Rejection can be a psychological killer but you can alleviate the sting.
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The time immediately following the shock of a breakup and the time of a mad obsession are driven by the overflow of stress chemicals released by your brain in response to what is happening to you. This is a time when you are likely to act crazy! Breakup chemistry is insanity chemistry. Temper your stirred-up emotions by sticking to the following 10 pieces of breakup advice.
1. Stay away from him: Don’t be a fool. Don’t contact him or try to get him back. Why not? Because you can’t convince someone to love you. It takes two to start or rekindle a romance. Your behavior is a factor but your behavior (whatever you do) is not going to be able to cast a spell on your ex and miraculously make him change his mind.
2. Write a bitch list: List everything you can think of that your ex did that hurt your feelings. Write every little thing, don‘t hold back. Above all, don‘t make excuses or let him off the hook. Be real. Exactly how did your ex disappoint you? For example: “He looked at other women when we were together,” or “She didn’t want me to call her ‘my girlfriend.'”
3. Eat serotonin food: The process of your breakup recovery can be supported or stunted by the foods you eat. Your brain chemistry has many different players, none more important to breakup recovery than serotonin. Very simply stated, when your serotonin levels are low, you are more depressed and when they‘re high, you‘re happier. To increase your levels of serotonin, fill up on turkey, bananas, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, nuts, and beans.
4. Mix things up: You can minimize emotional pain by changing your environment. Regardless of whether your home reminds you of your ex, try moving furniture around. Put a colorful piece of cloth over an old chair. Rearrange something in the kitchen, bathroom, and office.
5. Meditate for 15 minutes. Practice disconnecting from your thoughts and letting them go. Deep relaxation and meditation allow the parasympathetic nervous system to become active by down-regulating the sympathetic nervous system. What happens is that once the sympathetic nervous system shuts down, the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) no longer is prevented from acting on the GABA receptors that are present everywhere in the nervous system.
Don’t know how to meditate? Set the timer for 15 minutes and simply sit quietly. Your job is to just keep yourself company for that 15-minute shower of brain soothing chemicals. See if you can feel your body downshift as the time goes by.
6. Have fun making up funny breakup lines. Some examples:
- I let myself go hoping you’d leave.
- I’m not a prude, it’s just that you’re repulsive.
- It’s not you. It’s the new guy I’ve been seeing.
- I love you but I just don’t want to be limited to one sexual partner.
- I have a hard time expressing my feelings. Get the f*ck out of my house.
- I am so not into you that it bores me to tears to spend five minutes with you.
- You’re a great guy. I am looking for a jerk.
- It’s kind of weird dating you. Let’s break up.
- I pee in pools. Let’s break up.
- Roses are red. Violets are blue. I’d rather be dead than continue seeing you.
- My mom told me to stay away from boys. Let’s break up.
7. Think about him in a negative light: Imagine how other women would be repelled by your ex. Forget about the traits that people might fall for. Everyone has some bad trait or other. Imagine him in a dating situation where he shares this with a new woman. How does she react?
8. Get rid of his clothing or other physical reminders of him: Just pack everything up and get it out of your living space. Let a friend keep the bag if you cannot let the things go. Get everything about him out of your space!
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9. Punish him (in your thoughts): Imagine your ex paying the price for your breakup and heartbreak. Picture him in a black and white “Jailhouse Rock” kind of outfit. See him behind bars pining for freedom.
10. Take a supplement: If you have trouble sleeping during this time, you might try taking a Benadryl. While Benadryl is normally only to be taken for allergies, it is also a relatively harmless sleeping aid. Alternatively, plan to ask your doctor for an antidepressant or a sleeping aid.
Berit “Brit” Brogaard is the author of On Romantic Love.
After one particularly bad breakup, I signed myself up for piano lessons. Attempting to master the keys not only helped pass the time, but kept me distracted from trying to follow my ex’s every move on social media — and gave me something to talk about with my friends other than the aftermath of my failed relationship.
As it turns out, channeling all that free time into something creative can actually help ease post-breakup pain. “Starting a new hobby or honing one new skill expands your mind and can also boost your self-confidence after a breakup,” says Patti Sabla, LCSW, a social worker practicing in Hawaii.
I never got past learning the chorus of “Let it Be” — but I did get over the breakup with some help from The Beatles. However, if the thought of getting off your couch post-breakup seems beyond the realm of possibility for you right now, Sabla says staying in can also be beneficial to your healing process, as long as you eventually shake off those Cheetos crumbs and rejoin society. “There is nothing wrong with curling up on the sofa and binge watching sappy movies on Netflix for a few nights,” she says. “But if that becomes your regular Friday and Saturday night routine, it’s time to take action.”
