A breakup of a long term relationship is utterly horrible–especially if you didn’t see it coming. And even if the decision to end the relationship was yours, it often hurts like crazy too. The hurt and pain need to be healed—and it takes time, but you can ease the pain away more quickly by taking these steps.
Step 1. Honour your pain
Most people wish to skip this step, yet honouring your pain allows it to flow through you. A broken heart hurts like hell. The wretchedness takes away your appetite, brings sobs, and your mind gets caught on spinning wheel that re-runs everything that what was said and done. Trying to do anything else is impossible. So… in the first few days after a long term breakup, give yourself time to feel all of this pain. I know you don’t want to, but if you push this pain inside, or try to say everything is OK when it’s not, then it just prolongs the agony. Trust that if you feel it fully, it will pass more quickly—and it will.
Step 2. Find someone to talk to
Talking about what happened is cathartic. You don’t need to share your story and pain with the whole world, but you do need someone who will listen without judgement. Choose someone who will understand, and hold the space for you as you process the tumultuous emotions after a breakup. If you feel you can’t talk to your family or a friend—then know many professionals will listen and help you to heal. All relationship life coaches (including me), counsellors and faith leaders are trained to listen and help you get to a better place.
Step 3. Processing the emotional turmoil after a breakup
In the beginning, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, jealousy, and grief become your daily companions. After a breakup, these feelings need to be processed. Every emotion that arises from within you is trying to convey a message. Understanding these messages at a deeper level allows your healing to be processed more quickly.
Sadness is not just about the loss of your partner—it’s what he/she/they represented. It’s the potential of what could have been but now is no more. Sadness asks you to release what once was so that you can begin the process of rejuvenation. Allow the tears to flow. And if you’re a man conditioned not to cry, still allow for quiet moments to feel the tears caught in the back of your throat. Reflect on what this relationship meant to you without seeing it through rose-tinted sunglasses. Being authentic to yourself is healing.
Anger always dances with sadness because so often, the loss of sadness is to do with a trampled-over boundary. Anger rises up with fiery energy to give you the strength to restore the broken boundaries. Too often, we lash out in anger, but channelling anger provides energy to both see and do what needs to be done, and to do it with calm determination. What boundaries do you need to restore to move forward? See my article, Hurt angry and not ready to forgive.
Guilt and shame describe similar feelings and are almost interchangeable when we speak, but subtly, they are different. Guilt arises when we know what we said or did to others was wrong. Even if what we did or said was not intentional, on reflection can see our actions have caused pain in others. Shame arises when we cross our own boundaries when we did or said things that dishonoured our values and beliefs. Both guilt and shame are a form of anger, so healing these emotions also requires restoring our boundaries.
Jealousy and it’s green-eyed cousin envy can arise if your partner has left because they have met someone else. Jealousy can tear you apart, making you believe that you are not good enough. Both of these emotions bubble up when it feels unfair. Jealousy and envy also contain anger—so again, to heal these emotions, your personal boundaries need to be restored. See Personal boundaries and how to say no gracefully and also read my article, ‘You are enough.’
Grief contains sadness and loss, but it’s roots lie in death. Grief bubbles up from our soul when someone we love dies. And it arises with the loss of any profound connection to someone or something.
Sadness can take you into the depths, but grief drops you into a deep, dark ocean. In the beginning, waves of grief knock you sideways and turn your life upside down and inside out. It feels like the onslaught is never-ending. But as the weeks and months pass, the waves of grief lessen in intensity. And in time, one wave will wash you back onto solid ground. As hard as it is to process, grief is a necessary part of healing. So again allow the tears to flow, as these represent the waves of grief and know it will pass. A new chapter of your life, filled once more with happiness, is just beyond the horizon.
Step 4. Create a timeline for your healing
Amazingly, your subconscious already knows about how long it takes to heal the sadness and heartache of a breakup. All you need to do is ask your subconscious to show you by reading out two different date scenarios and checking how each feels.
