Say Goodbye to Heartbreak: A Step-by-Step Guide to Recovery After a Breakup

The European Journal » Say Goodbye to Heartbreak: A Step-by-Step Guide to Recovery After a Breakup

A Guide to Breakup Recovery

Have you ever gone through a breakup or a divorce? Do you find yourself still thinking about:

· What he (or she) said, or did, or didn’t do?

· What you should have done…or not done?

· Where it went wrong?

· How you could have stopped it from failing?

If you continue to carry any sense of blame, shame, guilt, distrust, confusion, or a lack of confidence for future relationships…maybe it’s time for a new perspective.

Here are 21 things that you can do to make a full recovery from a breakup. If you want to seize this moment to move on and have the life of your dreams, wrap your arms around yourself…and the following:


1. Be still…and get quiet

You may want to run away from any lingering painful thoughts and feelings. But unfortunately, wherever you go…there you are. You can’t get rid of you, so…settle down, be quiet, and get prepared to know and like yourself better.

No matter how far along you’ve come in the self-love department, if you’re still hurting from your breakup, there’s more growing to do. Gather some writing tools, or your laptop, or a tape recorder. Create a comforting space somewhere in your world and hunker down. You have lessons to learn from your experience with the ex and you want to mine this for gold.

This is your time; your chance; your bold plunge into the pool of past practices, patterns, and events that you can use to shape the new life you want to create. As you move through this guide, write down your thoughts and actions taken or record it somewhere so you can bring it out and use it if you forget, or you’re having a bad day…or you’re tempted to call the ex.

No one can save you, no one can stop the bad feelings, and no one can make you happy. That’s your job. Take the next steps listed and you’ll be able to do it.

2. Examine your thoughts

You’ll never get away from the “old” you and into the new you who doesn’t hold anger, bitterness or sadness inside until you take a look at what’s running through your mind. It’s as simple as this: every time you are seized with a negative thought from the past, rephrase it into something affirming.

Here are some examples of disabling tapes running through your head:

· OLD TAPE…“I’ll never get over him! (Her)”

· REFRAME… “I am in charge of myself and I can reclaim …or start anew…my life and my happiness.”

· OLD TAPE… “I don’t know how to let go of the pain!”

· REFRAME… “I might not know how to do it by myself but I DO know how to go get some help.”

· OLD TAPE… “I can’t forget what she (he) did to me!”

· REFRAME… “I can learn to shift my focus to something positive that makes me happy. I don’t have to be hostage to my thoughts.”

When you change your thoughts, that process affects your actions, which will bring you a different outcome.

3. Identify the deal-breakers in your past relationship

What did you need from your relationship that your ex couldn’t give you? Did you want more love, commitment, loyalty, communication, or appreciation? Or did you want someone who had more maturity, personal success, or confidence? Identify the missing qualities and values that caused the breakup and then…consider how you can give these to yourself.

In ALL breakups, the most compelling obstacle to growth—which affects your future happiness and success—is to blame the other person for what wasn’t there. It’s so easy to fall into this trap. But if you stay stuck in blaming and complaining, you won’t find the gifts from this relationship that are there for you to claim.

Take a careful look at what was absent. If you wanted more love, ask yourself how you can love yourself better. Perhaps you need a career that gives you a sense of purpose and pride. Maybe you need more friends and to reach out to others to build stronger bonds of connection. What are some loving actions you can take for you?

If you had money problems in the relationship, how can you give yourself financial security? Do you need to learn to live on less, pare down your life, and get a better career? What will it take to do that and what steps are you willing to do to achieve it?

Take responsibility for what wasn’t there and give it to yourself. Your anger and hurt will dissipate…and you will probably make a much better choice of a partner in the future.

4. Rest and conserve your energy

Breakups are exhausting: emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. If your split was recent, your energy account is probably near bankrupt. You may be shaken by the fact that you trusted your feelings of love, and now you aren’t sure you can trust any of your decisions or choices.

