If you’ve just had a break-up and are feeling down, you’re not alone. Just about everyone experiences a break-up at some point, and many then have to deal with heartbreak — a wave of grief, anger, confusion, low self-esteem, and maybe even jealousy all at once.
Millions of poems and songs have been written about having a broken heart and wars have even been fought because of heartbreak.
What Exactly Is Heartbreak?
Lots of things can cause heartbreak. Some people might have had a romantic relationship that ended before they were ready. Others might have strong feelings for someone who doesn’t feel the same way. Or maybe a person feels sad or angry when a close friend ends or abandons the friendship.
Although the causes may be different, the feeling of loss is the same — whether it’s the loss of something real or the loss of something you only hoped for. People describe heartbreak as a feeling of heaviness, emptiness, and sadness.
How Can I Deal With How I Feel?
Most people will tell you you’ll get over it or you’ll meet someone else, but when it’s happening to you, it can feel like no one else in the world has ever felt the same way. If you’re experiencing these feelings, there are things you can do to lessen the pain.
Here are some tips that might help.
Let It Out
- Share your feelings. Some people find that sharing their feelings with someone they trust — someone who recognizes what they’re going through — helps them feel better. That could mean talking over all the things you feel, even having a good cry on the shoulder of a comforting friend or family member. If you feel like someone can’t relate to what you’re going through or is dismissive of your feelings, find someone more sympathetic to talk to. (OK, we know that sharing feelings can be tough for guys, but you don’t necessarily have to tell the football team or your wrestling coach what you’re going through. Talk with a friend or family member, a teacher, or counselor. It might make you more comfortable if you find a female family member or friend, like an older sister or a neighbor, to talk to.)
- Don’t be afraid to cry.Going through a break-up can be really tough, and getting some of those raw emotions out can be a big help. We know this is another tough one for guys, but there’s no shame in crying now and then. No one has to see you do it — you don’t have to start blubbering in class or at soccer practice or anything. Just a find a place where you can be alone, like crying into your pillow at night or in the shower when you’re getting ready for the day.
Be Kind to Yourself
- Remember what’s good about you. This one is really important. Sometimes people with broken hearts start to blame themselves for what’s happened. They may be really down on themselves, exaggerating their faults as though they did something to deserve the unhappiness they’re experiencing. If you find this happening to you, nip it in the bud! Remind yourself of your good qualities, and if you can’t think of them because your broken heart is clouding your view, get your friends to remind you.
- Take good care of yourself. A broken heart can be very stressful so don’t let the rest of your body get broken too. Get lots of sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly to minimize stress and depression and give your self-esteem a boost.
- Do the things you normally enjoy. Whether it’s seeing a movie or going to a concert, do something fun to take your mind off the negative feelings for a while.
- Keep yourself busy. Sometimes this is difficult when you’re coping with sadness and grief, but it really helps. This is a great time to redecorate your room or try a new hobby. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about what happened — working things through in our minds is all part of the healing process — it just means you should focus on other things too.
- Give yourself time. It takes time for sadness to go away. Almost everyone thinks they won’t feel normal again, but the human spirit is amazing — and the heartbreak almost always heals after a while. But how long will that take? That depends on what caused your heartbreak, how you deal with loss, and how quickly you tend to bounce back from things. Getting over a break-up can take a couple of days to many weeks — and sometimes even months.
- Remove the ex from your life (at least for a while)
The truly mutual, friendly break up is a rare bird – usually someone’s feelings are bound to be hurt. If you were the injured party, I think it’s particularly important to distance yourself for a bit. If you hang out with the ex all the time, you may find yourself trying to be your best, most charming self in an effort to make them see the error of their ways and run back to you. And if you genuinely enjoy each other’s company and really like hanging out with each other … well, that’s not going to help anybody get over anybody.
It’s really, really hard to take this step and you might even worry that you’re hurting this person. Just tell them that you’re not trying to be malicious or hurtful and that someday you’d like to be friends, but right now you need some distance for your mental health. Then defriend the emmeffer.
