How to begin healing after a breakup

Let me set the scene: the smothering darkness of winter is creeping in, and we’re bowels deep in the middle of a global pandemic that’s ravaging life as we know it. You’ve watched friends and family lose their jobs, and you even lost your own at one point. And then your fiancé, and partner of over a decade, tells you that they’re just not feeling it anymore, before running off with someone else a week later.

At this point, anyone would be forgiven for beginning the descent into a bottomless pit of despair. But we’re all here because that’s exactly what we’re trying not to do. Legend has it there’s a light at the end of this relentless tunnel, and so I’ve taken to exploring how one might reach it.

Go ‘No Contact’

I learned about the concept of ‘No Contact’ after typing #breakup into instagram one desperate evening. To put it simply, it’s the act of refraining from any interaction with your ex following the breakup. Don’t message them. Don’t call them. Remove them from social media. Don’t try and arrange a meet-up in Starbucks on a quest for closure. Focus entirely on yourself.

No Contact isn’t an exercise in ‘getting back at’ your ex. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: It’s getting back to yourself. By cutting contact, you’re giving yourself the space you need to properly grieve and heal. When you’re hurting from a breakup, there can be the temptation to fall back into old habits, and back to your ex and the comfort you think that might bring. No Contact forces you to work past this temptation and heal yourself from within.

Sometimes there are children, pets, or other practical entanglements that stop you from making a completely clean break. In these cases, try to approach any interactions with your ex as business. Keep the contact brief, impersonal, and focused on the issue at hand—as difficult as it will initially be.

No Contact doesn’t have to be permanent. You and your ex may remain in each other’s lives or even become friends, but many view it as an essential part of obtaining individual growth and progress following the breakdown of a relationship.

Grieve

This is going to hurt.

There comes a point, while sharing your life with someone, where your plans for the future become entwined. And then suddenly that future is ripped away and you need to begin the process of building a new one. More immediately, you’ll feel the keen absence of them in your day-to-day life, with the person you shared your most intimate self with no longer there.

You’ll likely be experiencing a huge range of feelings in response to your breakup, from shock and despair to fear and anger. Acknowledging the need to grieve is important because it allows you to properly work through these emotions. It’s not easy to face such difficult feelings head on, but as is often said about life’s trials and tribulations: the only way out is through.

Remember that your grief won’t be linear. It can hit you at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. This is a normal part of the process, so try not to doubt your progress when you notice grief behaving more like a wave, rather than a straight line.

Practise self-care

One of the many difficult parts of a breakup is what it can do to your sense of self worth. This is particularly true if you didn’t instigate the breakup or see it coming. The feeling of rejection and the blow to your self esteem can be devastating. The question ‘Why aren’t I good enough?’ can consume you if you don’t actively work through it and learn to love yourself again. And that’s where self-care comes in.

At the most basic level, make sure that you’re eating well and looking after your body. Your appetite may have vanished and being physically active might be the last thing on your mind, but making these decisions for yourself brings you one step closer to feeling better. We hear this advice all the time because it’s true. While you may not enjoy exercise in the moment, the positive impact it has is undisputed. And the benefits of eating well go without saying.

At another level, self-care involves making the difficult decisions that will help you to get your confidence back. This can mean dealing with practical issues like housing or finances after your breakup, or making concrete plans to address other disappointments or difficulties in your life. Facing your problems head on, strategising, and overcoming is going to be the key to taking back control of your life and feeling good about yourself in the long run.

Ultimately, now is the time to try and bring the focus back to you and finding yourself again. Remember to be patient and acknowledge that while your healing may not be quick or smooth, many people across the world and throughout time have overcome heartbreak. And we can too.

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