You are probably tired from not enough sleep. And you may be skipping meals or eating the wrong things or not following your exercise regimen. All of this is energy depleting and adds up to the need for better self-care.

Nurture yourself with friends and mentors who will listen and provide positive feedback. Surround yourself with those who provide unconditional love. Often, when we are depressed and full of negativity, we unconsciously choose others who are critical, hopeless in outlook, or stuck in their own rut.

Pay attention to those you hang out with and how they view life. Just when you need a ray of light the most, you may find yourself spending your last drop of encouragement on someone else who is more in the dark than you are. People who affirm your worst fears… that there is no happiness or real love to be found anywhere…will drag you down and cause you to take longer to recover your energy.

5. Exercise

Working out is part of nurturing you. It gives your energy a boost and repairs your spirits. You can’t control what didn’t happen in the past or the future you wanted with your ex. You can’t micro-manage the world around you. After this breakup, you may feel totally out of control. But you can have something to say about feeling better physically—which affects all other parts of your life.

Perhaps when you were in your relationship, you didn’t have the time or enthusiasm to exercise. Maybe you were too depressed or exhausted or emotionally hurt to move. When love starts to go bad, healthy habits can get off course.

But now, you have no more excuses. If you can’t afford a gym, get out and walk. Turn on some music and dance. Buy or rent Yoga or exercise CDs. Or turn on some of the TV exercise shows. If you don’t want to do it by yourself, call a friend and ask them to join you in some movement activity. Whatever gets you moving—do it. Do it for you.

6. De-clutter

Everyone knows that they need to do this, they should do this, and eventually, they have to clean up the mess. But you won’t truly understand the benefits until you actually start the process. Like exercise, de-cluttering gives you a sense of control over your life. If there was ever a time you needed that empowerment—this is it.

Remove the memorabilia of your past with your ex. Cleaning up your life and preparing for a new future can start with cleaning up and organizing your spaces. Make a new ‘home” for yourself that makes you feel welcome and comforted when you walk in the door. You can’t feel that way when you walk into a cluttered place.

7. Let go

Are you tired of hanging on or holding out hope that your lover will return? Are you sick of longing for your ex to be the person you always wanted so you can return? If you have tried all reasonable ways to work it out and it’s never going to be the way both of you, or one of you want it to be…it’s time to let go. How do you do that?

· Remove his (or her) number from your speed dial.

· Resist the temptation to check your emails or text messages often to see if he tried to contact you.

· Stop sitting by the phone, waiting for it to ring.

· Don’t drive by his house, or his place of work, or go to the bars and restaurants where you know he hangs out, hoping you’ll “bump” into him.

· Change your gym, dog walking-park, grocery store, coffee shop, or any other place you often went to as a couple.

· Change other habits you often did together.

· Follow the rest of the suggestions in this guide.

The focus of your energy needs to be on you. Life is not always the way you wanted it to be or expected it to happen. But life is changing and shifting every day and you can find the spunk to flex, regroup…and let go.

8. Do a health inventory

Breakups can take a toll on your health so this is a good time to get a checkup, visit the dentist, take your vitamins, get some rest, eat well, and take care of all the healthy habits you have been putting off.

If you have any recurring health issues, be sure you stay alert to the signs and have them monitored regularly. We tend to ignore the signals our body is trying to send us at this time—it just seems like one more problem to confront when we’re already dealing with so much. Don’t stick your head in the sand. Handle it before it becomes a bigger, more threatening issue.

9. Teach others how to treat you

Now is your opportunity to pinpoint exactly what you didn’t receive from your ex and restore those qualities to your life. Once you start treating yourself better, you can teach others how to give you what you need and expect. You can be the model of how to treat you.

What were some of your relationship issues? Were you not heard? Be a good listener when others are sharing, choosing friends who want to listen to you. Did your ex cross your boundaries, asking more of you than was fair or realistic?

Learn to set good boundaries with all the people in your life, saying “no” in a gracious way when you are tired, overworked, have too many demands made of you—or, you just need some care-taking time for yourself.

