“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” Unknown
Time doesn’t heal all wounds.
Neither does vodka, when it comes to getting over a break up.
Your life won’t just get better. And you can’t just move on.
Or find another lobster in the sea.
I haven’t had many break ups in my life.
But the one I did experience wasn’t a breakup. It was a knockout.
It was a personal tsunami, hurricane and flash flood, all rolled into one Full Throttle ride at Magic Mountain.
It made me question my existence.
The breakup violently shook me to the core and turned my life upside down.
It made me question my identity. It led to a career change. A move. A change in lifestyle. A spiritual awakening. This blog.
While today I am grateful for my break up, divorce and my ex for everything, both during and after our relationship, I wouldn’t be entirely honest if I didn’t say the break up was like swimming in a shark-filled ocean without scuba gear, oxygen or the ability to swim.
I felt naked, breathless and like life was eating me alive.
Are you getting over a breakup in your life?
Your break up has likely left you with a shattered heart, anger, frustration, helplessness and feelings of mourning: the most unimaginable pain and loss.
While I can’t make the pain subside or dry your tears of grief, I can offer you a process that will help you recover from the heartbreak you’re experiencing. And no it has nothing to do with shotguns or harming your ex!
Here’s what worked for me on my journey from heartbreak to joy.
Here are 10 practices for getting over a breakup:
1) Own your pain.
Stop resisting your pain and your pain will stop resisting you.
Following my breakup, I didn’t want to experience pain. I did everything possible to avoid it. I tried to deny that the relationship had ended. I didn’t want to accept the truth. I wanted to believe a future for the relationship still existed.
I found creative, unhealthy and distracting ways to avoid accepting what had happened. I used denial and excuses to avoid the pain of loss.
But let me level with you – you can’t move on until you’ve experienced the pain. You’ve got to embrace your feelings.
Although you’ll suffer and feel the pain’s sharpness for a bit, it won’t last.
If the thought of experiencing pain makes you feel scared or vulnerable, I encourage you to let yourself go there. Feel the pleasures and the sadness of the past. Experience the sorrow and the physical piercing, and cry about the helplessness you feel.
When you let yourself feel the deep, throbbing pain that washes over you, you realize that pain no longer holds you captive. You’ve confronted it, welcomed it and experienced it, and will watch it reduce in intensity.
When you experience pain, you transform your sorrow to your joy.
2) Create your team of personal healers.
This was probably my biggest mistake when I went through my divorce.
I was in so much pain and was so embarrassed that I decided to go through the process alone. I didn’t want to open my heart or show my weaknesses to anybody. That was hard.
When you share your pain with others, your burden becomes a little lighter. Sharing allows you to let go of the pain that you’re holding on to so tightly. It allows you to breathe a little easier and recover a little quicker.
As you can tell from this blog, I’ve come a long way.
I went from hiding my pain from everyone to sharing it with you.
You don’t have to blog your sorrows to the world or write about them in your next country song.
Create a support network of friends and family who understand you. Share your pain with people you trust and who will understand what you’re going through.
If you find the pain unbearable, talk to a therapist or grief counselor.
Think about working with a coach to help you overcome the grief and start taking positive actions to improve your life.
Try not to shut out others; be willing to let them in. People are more understanding and helpful than you think.
3) End all communication with your ex.
If you’re serious about moving on and healing, you must let this relationship go. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to let go of your ex.
This is something that I got right, and I’m glad I did not communicate with my ex much after our separation and divorce. Everything we needed to say to each other, we said during the relationship. It didn’t work out and things ended.
You will have a million and one excuses to speak to your ex, but in reality you have no good reason to continue the conversation. You can be friends down the road, but not now. Your ex doesn’t need your help; he will manage just fine. You don’t need anything back from your ex, or need to give anything back to him.
Unless you’re facing a pressing legal matter or a situation that could seriously affect one of your lives, resist the temptation to contact your ex.
Your healing can start only when you’re willing to say goodbye. And you can’t say goodbye to someone still in your life.
4) Treat yourself with the utmost care and love.
Now is the time to take care of yourself. The best way to do this is to treat yourself as though you are someone who is suffering and in pain (which you are).
Treat yourself like you just came out of a trauma or life-changing circumstance (which you did).
If you’re feeling pangs of self-loathing and self-hate, you might want to treat yourself badly, but resist this urge. Do not eat badly, be around harmful people or stop taking care of yourself.
Start doing things that make you feel good physically, emotionally and mentally.
If going on vacation to a certain spot refreshes you, do it.
If hanging out with certain people brings you peace and calmness, make the time to be with them.
Eat better, exercise, get involved with your passion, and start taking care of yourself.
5) Slow down.
You know how you were too busy for life itself? Well, now that your relationship is over you have a lot of down time.
Even with children, you might find that you have a clearer schedule because the kids are spending half their time with your ex.
You don’t have to pack your schedule and run around town in a mad rush to avoid your pain or your healing.
