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Letting Go and Moving On After a Breakup or Divorce

Letting Go and Moving On after a Breakup or DivorceHeartbreak hurts. Loss is shattering. Put these two together and you’ve got the lovely one-two punch that can come with breakups of short-lived or long-term relationships.

It brings most everyone down. Otherwise emotionally-guarded people crumble into a mess of anger, sadness and confusion. Task-oriented folks lose focus and motivation. Forgiving types start learning how to hold a grudge.

Even if our rational brains — and our friends who are getting really tired of hearing the same story again and again — tell us to just let go and move on already, we just cannot stop holding on. Or we keep it together during the daylight hours only to be tossed into the pit of despair as the sun falls below the horizon. Or we do move on but we haven’t actually let go and still feel the weight and pull of our past relationship.

So, how does a person let go and move on?

The process is unique for each person and each relationship. There is, however, a series of steps that can guide the love-stuck forward through the pain and into the freedom of being truly over it.

Every step begins with a question, such as:

  • What really happened?
  • What do I miss the most/least?
  • What do I regret?
  • Why did I choose this person?
  • What do I wish my ex could understand?
  • What deeper issues is this break-up bringing up for me?
  • In what ways was this relationship a good fit/not a good fit for me?

Each question opens up a conversation that, with adequate support, allows us to:

  1. Identify and move beyond the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that are keeping us stuck.
  2. Become compassionate and patient with our grieving process.
  3. Extract everything we can learn from the relationship.
  4. Accept what has happened.
  5. Shift into drive and start focusing our energy on this next phase of our life journey.

Letting go and truly moving on does not just take time. It takes time and work. For those who are willing to put in the effort, however, there is a big payoff.

We get the chance to clear out dusty heaps of old pain and old patterns and start living with a fresh and open heart. We get the opportunity to put our broken hearts and the broken pieces of our lives back together again in a way that feels even stronger and truer to our values and priorities. We get the sense of confidence in our ability to not only survive a breakup but to triumph as a healthy person with the skills to have a healthy love relationship. And our friends will be happy too.

Letting Go and Moving On After a Breakup or Divorce

Danielle B. Grossman, MFT

Danielle B. Grossman, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, has her BA in Ethics, Politics and Economics magna cum laude from Yale University and her MA in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute for Integral Studies. She works virtually for clients throughout California and in-person in Truckee/Tahoe, helping couples and individuals with their relationships, anxiety, struggles with food and eating, and addiction. Reach out at or learn more at

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APA Reference
Grossman, D. (2018). Letting Go and Moving On After a Breakup or Divorce. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 25 Jun 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.