What happens in our brain when we go through a breakup
One of the hardest parts of getting over my ex was dealing with the positive memories that would hit me out of nowhere as I was going about my day, whether it was a jingle from a commercial he’d always sing to me or walking past one of the brunch spots that used to be “ours”.
In fact, the whole breakup would’ve been much easier if his false accusations and constant attacks on my character were what came to mind instead. But as Travis McNulty, LMHC, a therapist practicing in Florida explains, that’s unfortunately not how the chemical process of falling in and out of love works.
“For the duration of your relationship your monogamous brain has identified this person as your spouse,” McNulty says. “We’re biologically hardwired to reproduce, so there is a strong bio-chemical reaction that ensues from seeing your ‘spouse’ that releases powerful neurotransmitters that make us feel good.”
So basically, going through a breakup is like trying to quit a drug cold turkey. “When your brain conceptualizes that your partner is no longer with you, grief sets in,” says McNulty. “Your mind no longer releases the feel-good chemicals (oxytocin and dopamine) that it once released every time you saw this person.” All of which leads to that sick feeling in your stomach. “For most of us, our shift in focus leads us to behaviors that are uncharacteristic and even ‘crazy’ trying to win that person back — even when we logically know they’re not good for us.”
Romantic breakups are among the most common, yet somehow underrated, traumatic events in our lives. Perhaps because breakups are so universal, most people discuss them openly with each other and are sympathetic. On the other hand, precisely because of the frequency of breakups, people can minimize how deeply hurtful and damaging a breakup really can be for an individual.
Romantic relationships bring out intense emotions that often override logic or explanation. They often tie to deep-seated feelings about our own worthiness from childhood, our parental and peer relationships, and more. When a relationship ends, even on relatively good terms, there is still an emotional reckoning taking place — the end of something we may have hoped would be continuous, which was based on mutual adoration. After a breakup, there is still a feeling of rejection, something fundamental, something that says we cannot be together as before. That’s a tough blow for anyone’s ego. When a breakup is unexpected or sudden, the rejection can be even more intense or traumatic. The rupture to one’s self-esteem, the end of one’s plans and hopes, and the reminder of one’s past sense of rejection or failure can all be devastating.
Self-care is crucial after a breakup. The metaphors of physical wounds healing during a breakup are quite apt, given that the psychic pain is severe, with distinct stages of healing afterward. (They are also similar to the famous Kubler-Ross stages of grief — denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance.) The good news is that most people usually do heal appropriately, although it does take time and mental effort. Everyone grieves in their own way and should do what feels best for them, but many find the following steps to be helpful:
1. Take some time off and let it out.
It’s probably best not to suppress or hold back one’s emotions, especially immediately after a breakup. However, the emotions can be so intense that they may not be appropriate for public display, so take time out, go somewhere private, and sob it out. Yell it out. Scream it out. It’s normal.
2. Listen to sad music.
In the short term, it might reinforce or flare up painful memories, but it also normalizes the grief you are feeling so that you know you’re not alone.
3. Talk to supportive people.
Family and friends can help, but make sure you recognize their limits as well. You may decide that professional help from therapists may be more appropriate or useful, and may provide a more neutral and long-lasting perspective. They can also point out deeper patterns of behavior or thinking that a broken relationship may be symptomatic of so that future relationships are healthier and happier.
4. Read books about breakups.
Something about quiet words on the page describing what you are going through can be calming in a way little else is. It also helps to reboot the logic centers of your brain that your emotional state may have shut off or flooded. Even simple self-help books, like It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken, by Greg Behrendt, can give your whirring mind the good shake it needs.
5. Sleep, eat, and exercise.
As tempting as it is to throw your regular cycle out the window, now is the time it is most crucial to stick to it. Keep to your usual sleeping and eating schedule (and amounts) as much as possible, and get out some extra anger or energy in the gym. It may be hard to do at first, but trying to at least go through the motions will speed the healing process.
6. Treat yourself right.
Now is a fine time to do self-care rituals that, at other times, you might consider to be unnecessary splurges. Shop for clothes, accessories, or makeup. Get a new haircut. Nibble on some chocolate. Anything that boosts your sense of yourself as someone worthy of comfort and pride.
