Heartbreak is an agonizing, universal human experience that can leave us feeling shattered and lost. Whether it's the end of a romantic relationship, the loss of a loved one, or a deep friendship falling apart, the pain can be overwhelming. In simple terms, heartbreak is basically grief. Your experience is similar to that of someone mourning the death of a loved one - which is why it can feel so soul crushing. Living abroad or away from your family and friends can also exacerbate the pain, as you try to find ways to navigate the hurt in an unfamiliar environment.
But the good news is that healing from heartbreak is possible, and it's an opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery. It doesn't matter if your relationship lasted 2 weeks or 2 years, the pain is still the same. Length doesn't play a factor, but more so the depth and meaning the relationship had for you. You cannot truly heal from a heartbreak overnight, you have to go through the process to heal fast. Otherwise, a heartbreak that could be healed in 3 months could get prolonged for 3 years or more.
8 surefire ways to heal from a heartbreak
From my experience navigating and healing from heartbreak over the years, here are my 8 surefire steps to take to heal and find renewed happiness.
1. Allow Yourself to Grieve
The first step in healing from heartbreak is to acknowledge and accept your feelings. As previously mentioned, the pain of heartbreak is similar to mourning the death of a loved one. You're experiencing grief in both cases. You are not just mourning the end of the relationship but also the hopes and future you had with this person. Sometimes you are also mourning the idea of the person you thought they were. Once you start to see it that way, you'll be less hard on yourself on how quickly you should get through this process. It's okay to feel sad, angry, confused, or lost. Grieving is a natural part of the healing process. Give yourself permission to cry, to vent, and to feel the pain without judgment. Embrace your emotions as a crucial part of your journey to recovery.
In her book “On Death and Dying”, Elizabeth Kübler Ross wrote that grief can happen in 5 stages. They are:
Grieving is different for everyone and it's not linear; so you can find yourself returning to a previous stage multiple times or jumping around.
What happens when you don't grieve?
Avoiding your feelings will not help you recover or heal from heartbreak. One thing I can guarantee is that it'll definitely keep you stuck and worsen your pain later on. Yes it's hard and it's scary to face those feelings, but choosing to run away is simply delayed misery.
The best way to heal from heartbreak is to go through it and grieve the loss. If you choose to ignore and stuff your feelings down - whether that's engaging in risky or reckless behaviors (partying, drinking, (random) hookups, overworking etc.) the same pain will be waiting for you later on. The body does indeed keep score! It will show up in your next (good) relationship and cause you to sabotage them.
If you're struggling with this, check out our recent podcast episode to learn more:
2. Get Support
There are two ways you can get support during times of heartbreak - your support system or professional help.
It's essential to lean on your support system i.e. friends and family for emotional support and a listening ear. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can be incredibly therapeutic. As previously mentioned, it's important that your support system can sit with you in your grief instead of rushing you through the process. Let your friends and family know how they can support you and when you need space to let out your emotions.
If you feel overwhelmed or are unable to find support from friends or family, don't hesitate to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. Therapy is important for gaining some objectivity into your experience and finding ways to cope with the grief. It can also be a good tool to learn to identify your patterns and recognize the role you may have played in this dynamic. Incase you have privacy concerns, a therapist is bound by confidentiality laws except in cases where they think you may harm yourself. It's a crucial step for moving in the right direction and towards your healing in a non-judgmental way. A therapist will ask you the right questions and elicit information about your history that can serve as clues to help you move through your current situation.
How to do I find a good therapist?
You can start with a quick Google research like "therapist in [City]", then review their bio and areas of focus to determine what may be best for you. There are different areas of therapy e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as well as different focus areas e.g. anxiety, relationships, childhood trauma, immigration etc.
3. Self-Care Is Key
Heartbreak can take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. As a result, it's important you make self-care a priority during this challenging time. Ensure you're eating healthily, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. However, it's understandable if that is hard to do the first few weeks but ultimately, commit to doing at least the bare minimum to sustain yourself. The more you move and provide your body with the fuel it needs, the quicker you'll gradually start to feel better.
