It’s easy to find advice for someone going through a breakup, but how do you determine the best advice?
The best advice for someone going through a breakup is advice that truly helps.
What is Needed for Someone Going Through a Breakup
When you’re going through a breakup, you have two primary needs: coping well with your emotions and learning how to move forward.
When you cope well with your emotions, you do not react in hurtful ways to your pain. Instead, you find coping skills that allow you to feel a little bit better.
Learning how to move forward as a single person involves grieving first.
Coping Well with Sadness
Despite messages of toxic positivity common in our culture, your sadness is completely justified. You don’t need to “just get over it.” Rather, it’s important to honor the truth of your sadness.
Coping well with sadness includes letting yourself cry when you feel like it. Unfortunately, a lot of people were raised to equate sadness with weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Crying is proven to help you relieve stress and feel more balanced emotionally.
If you are the type of person who doesn’t normally cry, simply allow yourself to be open to crying if it does happen rather than pushing it down. However, if you find you are losing yourself in your tears, it’s important to find balance in this. Otherwise, you risk feeling further stuck and overwhelmed. Try setting time limits i.e., an alarm for 15 minutes, to cry for this amount of time. Then visualize putting your sadness and tears in a container. This will allow you to move forward with your day, or night, more calmly.
Grieving Your Loss in a Healthy Way
Grief is an emotion which comes in waves. It’s natural to feel intensely sad at times if you’re going through a breakup. It’s also completely natural to have moments where you feel completely ok.
To cope well after going through a breakup, it’s important for someone to radically accept their ups and downs. You are not bad if you feel sad. Also, there is nothing wrong with if you feel ok at times after your breakup. Or if you feel anger (or any other emotion) after your breakup, this is natural too.
Best Advice for Someone Going Through a Breakup Tip #2: Don’t Turn the Volume Up (or Down) on Your Emotions
Often, clients in therapy will try to cope with their emotions by turning their emotions up or down. The latter is when a person suppresses their emotions. Maybe they will stay constantly busy with work, school, or chores to not “feel” their emotions. Or they may do things to feel numb like drink or smoke too much.
The problem with suppression is that it always makes you feel worse later. For example, if you try to cope with a breakup by getting drunk, the next day not only will you still have your loss but you’ll also be hungover.
Or people will do things like listening to super sad music, or watching tearjerkers, to intensify their pain. To feel better after a breakup, it’s important to feel your emotions with balance.
Balancing Your Emotions
If you are the type of person who tends to intensify your pain, it’s important to stay mindful of this. Work to avoid specific triggers like listening to the most depressing music you can find or watching romantic movies. Instead, you may even want to create a new, more hopeful playlist to listen to instead. (Consciously trying to feel different emotions is a skill from Dialectical Behavior Therapy.)
If you tend to suppress your emotions instead, refer to Tip #1. Let yourself cry if the tears ever arise. Also, avoid numbing strategies such as abusing substances – or rushing into sex with another person.
Journaling to Balance Your Emotions
When a client needs to balance their emotions, as a therapist, I always recommend journaling. This is a skill where you simply write whatever you are thinking, or feeling, in the moment. The value of journaling is it helps you process your emotions. This allows for healing and being able to move forward eventually.
Often, people worry they are not journaling correctly, yet you cannot do this wrong. All you need to do is to write out your thoughts and feelings. You can even journal “I don’t know what to say right now….” And keep going, trying to stay curious and open to what comes up. Note: If you tend to get lost in your emotions, try setting a time limit on how long you journal for to not get overwhelmed.
Of course, journaling isn’t for everyone. If this is true for you, you may want to try other forms of processing your emotions such as writing poetry or songs. Or you may choose to create art based on the emotions you are feeling.
Best Advice for Someone Going Through a Breakup Tip #3: Care for Your Body
Commonly, when someone is going through a breakup, they will neglect their bodies. This is completely understandable as sadness is an emotion that may make you feel sluggish or weighed down. At the same time, to cope well after a breakup, it’s necessary to keep caring for your body in simple ways.
It’s completely ok if you don’t want to go to the gym but some movement is critical after a breakup. After all, exercise is an amazing natural antidepressant. If you can, try to go out for a walk most days. Or if all you can muster the energy for is some chores, or gentle yoga, please know this counts too. Even gentle movement can help keep depression at bay.
