“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” –Herman Hesse.
Letting go of someone you love—either romantically or platonically—is one of the more difficult parts of life. The aftermath of a breakup is a lot like a seesaw. Some days will be okay, and others will fill you with excruciating pain and leave you wondering if you made the right decision. While ending a relationship is difficult, it’s important to understand that sometimes it’s the best for both parties.
Even though it’s easier said than done, after a breakup it’s essential to move on. Here are nine steps for letting go of someone that will help you move on:
1. Make sure this is what you want.
The decision to let someone go doesn’t happen overnight—a lot of thought goes into it. Before anything, evaluate your relationship. Do you really want to end things? If you’re unsure, it’s okay to give yourself more time. If you’re ready to let go and move on, do it sooner rather than later. It’ll hurt the other person—especially if it’s unexpected—but it’s not fair to lead someone on.
2. Distance yourself—physically and emotionally.
After the break up, begin distancing yourself from your ex. Some quick fixes are deleting their phone number and unfollowing them on social media. (However, if you’ve decided remain friends with your ex, you may want to mute your ex for a while instead.) Depending on what kind of relationship you had with this person (and the seriousness of it) you may have some physical objects to part with too. If your ex doesn’t want them, donating these items is always a great idea.
For people that live in the same city, running into an ex-friend/boyfriend/girlfriend can be a concern. If you’re worried about running into them around town, try avoiding the places you used to frequent with them, at least for the time being. Try out new restaurants, parks, and more—maybe you’ll even find something you really like, but would have never done in your past relationship.
3. Learn from the relationship.
Identify the main reason(s) you let this person go. This doesn’t mean you simply focus on all the negative aspects of the relationship, but take a step back and look at where things went wrong. Try to figure out what role you played and learn from it. What worked and what didn’t? Learning from our mistakes helps us take responsibility for our actions and can lead to healthier, future relationships.
4. Give yourself time to grieve.
In many ways, letting go of someone is similar to experiencing a death—one of the hardest parts about letting go is feeling like something is missing in your life. This feeling of emptiness is tough, but it won’t last forever. Be in tune with your feelings. Allow yourself to feel all the pain, sadness, frustration, and anger. Feel it, and know that it’s temporary.
5. Free yourself from negative feelings.
What you need to let go of will vary from person to person. You may need to let go of the anger you have about the way they treated you. You might need to free yourself from constantly wondering what you could have done differently. You may also need to let go of the hopes and dreams you had for the future you envisioned with your ex.
Figure out what it is you need to let go of, and ask yourself, “Am I willing to let go of this?”
6. Forgive yourself.
Forgiveness is key. No matter how the relationship ended, you need to make peace with yourself. Stop the ruminating self-doubt, that if only you’d done something differently, then this all wouldn’t be happening right now. You’re human—you’re allowed to make mistakes. What’s important is that we learn and grow from them.
By forgiving yourself, you’ll be more open to giving and receiving love in the future, which is key for a healthy, long-lasting relationship.
7. Accept that you can’t control everything.
Regardless of how hard you try, there are some things that are out of your control. This can be a tough pill to swallow. You can’t make someone love you, you can’t make them be the person you want them to be, and you can’t make them stay if they want to leave. It’s hard, but when you realize and accept that you have no control over what’s outside of you, it can actually help with your stress and anxiety.
What you do have control over are your feelings. Take time to process them. Practice self-care. Become the best you. These are all things that are completely within your control. Focus your time and energy on yourself, instead of worrying and stressing over things that can’t be changed. Which brings us to…
8. Practice self-care.
When you’re in the process of letting go, you may not feel like your normal self. You may have less energy, feel less motivated, and feel a little depressed overall. When you feel like this, it’s important to make your wellbeing your top priority. Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest, eating well, and staying active. Hang out with the people that bring you joy and try to cut as much toxicity out of your life as possible.
Also give yourself time to grieve. Honor the pain you feel without judgement. Cry when you need to—this is not a sign of weakness. Crying actually allows you to release stress and heal, and there’s no shame in that.
9. Ask yourself what it is you really want in a relationship.
When you’re ready for a new, serious relationship, it’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how can you possibly find it?
If you’re a list person, do this: Write down everything you want from someone in a relationship—this can be as short or long as you like. Think about the person you’re letting go of. Do they match up with the things on your list? Chances are, if you’re reading this article, they won’t.
Allow yourself to let go and move on. It’ll be hard in the short-term, but chances are you thank yourself down the road.