Can you mend a broken heart after a long term relationship? Yes. Have faith in your ability to heal from heartbreak, and get familiar with the 7-step process ahead…
At the end of a long term relationship, only a few lucky folks escape feeling free of heartbreak. Especially after a lengthy period of time, you likely expected this to last, and may have even counted on it to last. Is it even possible to heal from this severe a broken heart?
It’s understandable to feel the entire life you imagined is crumbling. Maybe you were imagining the rest of your life with this person — it could even be that you were preparing for marriage! Heartbreak and emotional pain tint your view of the world, and make it even harder to start over again.
During this time, nobody could blame you for feeling stuck, helpless, confused, or even altogether lost. Give yourself time, and know that you can and will heal. That said, it can be hard to know where to start.
Emotional numbness and heartbreak
If you find yourself experiencing emotional numbness during this time, know that that’s actually common. Emotional numbness is a potential symptom of depression. You may be facing situational depression due to the break-up, but if you find that it’s a concern long-term, you might consider looking into getting professional treatment.
How you can mend a broken heart: 8 steps
This is one situation where it’s particularly hard to break up, so first, give yourself abundant grace during this time. Know that your feelings are valid, and if you need to spend some time crying, do it. Studies show that it’s healthy to cry during the healing process.
Break the process down into small steps, so that it’s harder to get caught up in feeling ineffective, or worrying your progress is too slow. Follow these steps in sequence to make the most of this time and heal from heartbreak.
1. Disconnect from your ex
If you care about someone and the relationship or break-up wasn’t particularly volatile, you might’ve said to each other, “let’s just be friends,” and you might’ve meant it.
It’s definitely possible to be friends after a break-up, but it’s totally okay if you can’t do it right away. Not only is it okay, but even if you think that you can jump into being friends head-on, many people find that it’s a good idea to take some time away from your ex to heal a broken heart post-breakup.
It’s hard to get over someone if they’re in your peripheral all of the time. Mute or unfollow your ex on social media, and refrain from conversations outside those that are necessary, such as conversations related to co-parenting if you have kids together.
If you don’t have kids together and aren’t working through any property distribution or similar issues related to the break-up, you might even block your ex for the time being. It can be hard to see pictures of a recent ex when you’re trying to get over them, as can hearing about what’s going on in their life. You might even see them posting about dating or new relationships.
Know that you aren’t obligated to keep talking to someone or following someone on social media if it isn’t healthy for you. If your ex tries to reach out in a way that you aren’t comfortable with, set boundaries and prioritize your needs.
2. Understand the five stages of grief
It can be helpful to know the five stages of grief. Grief isn’t reserved for loss — the five stages of grief are also applicable to break-ups, divorce, or separation.
The five stages of break-up grief are also denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You might experience the five stages of grief in order, or you might go back and forth from one to the other.
A lesson frequently learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other forms of evidence-based mental health therapy is to “stop should-ing yourself.” What that means is to stop telling yourself what you should feel or where you should be at.
In this case, you might tell yourself that you “should” be over the relationship or that you “should have” moved forward more than you have. Acknowledge your feelings as they come in, and don’t gaslight yourself or tell yourself that you “shouldn’t” feel the way you feel.
It’s best to process emotions adequately and to let yourself experience the stages of grief rather than holding it all in. That way, you can move forward naturally and make sure that you process what you’re going through and how much the break-up hurt — rather than internalizing it and allowing it to negatively impact your wellbeing and relationships moving forward.
3. Make yourself cry
If you want to let it all out but can’t seem to get yourself to cry, listening to music can be extremely helpful. A lot of people have a song that makes them cry or a movie that makes them cry; consume that media right now so that you can get some emotional release!
Studies show that listening to music is beneficial to our mental health for a multitude of reasons, so turn on the kind of music that feels the most helpful and resonant to you at the moment, whether it’s sad or upbeat.
