10 Tips for Navigating Heartbreak
Rejection is a part of life — a painful part.
Intimate relationships involve vulnerability and risk, and the ending of a relationship causes many to seek professional help and guidance.
The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but includes some suggestions to consider while undergoing the inevitable transitions that follow a breakup:
- Honor your own pain while visiting a bigger perspective. Some people feel a sense of shame for all the pain they are feeling as a result of the loss of a romantic relationship. While it is true that there is no shortage of tragic and horrific events going on in the world, you are experiencing personal pain. Try not to censor your experience by negating its importance. You have a right to your feelings. Sometimes considering the larger perspective is helpful, but it is possible to respect the suffering in the world while honoring your own pain at the same time.
- Put the brakes on self-blame and totally blaming the other person. Trying to figure out exactly what went wrong in the relationship is like running on a hamster wheel. No one is perfect, and eventually owning your part in the demise of a relationship by taking realistic accountability may be helpful. Blaming the other person is a normal reaction. Blaming and shaming yourself or your partner are natural responses that are best acknowledged and gently redirected when they occur.
- Allow yourself to grieve. Losing a relationship has an impact on many areas of life. You are grieving because you have loved. When you allow yourself to experience the process without trying to get rid of it, you are more apt to integrate the experience, becoming a whole person. The only way out is through. Grief is not a linear process and it may feel like you keep getting stuck, because you will. Repetition is part of healing; let your feelings be.
- Distract yourself as needed. If you are engulfed with emotion at inconvenient moments, practice the art of distraction. Breathe and count from one to 100, label things in the room, read the titles on your bookshelf aloud. Fill your brain with something else so that you can get through some difficult moments of the day. When you have time, distract with a longer break by reading a book, watching a movie, or going to the gym.
- Remind yourself that emotions aren’t permanent. Happiness is not a static state; grief also changes its form over time. When you are in intense emotional pain, it feels like you will never recover. Remind yourself that the wound scabs over, and while it may leave a scar, it does heal. Tears do stop at some point. People often feel like they are drowning in tears. This stage of the process abates at some point. Heartbreak eventually lessens in intensity. What endures is the capacity for greater empathy and love.
- Get your body involved. Grief sometimes feels like physical pain. Provide an exit strategy for emotion to leave the body. You may be crying a lot, or not allowing yourself to cry. Tears exist for a reason, and they help your body and mind express grief, a form of acceptance and letting go. Incorporate movement. Begin with gentle movements such as stretching, yoga, and tai-chi. Challenge yourself to take a walk outside. Since your mind is probably really active and sometimes obsessive at this time, bring the body into the mix more.
- Pump up your self-care. Self-care does not always mean getting a massage and being pampered in some way, although it could mean that. Practice self-care by saying no to requests that you can’t handle right now. Allow yourself to rest and recover. Try to explore at least one new way to take better care of yourself. Avoid the minefields of self-abuse with liquor, smoking, not eating, eating too much, and the like.
- Practice self-compassion. The inner critic often shifts into high gear after a romantic relationship ends. Notice your self-talk and course correct if you are beating yourself up. How would you assist a close friend in the same circumstances as you are now? Do that.
- Resist “shoulding” on yourself. People in your life may tell you that you should be over it by now. You may feel it yourself. People have different timeframes in relation to healing. Throw out the rule book on how things should be. Allow yourself to experience your own individual process.
- Seek support. While the pain is yours, reaching out for connection to others can ameliorate the often-isolating nature of grief. Utilize your existing support network and consider talking with a professional therapist or counselor to assist you in your healing process. Family, friend, pets, nature, and community are some common sources of support. Reading books and talking with others may help. Keep an open mind for potential avenues of support. You do not have to go it alone.
Hennessey, F. (2014). 10 Tips for Navigating Heartbreak. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/08/03/10-tips-for-navigating-heartbreak/