Create more time in your life by declining invitations, saying “no” to additional commitments and reducing your current commitments.
You need time, so find a balance between work, family and yourself.
Slowing down is one of the gentlest and kindest things you can do for yourself when getting over a breakup. If you have a job that doesn’t allow you to slow down, consider whether now is the time for a career change. Or even just a career sabbatical.
At the same time, don’t slow your life to a hare’s pace. You don’t have to go to work, come home to a few shots of bourbon and hit the covers.
Slow down, but live your life. Take life at your pace, not life’s pace.
6) Write away your tears.
Every therapist, mental health professional and self-help guru you come across will tell you to journal. There’s one reason you hear this advice so often – it works.
As you know, I decided to not only write for myself in a journal, but also for you through this blog.
When you’re writing, you’re thinking about your experiences, you’re processing your feelings and you’re putting your life down on paper. You’re watching the process of suffering and healing that you’re going through – essentially, another form of mindfulness.
Sit down daily or a couple of times a week and write about your experience with heartbreak. How are you feeling? How are you healing? What are you thinking about? How are you able to move on? Reflect, think, process and write!
7) I’m sorry and I forgive you.
One of the most important things you can do to move on from grief and pain is to examine the relationship and its many ups and downs. What stood out about this relationship? What hurt, and what do you feel guilty about? What part did you play in ending the relationship, and what was your partner’s role?
Once you’ve reflected on or written about the mistakes and choices you both made, write a letter of apology and forgiveness.
Take responsibility for the things you did, and ask for your partner’s apology in writing. “I’m sorry for x.” “I’m sorry I behaved like y.” “I’m sorry I was z in our relationship.”
You may not be ready to forgive, but the sooner you reach the point of forgiveness, the sooner your healing starts.
You’re not forgiving for your partner’s sake, but for yours. When you hold onto anger, pain and bitterness, you suffer. Sadness, sorrow and rage fill you.
Let go of those feelings by writing a letter of apology. Oh yeah, and one major point – do not send the letter!!
In the second part of the letter, you have the opportunity to forgive your partner. “I forgive you for doing x.” “I forgive you for having said y.” “I forgive you for being z in our relationship.” Forgive your partner for all the ways they hurt you, for all the mean things they said and for all the things they did to make your life miserable.
While you’ll probably resist writing a letter like this, just trust me on this one. I wrote a letter early on in my divorce (within the first month) and found it to be the most helpful thing I did in terms of moving on.
When you ask for forgiveness, and you forgive yourself, you let go of so many toxic emotions and scars. By letting go of the pain, you truly begin the healing process.
8) A spiritual practice for in-the-moment living
If you’re not a spiritual person, don’t be afraid of this suggestion.
If you think words like “meditation” and “mindfulness” are for hippies who spend their free time at Deepak Chopra retreats or who listen to Thic Nhat Hanh audio books during their commutes to work, you’re probably right.
But almost anyone can practice meditation and mindfulness.
And you don’t have to take part in either of those practices. You just have to find a practice or an exercise that helps you live in the present moment (in the now) for a period of time every day.
Meditation is the natural means of achieving this, but if you’re just not into meditating, try any practice that helps you stay present.
Yoga, your favorite sport, walking, reading or even eating can become mindfulness practices. If you focus on the task without thinking about the past or future, you have the right idea.
Remember, as Eckhart Tolle has said, “The past has no power over the present moment.”
But reducing the past’s power takes work. It requires that you be present and focus on the now.
Stay present. Let go of the desire to relive and experience good times and bad times from a period that no longer exists.
To move on today, practice letting go of yesterday.
9) Lessons in growth and learning.
While you must let go of the past, do not overlook the lessons it can teach you.
What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about the way you handle relationships? What was your role in the relationship and the way it ended?
What wounds did your ex open within you?
What did you learn about your character? Your personality? Your communication skills?
An ability to reflect on and understand the mistakes you made, as well as determine what you can improve upon, will help you move on to your life’s next chapter and relationship.
Be honest with yourself as you journal about mistakes you and your ex made, unhealthy behaviors in your relationship and your role in ending it.
What do you need to work on? How can you improve?
10) What are you thankful for?
When you get to the point of thankfulness in your healing process, you’re ready to move on.
Everything happens for a reason. Even your rocky and bittersweet relationship served a purpose.
You had good times along with the bad. You had happy memories along with the sad ones.
Everything that happened made you strong. Because of your ex, you’re probably in a better place now.
Are you ready to acknowledge the reasons you’re grateful to your ex? Are you ready to accept that this relationship led to happy times and positive outcomes?
You know more about yourself. You learned things about yourself you never would have known. You gained insight about relationships and wisdom about people.
You’re ready to move on with your life and complete the healing process. You can do so once you recover and let go of the past.
If another relationship is in your future and you’ve done the healing work that I talked about, you’ll be in a much healthier place to love again.
If you need more guidance for getting over a breakup, check out my book, The Sacred Art of Letting Go here (affiliate link).
Photo credit @slalit.