- Be 100% honest with yourself about any issues that you had with your ex or the relationship
We all make compromises in relationships and no relationship is perfect – common knowledge, right? But sometimes when we’re in the thick of things, we downplay how much something means to us in an effort to keep the peace … there’s not really any point in obsessing over his love for bad Science Fiction is there? But now that you’re not together anymore, be honest with yourself about the things that didn’t work for you in the relationship. They might not have been huge issues, but have a good think on them and be thankful that you don’t have to deal with them anymore.
- Put yourself on a dating hiatus
If you just got out of a relationship, especially a long term one, being single feels like visiting a foreign country. And as tempting as it is to hook up with the first applicant for the position of boyfriend, it’s probably a bad idea. You’re not ready for it and you might end up hurting a lovely, unsuspecting person who just wants to love you.
If you feel weird about being single, view it as a ‘dating diet’ … none of that high calorie hooking up and number-swapping for you! Only heaping helpings of girlfriends, fun, and go-nowhere flirting! I’ve even allotted a specific end-date to my dating diet (Sept 1) to make it seem more fun … as though I’ll immediately begin making out with a delicious gentleman at the strike of midnight on August 31st.
- Have heaps of fun with your friends
Now that you’re single you probably have heaps more time to spend with all the amazing people in your life. Also, view this time as an opportunity for your friends to go to bat for you – don’t be afraid to bawl your little eyes out over coke/beer/cheese/bacon cupcakes/ice cream. Or around the bonfire. Or at the coffeeshop. Or all of the above. You’ve helped them through their dramas, they will help you get through this.
But it doesn’t have to be all weeping and yelling about how “you were too good for him/her anyway!” Go to the movies, or the zoo, or the tarot card reader. Road trip and skinny dip and make popsicles. Do so many fun things that you’re too busy to think about whats-their-name.
- Make a new plan
If you were in a long term relationship, there’s a good chance that this person played into your plans for the future. Maybe you were going to go to your second choice school to be closer to them, or live in the city instead of the mountains. Maybe you were going to work part time because they could support you. But things are different now and doesn’t everything feel better if you have a plan? Sit down with a cup of tea and a journal and think about what you really want to do, now that you don’t have anyone else to consider. The sky’s the limit!
- Make some changes
A new flat. A new haircut. A new wardrobe. The change in your relationship status might not feel so completely overwhelming when it’s part of a hurricane of changes in your life. I think it also really helps to mix things up a bit so you’re not constantly surrounded with the sweater you wore on your first date, the book he gave you for your birthday and couch where you first made out. Besides – this is a totally sanctioned excuse for shopping!
- Take care of yourself
It is incredibly, incredibly tempting to devolve into a sweats-wearing, ice cream-snarfing, SATC-viewing mess, but you’ll feel heaps better if you look after yourself. If you’re going to fanny around the house all day, at least do it in a kinomo. If you’re going to pig out, do it goat cheese and baguettes. If you want to watch bad TV, do it with your friends. Don’t for get to shave your legs, get some sunshine and get a bit of exercise. It might be hard to get going, but you’ll be so glad you did that instead of sitting inside, listening to Jeff Buckley and eating a whole frozen pizza.
Practice the art of letting go
You can’t control your ex’s decisions, you can only control your responses to them. Maybe they chose to end your relationship. That doesn’t mean that you’re not amazing and gorgeous and totally, totally loveable. It means that they weren’t the right person for you right now.
Some people feel that nothing will make them happy again and resort to alcohol or drugs. Others feel angry and want to hurt themselves or someone else. People who drink, do drugs, or cut themselves to escape from the reality of a loss may think they are numbing their pain, but the feeling is only temporary. They’re not really dealing with the pain, only masking it, which makes all their feelings build up inside and prolongs the sadness.
Sometimes the sadness is so deep — or lasts so long — that a person may need some extra support. For someone who isn’t starting to feel better after a few weeks or who continues to feel depressed, talking to a counselor or therapist can be very helpful.
So be patient with yourself, and let the healing begin.