7. Meet new people.
While rebounding can be risky, it is OK when one feels ready — on average, it takes people three to six months — to test the dating waters. And actually, this is probably the quickest way to restore one’s feeling of being a viable mate. The key is to take it slow and steady.
8. Set firm boundaries.
One of the worst outcomes of a breakup is an on-again, off-again, ambiguous limbo relationship, which almost always leads to worsening heartache. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t wrap up loose ends or discuss important unresolved issues and questions with an ex — or that reconciliations don’t ever happen. But as much as possible, once a breakup has happened, you should limit contact with that person. It isn’t unlike going through substance detoxification: There is a difficult withdrawal period, but that is the only way to move forward and heal.
None of these are hard and fast rules, just suggestions for dusting oneself off after a rough fall and heading in the right direction. If, at any time, you feel so overwhelmed that you turn excessively to alcohol or drugs, cannot function in your daily life, and/or fall into depression or anxiety, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Breakups are almost universal, but still cataclysmic events in our life experience, and they deserve careful attention. The good news is that in most cases, after the devastating rain, the clouds clear out. In the end, breakups can lead to positive growth and maturity, deeper self-knowledge, and better days ahead.
T he aftermath of a breakup can be devastating. Most people emerge from it intact, but research has shown that the end of a romantic relationship can lead to insomnia, intrusive thoughts and even reduced immune function. While in the throes of a breakup, even the most motivated people can have a difficult time determining how best to get on with their lives.
Now, in a small new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, researchers tested a variety of cognitive strategies and found one that worked the best for helping people get over a breakup.
The researchers gathered a group of 24 heartbroken people, ages 20-37, who had been in a long-term relationship for an average of 2.5 years. Some had been dumped, while others had ended their relationship, but all were upset about it—and most still loved their exes. In a series of prompts, they were coached using three cognitive strategies intended to help them move on.
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The first strategy was to negatively reappraise their ex. The person was asked to mull over the unfavorable aspects of their lover, like a particularly annoying habit. By highlighting the ex’s negative traits, the idea goes, the blow will be softened.
In another prompt, called love reappraisal, people were told to read and believe statements of acceptance, like “It’s ok to love someone I’m not longer with.” Instead of fighting how they feel, they were told to accept their feelings of love as perfectly normal without judgment.
The third strategy was distraction: to think about positive things unrelated to the ex, like a favorite food. Just as distracting oneself can help reduce cravings, it may also help a person overcome the persistent thoughts that come with a breakup.
A fourth prompt—the control condition—didn’t ask them to think about anything in particular.
Next, the researchers showed everyone a photo of their ex—a realistic touch, since these often pop up in real life on social media. They measured the intensity of emotion in response to the photo using electrodes placed on the posterior of the scalp. The EEG reading of the late positive potential (LPP) is a measure of not only emotion but motivated attention, or to what degree the person is captivated by the photo. In addition, the researchers measured how positive or negative the people felt and how much love they felt for the ex using a scale and questionnaire.
According to the EEG readings, all three strategies significantly decreased people’s emotional response to the photos relative to their responses in the control trials, which didn’t use prompts. However, only people who looked at their lover in a negative light also had a decrease in feelings of love toward their ex. But these people also reported being in a worse mood than when they started—suggesting that these negative thoughts, although helpful for moving on, may be distressing in the short term.
Distraction, on the other hand, made people feel better overall, but had no effect on how much they still loved their ex-partner. “Distraction is a form of avoidance, which has been shown to reduce the recovery from a breakup,” says study co-author Sandra Langeslag, director of the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, so the strategy should be used sparingly to boost mood in the short term.
Love reappraisal showed no effect on either love or mood, but still dulled the emotional response to the photo.
The authors classify love for another person as a learned motivation, similar to thirst or hunger, that pushes a person toward their partner in thought and in behavior. That can in turn elicit different emotions based on the situation. When love is reciprocated, one can feel joy, or, in the case of a breakup, persistent love feelings are associated with sadness and difficulty recovering an independent sense of self.
Classifying love as a motivation is controversial in the field; other experts believe that love is an emotion, like anger, or a script, like riding a bike. However, the endurance of love feelings (which last much longer than a typical bout of anger or joy), the complexity of these feelings (both positive and negative) and the intensity of infatuation all signal a motivation, the authors write.