10. Identify what you gained from this relationship

Sometimes, we stay so focused on the negative aspects of our time with someone; we lose sight of the good that came out of the relationship. Just because the two of you are over doesn’t mean this experience was a total loss. Consider the following:

· What did you learn from being with this person?

· What requirements do you now have for a future partner that you weren’t aware of when you met your ex?

· What skills, information, talents, hobbies, education, habits, exposure, or wisdom do you now have as a result of knowing this person?

· What new friendships did you form, or contacts did you make, because of your connection to your ex?

· What valuable lessons did you learn about yourself?

· What strengths have you gained that you didn’t have before?

Somehow, in the course of knowing your ex, you have walked away with assets you may not have thought about—and your life is richer because of it. Think of this relationship as not being a failure, but a valuable steppingstone.

11. Discover your energy sources

Breakups can leave you feeling flat. How long that lasts depends on you. It’s not only important; it’s necessary to find the activities, hobbies, passions, and interests that infuse you with energy. Some people may think that fun things to do are distractions of no consequence. Not true.

Activities you are passionate about are where you will find the electric current to power your new life as a single. Without this energy source, you may look to others to tank you up; you may be tempted to call the ex; you may seek artificial boosters like sugar or shopping or worse. You have to find your own healthy juice. Then…everyone will want to be near you.

12. Visualize the life you want

It’s time to get psyched about your new single life. Create a vision of what you want. Cut out pictures of places where you’d like to live, the work you want to do, the places you want to see, and the kinds of vacations you want to take. Write down 100 things you want to do, what you want to have, and what you want to be.

Visualize yourself doing, being, and having what you want before you fall asleep. See yourself in the pictures you have posted around your house. Dream your perfect life. Dream big.

13. Try something new

There is no better way to stretch and exercise the muscles you need for growth than by trying something you’ve never done before. It may be a long-held desire; it may be something you just happen upon because a friend introduces you to it; it may be something you’ve always been afraid of. If you are being nudged into something you never thought you’d try but it’s provoking your interest…follow that thread.

Do you want to learn to sail? How about fencing, racecar driving, mountain climbing, or taking photos of wildlife? Take a class, find a mentor, take a trip, or join a group that shares your curiosity. Nothing pulls us out of the glue of boredom and routine and thinking about the past like tackling something new.

14. Get smart with your money

When you’re single again, you need to build your life with a safety net under you. It isn’t wise to think someone else is going to do this for you. It can keep you harnessed in a relationship that isn’t working but you’re too afraid to leave. Even if you stand to inherit the kingdom and the castle, you need to be money smart.

Start gathering information about investments, retirement funds, money markets, and how you can have more for less. You want more security, more peace, and more value out of life, with less stress, less spending, and even, less things. Sit down with a money-smart adviser and work out a plan. Then, take the actions necessary to achieve your goals.

15. Redecorate your spaces

Does your home or your workspace remind you of your ex? Are you tired of being reminded of the way things used to be when you were a two-some? What do you need to change?

Redecorating can take the form of buying new furniture, or, just removing the pictures of the two of you and rearranging the rooms. Is your budget tight since the split? Try some slipcovers and new throw pillows; take a look in consignment shops; and visit thrift stores. There are all kinds of ways to brighten and renew your home…just like you are doing for the rest of your life.

16. Get a makeover

This can be balm to a bruised spirit, but take it in baby steps. A radical haircut, strangely plucked eyebrows, or a huge outlay of money for a new wardrobe can throw you into shock. We don’t always make the best decisions when we are straight out of a relationship. Our judgment can be cloudy.

Start off with finding a couple of new wardrobe pieces. Wear them out with your friends to see their reaction before you buy anything else. If you get a lot of compliments, then you’ll know you’re on the right track. Pick up some new accessories to spiff up your old clothes.

And remember: Right after a breakup, many people either lose or gain weight…depending on how you handle stress. Buy clothes when you have stabilized.