To do this, first create a pair of extreme date statements, to which the answer is an emphatic no. For example, a date statement pair might look like this:
‘From tomorrow, I am ready to start dating again.’
‘I need to wait three years before I’m ready to start dating again.’
Date statements can be for any part of your healing journey. For example, you can use this formula to ask about how long you need to grieve, or when your heartache will end and so on.
Notice the first date statement is far too soon, while the second one is too long. Now begin to narrow down the timeline down by using a new pair of date statements.
There are no exact rules here because the total time frame maybe months or sometimes a year or more, but for the first statement, I typically insert:
1 day (tomorrow), 1-week, 1-month, 3-months etc.
And for the second statement, I work backwards, starting with:
3-years, 2-years, 18-months, 1-year etc.
As the timeline narrows, switch to dates, such as;
‘By December, I am ready to start dating again.’
‘I need to wait until April before I’m ready to start dating again.’
When you have reached a maybe or yes, you now have a timeline of a few months when your healing will have completed enough for you to move on. Now you can diarise this by choosing a random date in the middle of your timeline. Write on this date, ‘I am now ready to date’ – or whatever you used for your date statements. Now, when this dates pops up in your diary/calendar, you will be surprised to find that this feels like truth.
Step 5. Be proactive around feeling lonely
No matter whether you broke up with them or they broke up with you, in the beginning, there are inevitably lonely moments. You miss them. It’s quiet, and there is a big empty space in your bed. You yearn to talk, hug and simply be with them. But remember, this breakup was not for no reason. Some things in your relationship were broken, so please resist the temptation to brush the not-so-good-stuff under the rug and contact them. Even if you feel that your relationship was shiny and bright, and it was your partner who broke up with you, know they did not feel the same.
After releasing the biggest waves of pain in the first few weeks, it’s time to reconnect with friends. If you have to, make yourself attend social events. Going out again is not about partying or dancing on tabletops. It is a gradual re-entering into a broader circle of social activities.
Step 6. Learn the lessons
Intimate relationships provide a space for love, comfort, security and fun. Yet one of the most precious gifts from being in a relationship is learning about yourself. Partners hold a mirror up to each other. In your partner’s mirror, you saw all that was good as well as things that were not so good about yourself. You provided this service for your partner too. During a relationship with so much going on, it’s easy to miss the lessons from the mirror. So, now it’s time to ask what did you see? What was good that you would like to replicate in a new relationship? What do you categorically not wish to endure in the future? One of the best ways to learn these lessons is to journal every day for a month. Begin by writing about the compromises you made to your values and beliefs. Include the big things and the small silly things such as:
“When I arranged to meet Steve at the café, he was always 10-15 minutes late. It seems silly, but it was annoying. In the beginning, I told Steve how I felt, but he said I was nagging him, so I stopped and just put up with it. Yet every time he was late, it felt like Steve was prioritising work, customers, his friends and literally everyone else more than me. I value punctuality! It’s OK that I’m an-on-time-freak—I hate to keep people waiting, so I will share this with a future partner from the beginning.”
Step 7. Write a letter from your future self
Choose to write a letter to yourself. Date this letter 1-year in the future. In this letter, your future self tells your present-day self what has happened, as if looking back from the future. This letter acknowledges the pain you are experiencing now, but it also tells you how you have moved on, what you did to get over it, and the happier place you are experiencing. The letter additionally recounts that it was all worth it because it led to where you are now. Your letter may also speak about someone you have just met and how different this relationship is to your past one.
Finally, nothing stays the same forever. The pain of a breakup will lessen. You will survive, and by taking the courageous steps above, you will thrive and be happy again sooner than you think possible.
Need a healing hand to heal after a breakup?
If you are struggling after a breakup, and would like to fast track your healing, I would be honoured to help you. I’m a Life Coach and Emotional Healer specialising in relationships, and I’ve been helping people just like you since 2004. I offer life coaching and emotional healing on the phone or via Zoom. Also Heal A Broken Heart Retreat at The Jasmine House. No selling. Just a slightly shorter version of a real session. Click the button to book a free, 30-minute telephone call with me.
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