To get over a breakup, heartbroken people change their way of thinking, which takes time. Just as it can be challenging to fight other motivations like food or drug cravings, “love regulation doesn’t work like an on/off switch,” Langeslag says. “To make a lasting change, you’ll probably have to regulate your love feelings regularly,” because the effects likely wear off after a short time. Writing a list of as many negative things about your ex as you can think of once a day until you feel better may be effective, she says. Though this exercise tends to make people feel worse, Langeslag says that this effect goes away. Her past research found that negative reappraisal also decreased infatuation and attachment to the ex, so it will make you feel better in the long run, she says.
The findings are particularly relevant in the age of social media, when photos of exes, and the resulting pangs of love, may come up frequently. “All three strategies may make it easier for people to deal with encounters and reminders of the ex-partner in real-life and on social media,” Langeslag says.
A relationship break-up can be tough no matter what the situation. Everyone feels different when they’re going through a break-up. It’s OK to feel sad, angry or let down after a break-up – lots of people do!
Sometimes you need to prioritise looking after yourself and there are things that you can do to make it easier to handle. You have to do stuff like hang out with friends, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep.
It’s OK to feel sad after a break-up and it can take time to get over the loss of a relationship.
After a break-up many people experience a range of difficult feelings, like sadness, anger or guilt, which may lead to feeling rejected, confused or lonely. You might even feel relief which can be just as confusing.
Some people feel as though their world has turned upside down and that things will never be good again. Many people may feel restless, lose their appetite and have less motivation or energy to do things. It might be tempting to try and get over a break-up quickly, but it takes a bit of time, work and support.
Some things to help you after a break up:
- Give yourself some space. You don’t need to shut your ex out of your life but it might be helpful to try to avoid the person for a while after the break-up – this can mean online, too.
Ask our expert
What advice can you give me after a break-up?
headspace clinicians put together this list to help you get through a relationship break-up:
Whatever you’re feeling now won’t last forever. It may take some time to get over and recognise there will always be good days and bad days.
How to break up with someone
If you’re breaking up with someone, try to be considerate about how you end the relationship. Always think about how you would want to be treated in the same situation.
Try to end things in a way that respects the other person but be honest. Be clear and tell the other person why the relationship is over. Understand that the other person might be hurt and possibly angry about your decision.
Try to end the relationship in person if it’s possible, rather than by text or online.
Dealing with a relationship break up
Whether you did the breaking up or you’re the one who was broken up with, it can bring on a range of difficult feelings. It’s normal to experience these feelings and it can take time to get over the loss of a relationship.
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When your ex moves on
It can be really upsetting if you find out that your ex has a new relationship. Try to avoid thinking about them being with someone else. Don’t contact or post about your ex and lash out at them because this won’t make you feel any better.
If you’re struggling with anger or jealousy when getting over a difficult break-up, it’s important to remember to stay safe. Talk to somebody about it and get help from a trusted adult, like a parent or teacher.
Thinking about a new relationship?
Take some time out before beginning another relationship. Think about what you want in your next relationship, such as having more independence or being more honest with the other person.
It’s important to remember that being in a relationship won’t necessarily make you feel happier. Getting more confident and comfortable about being single is also a healthy step forward.
When to get some help
Break-ups can feel like the end of the world, but most people work through them in time and without any serious problems. Sometimes a break-up can lead to someone experiencing other problems such as depression. These feelings can affect your daily life and stop you from doing the things you enjoy. If it’s been longer than two weeks, it’s time to take action.
If you’re struggling to move on after a break-up, or if you feel unsafe in any way, it’s important to talk things through with someone you trust. This may be a friend or family member. If you’d prefer to talk to someone outside your family and friends, your general practitioner (GP), a counsellor, or someone at your local headspace centre can provide you with confidential support.
A breakup is the closing of a chapter, and it’s absolutely normal to grieve this. Not only are you grieving the loss of a romantic relationship, but you’re also grieving the loss of everything that comes along with it. No wonder it hurts so much.
Here are five therapist-approved tips for how to get over a breakup:
1. Rely on your loved ones
Just because you’ve lost a loved one in a breakup doesn’t mean that you don’t still have plenty of other people who love you. Use that network to your advantage.
“A lot of people’s instinct is to isolate when they’re going through a break-up rather than lean into their natural support system. While some downtime to let yourself cry and process feelings in solitude is also an important breakup tool, community support is the number one tool for getting over it,” says psychotherapist Haley Neidich, LCSW.
Neidich says you should talk to the people you feel the most supported by, and tell them what your needs are. For example, sometimes you might feel like pouring your heart out and venting about the breakup, and other times you might just want some company to help you get your mind off of the breakup and onto something more fun. Either way, your support system is there to help you through tough times like these.