17. Schedule a meal with a friend on a regular basis

Many singles tell me that they feel the void of not having a partner the most at dinnertime. This one ritual…sitting down to dinner… kept them in the relationship long past the point when they should have been out of it. After the breakup, they stop cooking meals, start eating fast food or take out, and never sit at the kitchen table again.

Decide to have at least one meal a week with a friend. You can prepare it, or make it potluck, or meet in a restaurant. There’s something special and necessary about sitting down to a meal with someone you care about. Create your new, shared meal in a setting where you can talk, relax, and let your hair down.

18. Read

Reading is a big part of your recovery. Reading can expand your mind and your world and be the window to the new life you want to create. Check out books at the library, borrow some from friends, or go to a used bookstore if your money is tight.

Bookstores are also great places to meet other singles when you get ready to date again. If you are a person who has a long commute to work, this is your opportunity to hear a good book on CD while you ride.

19. Unpack your baggage

You want to move into your single life with your bags unpacked. Make a list of your grievances, imagine the offending person is sitting in front of you, deliver your message, and then let it go. Whether it is your ex, a parent, sibling, or friend, release the hurt and forgive. If you can’t do this on your own, get a counselor or coach.

Getting rid of old baggage that weighs you down and slows your journey is needed in order to grow. Set better boundaries, let go of people who drain you, create a life you are proud of, and do anything else that will clean up any lingering anger, disappointment, or hurt.

You’ll have other relationships… from friends to another lover… and you don’t want to show up in their lives carrying a trunk full of old wounds. It’s too much to ask them to help you carry it when you can unpack it yourself.

20. Ask for help

Lots of successful, independent people have trouble with this one. But this is not the time to be stoic or heroic. If you find yourself feeling sad, depressed, anxious, or obsessive about situations over which you have no control, and these feelings are lasting more than a few weeks, consult a professional. Do not sit at home brooding, crying, or worrying for months (or, years!) when help is right around the corner.

21. Feed your soul

Strangely enough, your soul was crying out for the lessons you needed to learn from your relationship. Take a moment to be grateful for the wisdom you’ve earned.

When you are in the process of doing these 21 steps, think about what it is you need to do to feed your spiritual self. Meditate, pray, sing, dance, or take a retreat to find your source for spiritual solace and renewal.

Your 21-step breakup guide is yours to do in whatever order feels appropriate for your state of mind and heart. Hopefully, it will help you take this moment to turn the crisis of a breakup into a life-affirming event.

Further resources to help you in your breakup recovery

  1. “The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Healing from a Breakup or Divorce” by Rachel A. Sussman: This book offers practical advice and tips for coping with the emotional and practical aspects of a breakup.
  2. “It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken: The Smart Girl’s Break-Up Buddy” by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola: This book is written in a humorous and relatable tone, and offers advice on how to move on after a breakup.
  3. “The Healing Power of Emotion: Affective Neuroscience, Development & Clinical Practice” by Diana Fosha: This book is a comprehensive look at the science of emotions and how they relate to healing from a breakup.
  4. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, But You Can Do It!” by D.H. Kelly: This self-help book offers practical advice and exercises for coping with the pain of a breakup.
  5. “How to Get Over a Breakup: A Step-by-Step Guide” by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This guide offers a practical, step-by-step approach to healing from a breakup.
  6. “Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Moving On” by Brooke Lewis: This online course is designed to help people heal from a breakup and move on with their lives.
  7. “Rebound Relationship” by Dr. Karen Finn : This online course is designed to help people understand the psychology of rebound relationships and how to avoid them.
  8. “The Breakup Workbook: A Common-Sense Guide to Getting Over Your Ex” by M. Gary Neuman: This workbook offers practical exercises and advice for coping with the emotional fallout of a breakup.
  9. “Breakup Recovery” by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This online course provides a comprehensive approach to healing from a breakup, including tips on self-care, journaling, and more.

All of these resources can be found online, and are a good starting point for anyone looking to recover from a breakup.