Overall, engage in activities that bring you joy, whether it's a hobby you love or discovering a new interest. Take care of yourself, both inside and out.
4. Reflect and Learn
Use this period of heartbreak as an opportunity for self-reflection. Journaling is a very powerful tool for healing and expressing all the hurt and pain you feel.
What can you learn from the experience? What could you have done differently, and what would you like to change in the future?
Acknowledge your own mistakes and shortcomings, but don't dwell on them. Instead, focus on personal growth and how to become a better version of yourself.
The good thing about journaling is that it's free and you can write your thoughts and reflections out in a notebook or digitally. Journaling gives you a similar feeling to seeing a therapist - except that its not talking, but writing. However, it still doesn't replace therapy and has its own benefit.
5. Set Boundaries
If the heartbreak was due to a relationship, it's crucial to establish boundaries with the person involved. Boundaries can look like initiating no contact so you can get some time to process, grieve and take care of yourself. It can also show up as choosing to not have sex with your ex, as that can prolong your suffering and give you a false sense of security.
Boundaries can also be especially challenging if you're trying to maintain a friendship or co-parenting situation. However, it's not required that you stay friends with an ex because the priority is you, and your healing right now. Maybe a friendship could be an option sometime in the future when things have settled and you've both had time to heal, but don't feel obligated to maintain a connection if it could jeopardize your healing.
6. Rediscover Your Identity
Heartbreak often leaves us feeling lost, as if a part of our identity has been taken away. You are used to doing things with your partner and are now forced to break the routine. Now you have to create new routines without your partner or substitute existing ones.
As difficult as this may be, it is also a great opportunity to transform yourself for the better - like the metamorphosis of a butterfly. Use this time to rediscover who you are as an individual, reconnect with your passions, set new goals, and find ways to rebuild your self-esteem. For example, if you experienced a divorce, it can be hard to imagine who you are besides a wife. Now you're forced to redefine and reinvent yourself. That may include deciding that you want to go back to school, get a job so you're financially independent or volunteer your time to a cause you're passionate about. In my case, I signed up for a beauty pageant because I needed an outlet - something different to feel confident and beautiful again. Needless to say, it worked out really well and enabled me transition smoothly to the next phase of my life with confidence.
Ultimately, it's really up to you to take the time away to decide what would help you find confidence again, navigate the identity crisis and move forward in your life. So embrace the opportunity to create a life that aligns with your values and desires.
7. Practice Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a powerful tool for healing. This doesn't necessarily mean forgiving the person who caused the heartbreak but forgiving yourself. Let go of any guilt, shame, or self-blame that may be weighing you down. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, allowing you to release the past and move forward. In addition, forgiving does not mean forgetting. Remember what happened in this relationship, why it ended, the lessons you learned about the qualities you desire in a partner, your patterns etc. Remember so you do not repeat the mistakes of the past. And if you do again, that's ok - reflect and keep working towards improving that area of your life.
8. Embrace Time
Healing from heartbreak is not a linear process, and it takes time. There's no fixed timeline for when you'll feel completely whole again. Be patient with yourself and allow the healing process to unfold at its own pace.
This is also why you MUST not let anyone rush you through this process. You shouldn't have to silence your emotions to make them feel comfortable. If they are uncomfortable with your sadness, communicate the importance of you going through this process to them. And if otherwise, take space away from them or find those that are willing to be patient with you in the process. Take your time to feel all your emotions so you don't act out in the worst ways later on. As you progress in the healing process, celebrate small victories along the way, and remember that healing is a journey, not a destination.
Heartbreak is an excruciating experience, but it's also an opportunity for personal growth, self-discovery, and transformation. By allowing yourself to grieve, seeking support, practicing self-care, reflecting and learning, setting boundaries, rediscovering your identity, practicing forgiveness, and embracing time, you can heal and emerge from heartbreak stronger and more resilient. Remember that you are not alone, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.