4. Spend time with friends
Research indicates that social relationships are an essential part of our emotional and physical wellbeing. If you’re healing from anything, including a break-up from a short or long term relationship, spending time with your support system is vital. If you don’t have a support system already, put yourself out there during this time. You may not be ready for the dating scene again quite yet, and you don’t need to be. When you decide to return to dating is up to you.
The good news is that dating isn’t the only way to meet new people; there are plenty of apps or websites that allow you to make friends nowadays, such as meetup and Bumble BFF.
You can also meet new people through classes or activities, whether they’re online in your local area. Art can be incredibly therapeutic, so if it’s something you’re interested in, go for it! The same is true for sports, which often double as a way to let off some steam, or classes that teach tangible skills like cooking or building, which are great for socializing and increasing self-esteem.
You might also consider reaching out to old friends to see how they’re doing or spending time with your family, whether that’s your chosen family or blood family.
5. Think about what YOU want
After a break-up, especially a long-term break up, you have to learn what it means to be you outside of a relationship again. You need to return to your home base. Think about what matters to you and what you want.
It’s not that being coupled takes someone away from being themselves, though in a toxic relationship, it can. It’s that, when things are solely up to you, there are certain wants or needs that you might have that you weren’t able to see or pursue when you were with your ex-partner. It could even be why you broke up.
For example, if you would rather move closer to your family and you had moved far away with them because of their job, you can move wherever you want to now. It’s not that you didn’t like where you were then, but it is that you get to make your own choices now and that it’s solely up to you without anyone else in mind. Plant your roots where you want to plant them, and approach everything in your life that way.
Think about what you want to do in your day to day life. Do you want to engage in specific hobbies? Spend more time with friends and family? Learn a new skill or pursue a new career? Don’t hold back. You only have one life, so go after the things you want.
6. Create a space that has “you” written all over it
If you were in a long term relationship, it’s possible that you might’ve lived together and that one or both of you are moving to a new home or apartment. Similar to doing something you’ve always wanted to do and thinking about what you want, now is a great time to decorate your space the way that you want. You don’t need to keep pictures of them around, nor do you have to refrain from putting up the printed curtains or posters you loved that they hated.
Decorating can be therapeutic, and it’s always beneficial to have a space that you feel good in. Small touches matter, and cultivating a space you enjoy doesn’t have to be astronomically expensive.
- Deep cleaning your space,
- getting yourself new sheets,
- buying a couple of plants to tend, or
- rearranging your furniture
…are all ways that you can make your space more “you” and boost your mood.
Removing clutter and keeping your surroundings tidy is actually proven to benefit your mental health, so don’t underestimate how helpful this can be!
7. Do something you’ve always wanted to do
This is advice that you will likely see everywhere, and you might be tired of hearing it, but it remains beneficial and is backed up by research on relationships and healing from break-ups.
Depending on the nature of your relationship, you might’ve spent a lot of your time with your ex or focused on your ex. Now, you have some free space both in terms of your mind and your time.
Is there a hair color you’ve always wanted to try? Have you always wanted to get a tattoo? Have you wanted to try stand up comedy but haven’t been brave enough? Now’s the time to take an online class, write some content, or join a troupe!
Get something off of your bucket list, and you’ll feel a major boost. It provides a sense of accomplishment and can help you either rebuild or continue to build your sense of self, depending on where you’re at.
And the entire time… focus on your mental health!
If you’re struggling to heal from a break-up, counseling can help. Even if you don’t go to counseling, making your mental health a priority is crucial during this time.
Surround yourself with people and things that are positive for you. In some instances, you might consider joining a support group or group activity to put yourself out there.
Reduce stress as much as possible and practice self-care, even if it’s through acts such as bathing, making sure to eat, and keeping your space clean.
You might also try journaling, meditation, using positive affirmations, and other popular techniques for emotional wellbeing.
Everyone heals differently, so listen to your internal wisdom and do what’s right for you. In time, you can get through this and will move on. If you prefer not to get through it alone, there are always understanding folks to chat with, here.