Furthermore, please try to ensure you are staying hydrated. Research shows that even slight dehydration in women causes mood issues. Therefore, to cope well after a breakup, it’s critical to keep your body hydrated (and moving).
Best Advice for Someone Going Through a Breakup Tip #4: Practice Self-Compassion
When someone is going through a breakup, it’s common for them to be extremely hard on themselves. You may find you are being extra critical towards yourself. This is especially true if your breakup triggered feelings of insecurity.
To cope better with this self-criticism, try being more self-compassionate. Basically, this is when you are kind and understanding towards yourself. You can validate that your feelings including insecurity make sense after a breakup. You can remember to be kind and nurturing towards your emotions and bodies (all these tips) by practicing self-compassion.
Also, self-compassion reminds you that you’re not alone.
You’re Not Alone After a Breakup
One of the worst parts after a breakup is often the sense of isolation you may feel.
When a person is going through a breakup, it’s natural for them to look around and feel like they are the only one suffering. They may see happy couples everywhere they turn. After a breakup, a person may feel all alone.
However, self-compassion teaches us to remember our common humanity. All people experience pain and suffering. You are not alone right now. In fact, many people in this very moment are going through a breakup with you. Of course, you may not know these people and yet, you are not alone.
When you remember your common humanity – and that many people have experienced a breakup – this helps you be gentler towards yourself. You are not a “loser” or any other word you may call yourself for experiencing a breakup right now. You’re simply human.
Best Advice for Someone Going Through a Breakup Tip #5: Set Healthy Boundaries for Yourself
Healthy boundaries have two parts: the limits you set with others to feel safe and the limits you set with yourself to be safe person to yourself and others.
To cope well with a breakup, it’s important to set limits with yourself. These include allowing yourself to process your emotions and to continue caring for your body. There are also necessary boundaries when you’re going through a breakup.
The most important boundary you may need to set with yourself is to interrupt any temptation you may have to reach out, or stay in contact with, your ex.
Staying in Contact Prevents Healing After a Breakup
If you and your ex just weren’t compatible, and you want to stay friends, it’s still necessary to have a break. This time will allow you to truly process any grief after a breakup to truly be friends.
It’s valuable to delete your ex from social media right now as seeing them when you scroll may trigger, and intensify, your emotions right now (see tips 1 and 2). Also, if you have mutual friends, you may want to set limits on what they share with you about your ex.
If you’re tempted to get back together, try writing out a pros/cons list. Look at how you likely broke up for a reason – even if you didn’t really want to. Also, ensure you have identified your non-negotiable needs. If your ex doesn’t meet even one of these needs, your relationship cannot be viable long-term. It’s healthy, and loving, to allow yourself to move on rather than delaying your grief.
Healing after a Breakup and Abuse
If your ex was abusive, this is your reminder you broke up for a reason.
However, even after abuse – or especially after narcissistic abuse – it’s natural to want to get back with your ex. Yet to heal, it’s important to go “no contact.”
At this time, it’s important to work on developing a plan to avoid reaching out to your ex. You may want to keep your phone in another room when you’re at home. Or maybe you want to avoid getting drunk right now as this may limit your defenses.
You may also want to develop a Coping Ahead plan (this is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy skill) to identify how you want to cope if your ex reaches out. This plan could include deleting the message right away, leaving for a walk, and calling a friend.
You may also want to seek therapy, or other supports, like the article, “Healing from Narcissistic Abuse: The Top 3 Ways to Heal From a Relationship Therapist.“
You Can Heal After a Breakup
If you are going through a breakup, you can cope effectively with this pain. You truly are strong enough to do this. And when you practice these breakup coping strategies, you are skilled enough to heal after a breakup as smoothly as possible.
Please give yourself time, and understanding, that there is no time formula for how fast you can get over a breakup. Just know that by giving yourself space to feel your emotions, caring for yourself, and setting boundaries, you are on the road to healing after your breakup.
About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
She is currently working on her third book, Self-Love Made Possible: The 5-Step Guide to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Become Your Own Best Friend. To be notified of its release, please join the waitlist here.
Her course, Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself, provides the skills necessary to have a healthy relationship. This course features over a year of relationship skills you would learn in therapy. Students share this course has been “life changing.”
Each week, she answers your relationship questions from a place of expertise and compassion. To submit your relationship questions, please DM her @confidentlyauthentic.com or you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your question.