Healing a broken heart after a breakup is incredibly tough, especially when you’ve accepted that it’s really the end.
My recent breakup with my boyfriend of almost two years hit me like a ton of bricks and left me completely zombified in the last days of 2017. With the New Year in full force and the continued silence on his end, I knew it was really over and that I needed to pick my ass up, move on, and begin healing. But how? I’ve had plenty of breakups, but had never really prescribed to taking actual steps to mend a broken heart before. About three weeks in, though, I’ve employed a few techniques that are really helping.
How can you start healing?
1. Keep doing the things you used to do.
It can be really hard to keep doing all the things you used to do with your ex, but keep doing them anyway. It helps. I promise.
Playing guitar and singing with my ex was a really peaceful and intimate part of our relationship. I LITERALLY had teardrops on my guitar the first few times I played it after we broke up, but I forced myself to keep on strumming. As much as it hurt, I wasn’t about to lose that part of “me,” because I love music so much. The first few days were rough, but lately, whether I’m plucking out a cheesy Taylor Swift tune or something that I’ve never played before, I haven’t had to brush away a single tear.
Life goes on. I still go to the gym and drink those awful-tasting protein shakes after my workout. I still laugh until my stomach hurts at inappropriate memes and text them to people. I still listen to The Lumineers and sing 80’s love songs like a fool at the top of my lungs in the car. I still order grilled chicken Go Wraps from Wendy’s (hold the honey mustard, add pickles), and I still eat Cousin Willie’s microwave kettle corn while watching movies (because that shit is delicious).
Each time I’ve done these things since the breakup, my heart hurts a little bit less. I’m getting more used to doing them by myself and I’m finally starting to look forward to the day I’ll do them with someone else.
2. Do new things, too.
Our breakup was actually pretty timely since it coincided with the end of the year. Even though I was hurting like hell, by New Year’s Day I had a list of new adventures I want to have and goals I want to achieve this year. It felt like a way to start fresh and make new memories while also continuing the healing process.
Facebook is a great way to find and follow local events. I am amazed by the volume of local brewery, bourbon and wine tasting events, yoga workshops, craft opportunities, book clubs, and SO many concerts. My ex didn’t quite share my love of alternative/Indie rock, and I can’t wait to go see some of my favorite artists this year.
Some other adventures I’ll embark on (and write about, so stay tuned!) are learning the art of Burlesque dance and performing in a show, transforming my crappy back yard shed into a “She-Shed,” and learning to sail. I also plan to turn my backyard into a magical Alice in Wonderland-style wedding venue and perform my sister’s wedding, self-publish my first e-book, and go on a singles cruise. The world is my oyster, and there is nothing holding me back.
What do you want to learn? What’s your next adventure? Draft a list in your phone, draw up a vision board, or start Pinterest-ing like crazy. Just get started. What are you waiting for?
3. Don’t stalk your ex on social media.
How hard is this one? So f’ing hard! Right after our breakup and the requisite “unfriending” on Facebook, I continued to stalk him for a few days (I am an expert Facebook stalker – I am not even ashamed). My blood boiled when I saw he had Liked the new profile pic of one of our cute mutual Friends. WTF??? Then, my heart sank even lower than it already had. Why in the hell wasn’t he crying his eyeballs out and grieving for me, too? I was down half a box of Kleenex, killing a bottle of red wine a day and barely able to eat, and here he was Liking up a storm on social media? What ELSE was he doing? Thank god we are both Instagram-illiterate, or I’m sure I’d have stalked him there, too.
I know, I know. I was being completely psychotic. It wasn’t pretty. And I knew I’d only continue to make myself miserable if I didn’t Block him completely. I went a step further and either Unfriended or Unfollowed the majority of the mutual friends I’d met through him during our relationship, too. (In doing this I carefully weighed whether the mutual friendships had any basis with him no longer in my life. In most cases, the answer was No.) I figured why torture myself and risk seeing pictures of him in their newsfeeds? It was unnecessary and not healthy for a broken heart trying to heal.
Do yourself the same favor and don’t stalk your ex. It’s over. Let. It. Go. Your heart will thank you.
4. Reassure yourself.
In the the first few days after the breakup I often found myself shakily muttering out loud to myself, “I’m gonna be OK. It’s gonna be OK. I’m gonna be OK.” It was usually as I was falling asleep at night, or first thing in the morning when that empty, longing ache would take hold. Sometimes it was as I was sitting in my car, ready to go into someplace we had gone together.
Don’t knock it: Self-reassurance really does help. Look in the mirror. Wipe your tears away. Remind yourself that you are amazing. You are strong. And your heart WILL heal.
5. Come to terms with things you did wrong during the relationship.
Some manner of inner reflection is crucial in healing from a breakup and moving on. At this point, it really doesn’t matter WHO was the reason for the breakup. It’s over. All you can do is focus on YOU. There is always something YOU can take away from how you behaved in the relationship. Be honest with yourself, even if it hurts.
I was a complete jackass when my ex, who is an introvert, needed space. I took it personally every single time, instead of just giving him a day or so to recharge, without question. I didn’t understand why he needed it, and I always assumed it was something I was doing wrong. We did not communicate well, so I never quite got the message.
I also felt the need to inundate him with a barrage of texts when I was upset, instead of waiting to talk with him in person. Even knowing he needed time to process and think through each of my thoughts, I was disappointed when he didn’t respond right away, or with the insight I expected him to have. It left him feeling overwhelmed and me feeling pushed aside.
I know I did a lot of things right, too! So please, as you reflect on things you could have done differently if given the chance, don’t forget to reflect on all the things you did RIGHT. Even if you weren’t perfect, you brought something wonderful to your ex’s life, at least for a time. Ultimately, recognize that for all the good and for all the effort you were both probably willing to put in to make it work, some things simply aren’t meant to be.
Forgive yourself, free yourself, and move on with the lessons.
6. Let go of the future you thought you were going to have.
Having a new list of adventures and goals for your future will make this easier, but if you’re like me and in a similar phase in your life (getting ready to marry a kid off, another kid leaving soon for college, and a house starting to feel too big for what you need) you may have truly thought your ex was the missing piece you’d been looking for. Your final chapter. In addition to loving this person like crazy and imagining traveling the world and learning new things together, you’d probably imagined what combining your households and living together would look like. Maybe you’d even considered a timeline for engagement, buying a new house together, marriage, and all that other shit.
You have to let it go. Plain and simple.
Remind yourself that your future is bright, with or without a partner. And get that Adventure List going.
7. As your heart heals, don’t close it off completely.
Like a scab that grows over a wound to protect it, you may be tempted to close your heart off all the way as you begin to heal. You don’t want to feel this kind of pain ever again, right?
Don’t do that. Even if you’re like me and plan to stay single for a while, there is someone wonderful out there waiting to love you. It could be someone you’ve known for years, or someone brand new. They’ll speak the same love language as you, and you’ll build something amazing together. As difficult as it may be, leave yourself open. Have a little hope. Go on dates. Take someone along for one of your adventures.
On the flip side, don’t give your heart away again too soon! Maybe you have completed all of the steps above and no longer feel a dagger in your heart when you hear a certain song or think about his smile, but you’re probably still not ready to give it to someone just yet. Give yourself time, but have plenty of fun in the process.
Is my heart fully healed yet?
No way. But it’s at about 86.2%, and it gets better every single day.