Your grief is normal.
Embarrassment, disbelief, and devastation are all normal.
I just started reading How to Fix a Broken Heart, and this fantastic book takes you on a beautiful journey of healing and helps you move on from a break-up by helping you recognize and fix the mistakes you might be making that keep you from healing.
The author, Dr. Guy Winch, reaffirms that a broken heart is a real, painful experience and it is not immature to grieve and need time to move on from a break-up.
How long should I be sad?
This question has no clear-cut answer. Everyone’s relationships and break-ups are too different and unique to put a time frame on how long you’re allowed to be sad.
But, wherever you are on your journey to moving on, keep trying.
A study published in the Journal of College Counseling found that repetitive negative thinking after a break-up leads to more distress and prolonged grief.
Processing your break-up story is important; however, replaying what went wrong and what you should have done differently, or continuing to indulge in negative thoughts toward yourself and your life, is only drawing out and intensifying your pain.
Give yourself a break.
Try rewriting your thoughts; learn how to rewrite your thoughts in my post, 5 Steps to Stop Negative Thinking and Start Positive Thinking. I also suggest you consider therapy at any point in time of your break-up, but especially if you are feeling like your efforts to get over it are hopeless.
If it’s been years and years but you just can’t seem to move on from a break-up, you’re not alone and you’re not weak.
Dr. Winch also says in How to Fix a Broken Heart, “Too many of us ache with emotional pain only to then criticize ourselves for hurting. We falsely believe we should somehow stay calm and carry on—that we should be able to function normally, when psychologically speaking something very abnormal is going on.”
Instead of focusing on how you “should” be over it, consider what underlying feeling or problem may be holding you back from moving on from your break-up.
Don’t avoid the pain.
The same study found that people whom suppress their thoughts, distract themselves from their feelings, and avoid reminders, emotions, and pain after break-ups, are more likely to experience disordered eating, alcoholism, depression, and anxiety.
The sooner you seek closure and process and confront your negative emotions, the sooner you can start healing and move on from a break-up.
Spending time with friends and family after a break-up is totally healthy, so is focusing on school or work, as long as you are not using these things to bury your thoughts and feelings, but instead take time to process them.
You can’t fix a broken heart by denying its existence.
Think about why things ultimately didn’t work out. What did they do? What did you do?
Address your feelings by name: I feel angry, I feel confused, or I feel devastated.
Although processing your break-up emotions may generally be healthy, this is not a substitute for therapy and may have negative effects if you are a victim of abuse or trauma. If this is the case for you, I suggest you seek out help from a licensed trauma therapist.
What should I do if I can’t stop thinking about my ex?
First of all, don’t beat yourself up. Your ex was a significant part of your life. Along with losing your ex, you also lost a bond, a confidant, plans for the future, and sometimes other friends, too.
When you think you miss your ex, you might just be missing the things you lost along with your break-up, like the feeling of closeness.
Switch up your routine.
After a break-up, sometimes it seems that everything you do traces back to a memory with your ex. You start noticing just how many things of yours are saturated in memories of your ex.
The restaurant you frequented now seems like an ominous place. You put off finishing the TV show you were watching together. You replay memories, good and bad, and think of what you “should” have done differently.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to go back to how you used to do things before, and you don’t have to maintain the routine you had with your ex.
This is a perfect time to try something new. It’s a perfect time to do what YOU want to do.
If you never really liked that restaurant anyway, then don’t go. Try that new one just down the street.
If you really want to finish that TV show, then do it! You are free to choose whatever you want.
Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do and be that person you’ve always wanted to be, but felt like you couldn’t with your ex.
The more you make your life your own, the less your memories of your ex will resurface.
Can we be “just friends”?
The short answer? Probably not.
Author Jen Kim explains on Psychology Today why she’s not the type who can move on from a breakup.
