourself in the meantime.
9. Avoid revenge. As hard as that might be…as many scenarios play out in your mind…avoid it like the plague. It will just come back to haunt you. You can write about it, talk about it and dream about it…but don’t DO anything about it. Similarly–avoid trash talking and spreading rumors. These are destructive behaviors that will only get to you in the end. Suppose your trash talking or rumor spreading or revenge story gets around and months later you become interested in someone who had heard about it…do you think they’re going to want you? Do you think healthy people will be attracted to you? No one wants someone who has revenge / getting even in their portfolio. Everyone will know (friends and lovers alike) that if you’re capable of revenge, you can do it to them.
But the most important reason to avoid it is because it’s not good for you. It’s just not…so talk about it, write about it, think about it…but don’t DO anything about it.
10. Remember the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world. Breakups are inherently painful. Your hurt is not necessarily a measure of your love for the other but rather a measure of your humanity. The fact is that we are humans and we love and we become attached and when we lose a love and have to un-attach, we hurt.
Pain after a breakup is normal and natural….even searing pain and abject misery is normal and natural..pacing the floors, not being able to sleep, having anxiety attacks…difficulty concentrating…these are are normal and natural grief reactions…what is not normal are suicidal thoughts and deep depression…if you have these reactions, SEE A PROFESSIONAL.
If you’re not suicidal or clinically depressed (just feel really really awful and incredibly sad), know the pain is temporary and that the only way out is THROUGH and remember, you CAN do this.
Susan J. Elliott is a former therapist, certified grief counselor, certified life coach, real estate broker and attorney. She teaches seminars and speaks to groups on self-improvement topics. She is the author of the soon-to-be-released “Phoenix Rising: How To Turn A Devastating Breakup Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You” and “Getting Past Your Past” as well as her memoir.