August 23, 2019

Permission to Feel and a Chance to Heal: 5 Tips for Healing After a Breakup

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Do you know…

∗  Someone like Norman? Within two weeks of his live-in girlfriend’s leaving him, he was making a profile on eHarmony. He said he wanted to “move on” and prove to himself (and his ex) that he’d be okay. He was not okay. At least not yet.

∗  Someone like Janelle? When her relationship ended it was a brutal surprise. She felt blindsided and went into shock. She started working crazy overtime hours and when she was at home did nothing but binge-watch Netflix, except when she was repainting the whole house.

∗  Or someone like Harshan? When his 15 year marriage ended, he didn’t tell a soul. His mom found out one day when she came over to find a sleeping bag on the couch (the bed was gone) and a trash can full of pizza boxes. He felt like a failure and preferred to suffer alone than face the world.

I know people like Norman, Janelle, and Harshan. At times, we may have been people like Norman, Janelle, and Harshan.

The emotions that overtake us during and after a break-up are powerful and hurtful, yet we often don’t treat ourselves with love and compassion. When we are sick or injured, we care for ourselves so we get better. A break-up is an injury, and can make us feel sick inside. There may not be a visible scar, and an X-Ray may not be able to diagnose it, but it is an injury nonetheless and you owe it to yourself to recover well, in a healthy way, with your sense of self intact. 

How? Here are five quick tips.

  1. Take all the time you need. We all process things in different ways and at different paces. There is no magical amount of time—hours, days, weeks, months—to “get over it.” Don’t pressure yourself or let others pressure you with thoughts of “You still haven’t moved on?” Norman made a mistake. He rushed himself even though he was really not ready to date again. He figured that out, but only after a few painful get-to-know-you meetings during which it became clear that he needed to deactivate his eHarmony profile. If you’re like most people, the healing happens gradually, as you come back to yourself. There are many changes to navigate, and embracing them will take time. Physical change (you may have moved), emotional change (anger, sadness, confusion, loneliness), and spiritual change (you may feel you’ve lost your peace, your groundedness)
  1. Meditation. Tapping into your own vision, wisdom, and knowing is a way to regain your sense of groundedness and remind yourself who you are on your own. It is also a way to find peace with the time it will take to heal. Our instinct is sometimes to block things out. Avoid. Lose ourselves, like Janelle, in work, or mindless entertainment. But that only slows down your process. If you are not familiar with meditation, try some guided meditations (you can download them or purchase them as CDs). They are a great place to start because having someone’s voice guiding you through the process keeps your mind from wandering to places you don’t want to go. If you don’t feel ready for sitting meditation, try moving meditation. This can be as simple as a quiet walk in the woods, or at dawn in a nearby park. No iPod, no earbuds.
  1. Lean in. To whatever you are feeling. Neither Norman nor Janelle allowed for this part. They did not want to look at the pain, sorrow, loss, confusion, fear. Give those feelings names. By putting labels on them you will understand yourself and your process better. You can let the feelings move through you rather than getting stuck as big, dark, unnamed scary things blocking your healing and growth. Remember what you resist persists. So don’t resist. Lean in. That’s how you will, in time, let go.
  1. Write it down. Get a notebook to use as a journal in which you write down everything you are feeling, thinking, doing, and being. Try to make this an everyday commitment. You will discover things that you did not know. There is a great “bonus” exercise you can try if you want, to discover your inner wisdom. Get very still and centered and set your intention to learn something true from within yourself. Put your pen or pencil in your non-dominant hand and rest it on the page. See what comes, and write it down with that hand. If you can read it when you’re done (that’s the hard part) you may see some pretty amazing gems came through you!
  1. Feel the love. It’s there. Matt’s loving mom lived 34 miles away but he never reached out to her. Don’t let feelings of shame or failure keep you from surrounding yourself with the loving support of your people. Whoever they are. Family or friends. This is not the time to tough it out on your own. The world is full of love, and you need that now. Go to the people who make you feel good about yourself and love you even when your eyes are red and your nose is running. Enjoy their warm, supportive, and jovial presence.

    These simple tips are really just about giving yourself permission to feel, and a chance to heal. And you will heal. It won’t feel like this forever. There is a happy future out there for you.


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