2. Feel your feelings
The pain from a breakup isn’t fun, but it’s important to allow yourself to feel all the emotions that come along with the breakup in order to process it and ultimately grow from it.
“When processing a breakup, you want to strike the right balance between staying busy and distracted and allowing yourself to be down and feel your emotions,” says Neidich. Some things you can do to get in touch with your emotions are:
- Make a breakup playlist
- Talk through the breakup with friends and family
- Journal about what you are feeling
Neidich says journaling is a great tool during breakups, and just a five-minute daily practice can help you purge your emotions and get in touch with your feelings. You can write about anything, but a 2015 study showed that writing about negative memories associated with your breakup can help you move on faster.
“If you’re having panic attacks or don’t feel emotionally safe to feel those feelings on your own, you may want to seek out a counselor who can support you through your journey,” says Neidich.
3. Focus on self-care
Self-care is key for getting over a breakup with grace, says Neidich. Breakups can wreak havoc on your mental health, so it’s crucial to practice self-care to keep yourself mentally well.
You’ll want to focus on self-care that is both emotional and practical. For emotional self-care, you want to come up with ways to help you cope with feelings of emotional insecurity, self-scrutiny, and other negative feelings that may arise.
How to practice self-care
Some examples of emotional self-care include:
It’s also important to focus on practical self-care, Neidich says. Make sure that you are tending to your most basic needs such as:
- Eating all your meals
- Bathing regularly
- Showing up for work
- Avoiding social isolation
4. Limit social media usage
One of the most common reasons that breakups drag on is because of social media, Neidich says.
If you’re constantly on social media and either seeing your ex or their friends and family pop up on your feed this is going to trigger you and only prolong the healing process. This is even backed by research. A 2012 study found that keeping up with your ex’s facebook resulted in more distress and longing.
For this reason, Neidich recommends unfollowing your ex’s social media accounts and the accounts of any friends or family members that are triggering.
However, even if you aren’t seeing your ex on your feed, social media can still contribute to negative emotions. Seeing pictures of happy couples, engagements, and weddings may be equally as triggering to you because you will be sucked into the comparison game.
If you feel like social media is making your breakup worse for whatever reason, Neidich says you can take a 10-day social media hiatus to give yourself a break and time to focus on healing.
5. Cut off communication with your ex
Lastly, to truly get over your breakup, you need to cut ties with your ex, at least temporarily. “When a relationship is done, let it be done,” says Neidich.
This can mean on top of unfollowing on social media, you might need to also delete your ex’s number, depending on your self-control. Neidich also recommends not speaking to your ex at all for several weeks.
“Some people want to remain friends after a break-up. While this might be possible in the future, cutting off all communication for a lengthy period of time is essential to let your heart heal and move beyond the deep pain that often accompanies the end of a relationship,” says Neidich.
Things to do instead of reaching out to your ex
- Make a list of reasons why you and your ex broke up or reasons why you shouldn’t get back together – a 2018 study showed that revisiting your ex’s negative qualities can help you to get over a breakup.
- Channel your emotions into a creative project.
- Call or text a loved one instead.
We can’t sugar coat it. Breakups aren’t easy. It’s important to be patient as you proceed with the healing process. You won’t get over a breakup overnight. Wounds take time to heal, and the emotional pain from a breakup is no different. Follow these tips, and above all, take care of yourself and be kind to yourself. With time, you’ll be feeling much better, guaranteed.
Most of my clients ask me how long it takes to get over a breakup. Well, it’s different for everyone. It usually depends on the length and the quality of the relationship, and most importantly, your willingness to let go.
The longer the relationship the harder is to adjust to life without it. Because human beings are creatures of habit. Addicts are beings of extreme habit. When two people break up, what they initially have to deal with is breaking the habit of interacting with each other. It’s a habit to call to share things that happen, it’s a habit to have an automatic date on weekends, and it’s a habit to let your thoughts focus on what the other person in a relationship is doing. The later is the habit that gives you the most heartache after a breakup.
The best way to break a habit is to replace it with something else. That’s why many people go right into another relationship. I really don’t recommend that. The healthier thing to do is to shift all that loving energy inward toward yourself. Create a new habit of taking care of you. Start by taking care of what you think.
First and foremost, you have to stop thinking about your ex-partner. Every time you allow your thoughts to run the highlight reel—memories of all the good times you had together—your brain responds as if it is happening all over again. That’s why you do it. Re-experiencing loving memories gives you the fix you’re craving. Then, when you stop, you’re snapped back to reality. The pain and withdrawal are just as intense as when the breakup initially happened. You’re back to day one of trying to let go.