“It takes me so long to get over heartbreak, most of it spent pining for them to come back, plotting ways for us to reconcile, or seeking psychic guidance on when our paths might cross again. In hindsight, I suspect that these activities actually exacerbated the healing process.”– Jen Kim
No one gets more relatable than Jen Kim!
If this is you, then no, you can’t be “just friends” with your ex.
Jen Kim adds that Dr. Christine Selby and Carolyn McNulty, a licensed mental health counselor, say that the only time you could consider being friends with your ex is if you both no longer have feelings for each other, recognize that you don’t work as a couple, and set some very clear boundaries. For example, you hang out in the same friend group, but do not spend time alone together.
This makes sense. But, in order for this to work, both you and your ex have to be really, really self-aware.
Personally, I think trying to be friends again is too dangerous of a game to play. There are just too many eggshells to walk on and most likely, either you or your ex will get hurt again. The first priority should be to fix a broken heart, not to sacrifice it for a sub-par friendship.
When should I start dating again?
You can start dating again whenever you want, but don’t throw yourself into a serious relationship whenever you want.
Dating can help you get out of your funk and move on from a break-up because you get to meet new people, make friends, learn things about yourself, and realize that your old relationship wasn’t as perfect as you were trying to remember it.
Just be careful.
Don’t slide into a serious rebound relationship. Rebounding is a self-centered move you make to forget how fragile, lonely, and insecure you feel. You can’t fix a broken heart by using people.
A break-up can create, and stir up, some pretty intense negative feelings toward ourselves. We wonder what is wrong with us and why we are unlovable. When you feel this way, focusing on rebuilding love and respect for yourself, rather than trying to fill your emptiness with a new lover.
My post 4 Reasons Why Self-Love is Essential in a Healthy Relationship will teach you more about the importance of self-love and self-respect in a relationship.
How can I be happy again after my break-up?
A Real-Life Break-Up Story
Someone close to me went through a hard break-up that took her years to get over. She wondered what she could have done differently, what was wrong with her, and most painful of all, that maybe one day he would change his mind.
Her ex left her dangling, telling her that even though he couldn’t be with her anymore (blaming it on outside circumstances), he would still always have feelings for her. Yikes. This happens way more often than we think.
She told me, “The door was left wide open. I never had my questions answered. My desperation and emotion got in the way of asking for closure and instead I played the victim and wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Because he told her he still cared, she hoped in vain that she could fix whatever it was that was keeping him from staying with her.
She said, “I felt loss and uncertainty. I hated not knowing what the future was going to look like without that person in it. The person I normally processed my negative emotions with was the person who was leaving.”
These feelings are all too relatable for many of us.
Advice from a Real-Life Break-Up Story
I asked this person what, looking back, is the best advice she has for someone moving on from a break-up and she shared these wise words:
“Moving on is a process. I kept expecting to wake up one day with a healed heart full of forgiveness, but that’s not how it works. You think you are over it, and then you remember a new hurt spot that never got addressed. Talk about it with people you trust, then drop it, and keep moving forward.”
Create meaning from your break-up story and move forward.
Break-ups are normal, but your break-up story is unique. It can make you stronger, braver, and wiser, even though at first it might not feel that way.
In How to Fix a Broken Heart, Dr. Winch says that in order to get out of our rut and move on from a break-up, “We have to reconnect to our core so we can get back in touch with the essence of what makes us who we are.”
Focus on finding your identity. Figure who you are without your ex. Remember, you get to be you. Think about the potential for the future and start making new plans for yourself without your ex.
Instead of thinking, “I’ll never find someone better,’ think, “I deserve better.”
You are deserving of love, care, and effort. Even just by being single, you are deserving better than being with someone who doesn’t want you.
Focus on where you are right now. Consider the lessons you learned, and why right now there are parts of you that are stronger, smarter, and happier because of them.
If you want to learn more about how to move on from your break-up, I sincerely suggest you read How to Fix a Broken Heart. It’s a short book filled with soul-touching realities of heartbreak and well-researched, attainable solutions that can fix a broken heart.