Managing A Breakup

Getting over a breakup is like the grieving process, there will be a wide range of emotions and experiences over time which are unique to each person as they adjust to the loss. Your process will be reflective of the length, depth and influence of the relationship in your life, as well as other factors, such as how the relationship ended and whether you share children. Whether it was expected or not, the process of a breakup, separation or divorce can bring about complex and often conflicting emotions. The following ideas are offered to help support your healing journey.

  1. Accept your feelings as they are and know too that they will pass. When feeling overwhelmed, take time to breathe, take things more slowly and be patient with yourself. Use helpful self talk with self compassion, e.g. acknowledge that this is hard, and you are doing your best. Expect that there will be moments that are difficult and use helpful self talk to remind yourself that you can survive hard things. Cry when you need to. Express your feelings. Remind yourself that eventually, the intensity will subside.
  2. Take time to process your feelings. Shock, sadness, guilt, anger, fear, and regret are common emotions for people, all emotions that can be difficult to manage. In addition to your feelings about the breakup, you may also be reminded of previous losses in your life or unresolved trauma. Give yourself time to adjust to your new circumstances and work through your feelings. Give yourself permission to not make big changes in your life or decisions until things feel more settled.
  3. Have reasonable expectations of yourself. Recognize that things may have to be adjusted or accommodated to help support you in your new situation. Ask for help when you need it from people in your life, including family, friends and in the workplace. Seek professional input about things that are outside of your experience or expertise (e.g. legal, financial, real estate).
  4. Engage in holistic self care. Consider all areas of self care, physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual. Grief is hard work, so you need to look after yourself. Do your very best to make your well being your top priority. Eat well, sleep 7-8 hours a night and engage in regular physical activity. Keep your brain active. Make time for fun, socializing, relaxation and play during the week. Spend time in nature.
  5. Take time to self reflect. Be curious about what there is to learn by being vulnerable and looking at what is under your feelings and reactions to the breakup. What can you learn about yourself from what has happened? What could you do differently in the future? What is something you need to take responsibility for? By reflecting on your own growth and development you shift the energy from blaming others or yourself, to focusing on what you can learn from this and what you can control moving forward.
  6. Seek support from others while maintaining boundaries. Most people you know have experienced loss or a breakup of their own and can empathize with you. Sharing your story with others you trust and connecting with people who care about you are ways you can get emotional and psychological support. At the same time, be cautious of your vulnerability. For example, you may have the urge to repartner too quickly. If you get into a new intimate relationship before you are healed, you bring unresolved issues into your new union and you also delay your own healing process. Be mindful of your emotional needs and how you are meeting them.
  7. Look for positive feelings within yourself, such as hope, relief, and optimism and forgiveness. These feelings bring energy with them, which can help motivate. See the breakup as not only a loss, but also an opportunity for new and different things. Consider what you would like more of in your life, and the things you’d like to do, some examples include revisiting previous interests, connecting with friends, exploring new hobbies and new activities. Consider what you are glad to let go of. Forgive yourself for what you need to. The past is gone. We forgive to help let go of the burden of pain and anger instead of carrying it with us. Forgive others if that is right for you.
  8. Expect some fears to show up. It is expected after a big life change to have some anxiety and fears about what will happen now and what the future holds. Fears of being alone, fears of financial changes, and fears about the process of separation itself are all to be expected. Not having all of the answers can cause feelings of overwhelm and ruminating thoughts. Remind yourself that this is a journey and not an event. You don’t need to have all of the answers now. Focus on what you can control in the moment. For example, if you have fears about finances, focus on getting information and facts vs. worrying. Remember that you can’t believe everything that you think. Use calming strategies and deep breathing to help manage anxious feelings and thoughts.
  9. Take it one day at a time (or one moment at a time). Remind yourself that you are in a state of change and transition and that you are focusing your energy where it needs to be. Practice mindfulness by being aware of the moment you are in, and staying present, instead of thinking too far ahead. Stay focused on the here and now and what you can do today or now to take care of yourself and the people that you are responsible for. Think of the analogy of pacing yourself, as you would a long-distance race.
  10. Consider therapy. Managing a breakup can be hard on a person’s mental health. Often people will seek therapy to help them process what has happened to help them move forward. If you are feeling overwhelmed and are not functioning, if some time has passed and you are feeling stuck, or if you would like to talk with someone about your experiences, having the support of a trained therapist can be helpful in your healing.

Christine Bibby, MSW, RSW