Your brain response doesn’t distinguish between thinking and doing. So if you’re trying to get over a breakup, ask yourself if just the memory of a relationship is enough for you. If not, you have to stop thinking good thoughts about the relationship so you can move on. Get a piece of paper and a pen and write down all the things you didn’t like about the relationship—the cons. All the times you felt insecure or sad, didn’t get your needs met, and the rest of the things you just didn’t like. Handwriting instead of using a keyboard helps your brain process the information better.
Use Your Thoughts to Get Over a Breakup
When you truly believe you don’t want your ex back that is when you’ll feel better. Therefore, you get over a breakup much faster when it wasn’t a good relationship to start with. So knock your ex off that pedestal you have him/her on. How often were you happy while you were in this relationship? You should be happy at least 85% of the time in a healthy relationship. If you weren’t, you should be glad you broke up. Now you can be free to find someone better for you.
The bottom line is, a breakup is grief. The 5 stages of grief are denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. Everyone goes through the grief process at their own pace and in their own order. So if you need a day to stay in your pajamas and feel sorry for yourself then give yourself permission to do that. But only for one day. Your thoughts can be your best ally or your worst enemy. It’s your choice. Your thought create your feelings. Choose to think things that make you feel good about yourself.
To get over a breakup you need to get really good at positive thinking. Keep your thoughts in the present and only look forward, not back. I promise, your future looks really good if you’ll choose to believe that.
Call me for Breakup Coaching if you need support getting through a breakup.
When a relationship ends, it can feel like the end of the world. And for good reason: The grief we experience after a break-up has a lot in common with the grief that follows the death of a loved one.
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So how can you navigate through this difficult time when right now you may feel like you can’t go on?
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help turn those post-break-up blues into a time of growth, clinical psychologist Adam Borland, PsyD, says. He answers questions about how that can work.
Q: How is grief at the end of a relationship similar to grief after a loved one’s death?
A: Both experiences may create feelings of shock. You may feel a sense of disbelief immediately afterward.
You are likely to feel a range of emotions — fear, anger, confusion and loneliness. Plans and goals you thought were set in stone may become uncertain, which can create anxiety.
Both kinds of loss may raise questions regarding identity and self-worth. You may question who you are or doubt your ability to move forward alone. You may wonder if you’ll ever find love again.
Q: How are these two types of grief different?
A: After a break-up, you may still see your former partner. This raises the possibility of reconciliation, which can create hope but may also cause more anguish.
The dynamics of the break-up can also complicate the grief that follows.
Was there a betrayal? Was the decision to end the relationship mutual, or is one person feeling rejected? Even if you’re the one who ended it, it may surprise you to find that you’re grieving, too.
The end of a romantic relationship can also complicate other relationships. There may be a disruption in your social circle, or you may lose friendships with your ex-partner’s family, for instance.
Q: Why is it important to recognize and address your grief when a relationship ends?
A: Grieving is a natural process after any kind of loss. It helps our brains adjust to our new reality.
Avoiding grief can keep you stuck in feelings of sadness, loneliness, guilt, shame and anger — which can take a big toll on your self-esteem.
Those who don’t take appropriate steps to move through their grief, may turn to unhealthy coping strategies such as drug or alcohol use to manage difficult feelings.
You may start to withdraw from others and stop engaging in life, which can lead to clinical depression.
Not addressing grief also robs you of an opportunity to grow. The end of a relationship is a good time to reflect, clarify your values and decide what kind of life you want moving forward.
And if you don’t properly grieve, that also means that you don’t ever resolve your feelings about the relationship and its end. This can make it very difficult to be emotionally available to a new partner.
Q: How can you deal with the end of a relationship in a healthy way?
A: As you grieve, keep the following strategies in mind.
- Reach out to supportive friends and family, and openly share your feelings.
- Prioritize self-care. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and physical activity, and eating well.
- Create a daily routine to add the structure you need during this time of uncertainty.
- Be mindful about your substance use.
- Leave your ex alone — both in real life and online. Technology makes it easy to send an “I miss you” text or to spy on your former partner via social media, but resist the urge. This only makes it harder to heal.
- Don’t rush into another relationship. Take this time to work on yourself and get in touch with parts of yourself that you may have hidden during your relationship.
It’s also important to know when to seek professional help, Dr. Borland says.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety — especially if you’re having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else — find a mental health professional who can help.
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