Love hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot. However you got here—whether your partner broke up with you, or you decided to break it off—grief is a process you have to work through. Take the time to work all the way through it and you’ll come out the other side stronger and smarter.
In the beginning, you might feel numb or dazed or angry, guilty, shocked, crushed—or all of these things. You will probably careen from one emotion to the next. Sometimes you’ll need to relive and rethink the end of a relationship. Other times you’ll need a break from thinking about it.
Allow yourself to feel.
Just allow everything to be exactly as it is. Healthy grief lets you experience your feelings in your body, your mind, and your heart. Don’t try to repress or ignore your pain, because it will only come up again later. Don’t make the mistake of trying to distract yourself from painful feelings. It’s hard to hurt, but acknowledging and experiencing your pain is an essential part of grief. Feel what you feel—as much of it as there is.
Care for yourself.
This is the time to care for and nurture yourself. You need to create a safe and sacred space to process your grief. This might include massage or meditation, mani-pedis or spin classes—however you cherish and nurture yourself. Use self-care to give yourself the strength to experience your pain. Your resilience will surprise you.
Learn from it.
You will feel empowered as you gain some distance from your loss and find meaning from it. Now is the time to integrate the experience into your life by embracing all the lessons you’ve learned from the breakup. Create new interests, new perspectives, and new insights into what worked and what didn’t. Think about something you always wanted to do, just for yourself. Maybe it’s joining a gym, taking up yoga, hiking, knitting, or a book group. Now that you’re single, you finally have the time to do it.
It’s also the time to reconnect with the activities and people you neglected while you were in your relationship. Reconnecting will remind you that you are cherished and valued by others. You may not have a love interest at the moment, but you have plenty of people who love you.
Here’s a great way to remind yourself of that: Throw a dinner party. Think about who you miss and who you’d like to see again, and invite them to dinner. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If the idea of a dinner party seems intimidating, serve take-out on paper plates. But go shopping for the nice paper plates, and get the best take-out food you can. Buy a good bottle of wine, and treat yourself and your guests to something special. You all deserve it!
Write it down.
Now, sit down and write your ex a letter. This is a great way to sort through your thoughts and feelings, and putting them on paper is very cathartic. Finally, you have an opportunity to say everything you have always wanted to say. You can tell your ex how much you long for him/her, miss him/her, and how much he/she hurt you, betrayed you, how bad in bed he/she was, how ungrateful he/she is.
This letter is for you only, an opportunity to lay everything out there emotionally so you no longer hold it in your body, your mind, your heart. Because you’re not going to send it, you don’t have to watch what you say or how you say it.
After you write it, you can burn the letter in a goodbye ceremony, tear it up, or flush it down the toilet. Or put it away and reread it whenever you’re tempted to try to get back together—to remind yourself of why that relationship will never work.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Certified Transformation and Recovery Coach and the leading Psychotherapist on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and Sex Addiction. She helps singles navigate the dating process to find the love of their lives. Take her quiz to find out if you’re a love addict, sign up for a 30-minute strategy session, or learn more about how to get over a break up. She is also the author of “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie:Kicking your Obsession”. Sherry maintains a private practice in Westlake Village, and is a sought after online dating and relationship coach. For more information visit www.sherrygaba.com.