When a relationship ends, you probably feel devastated, depressed and maybe even despair.
The list of feelings a person may go through is endless. But how do you deal with them?
The key to healing grief is finding healthy ways to cope with it. Keep reading to learn X best ways to cope when a relationship ends.
Looking for ways to cope when a relationship ends? Learn the best coping methods to heal grief below.
When you break up with someone you cared about, like or love, there’s going to be a lot of feelings involved:
When the relationship ends, to cope with your feelings, you actually have to feel them. Often we first try to minimize, distract, numb or ignore them. But to make sure we actually get over someone and heal, we have to fully feel all our emotions. Become conscious of what you’re feeling. It can help to label them (ex. shock, sadness).
Feeling your feelings may mean crying and taking time to grieve by yourself or with loved ones.
Sometimes when a relationship ends, we look to the same person for support. Unfortunately, this is a bad idea. When we’re trying to get over someone, it’s best to fully break contact, or at least as much as you can.
For example, if you broke up with your boyfriend, stop texting them and don’t hang out—even as “friends.” The time may come where you can engage normally as friends again, but that’s not usually directly after the split. Create some space and give yourself some time to fully heal.
You might hope that your friend or ex will come around and you’ll get back together. But keeping hope can prevent you from moving on. Try to remind yourself that the relationship ended for a reason—whether your decision or not. As such, going back will not solve the problem.
Knowing it’s the end is difficult and in the short-term, may lead to heavier grief. The good news though is that dealing with your grief fully, without hope of getting back, will mean quicker healing in the long-term.
Whether or not you’re the person who decided to end the relationship, it’s always a good idea to apply self-compassion.
If you’re the person who ended the relationship, remind yourself that ending it for good reasons is the compassionate thing to do for another person. It’s more hurtful in the long run to continue an inauthentic relationship or one that you’re not able to give yourself to. Remind yourself that it’s normal to feel guilty or sad or relief or whatever you’re feeling. Try to accept it knowing that you did the best you could in that moment—even if it wasn’t perfect.
If you’re the person who got your heart broken, remind yourself that it’s normal to feel whatever you’re feeling, like sadness, grief, etc. Remind yourself that it’s okay to grieve and feel those feelings. Almost everyone goes through breakups and struggles with adjusting. For most people, it’s part of being human. Try to remember the common humanity in your experience and feelings.
One of the top ways to cope when a relationship ends is to lean on your social support system. Whether it’s family, friends or co-workers, aim to spend some time around them. When a relationship ends, we tend to retreat from the world, favoring alone time. While this can be a good idea to process your feelings in the beginning, try not to isolate yourself.
Ask family out for a meal, hang out with your friends more often, plan something fun with someone. And on days when you feel your worst, curl up with friends and let them hear you vent. Think about the people you love and turn to them for support. A 2016 study shows that social support may be a buffer against avoidance behaviors after a breakup.
When a relationship ends, we have a tendency to personalize it. If we’re the ones who ended it, we might feel guilty and that it’s our fault. If we’re not the ones who ended it, we may feel it’s our fault.
While we can be self-introspective, try to see the situation neutrally. Realize the ending isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. For example, incompatibility is more of a fact than someone’s fault. To help you cope when a relationship ends, try to accept that everyone has different wants and needs and things they’ll accept. If your set of needs is different than the other person’s, that’s okay. It may mean the end of a relationship, which is painful—but both people are allowed to have their needs.
After a relationship ends, we tend to get depressed and care less about self-care. However, engaging in self-care, even when we don’t feel like it, can make us feel better. Treating ourselves well, even when we don’t feel well, reaffirms to ourselves that we’re worth that effort. Self-care doesn’t have to mean massages and mani-pedis. Instead, go back to basics:
When a relationship first ends, it may be a good idea to take some time off from usual activities. This might mean taking more time to do nothing and process the spit. While living with a looser routine is okay in the beginning, eventually you’ll want to get back to your habits.
A good way to cope when a relationship ends is to shake up your routines. If your day-to-day life involved the relationship, you may have constant reminders of the split. Changing up your routine gives your brain a new pattern to learn. Consider reorganizing your mornings and nights and adding a new activity to each routine (ex. reading a book, meditating, doing sit-ups, etc.)
Meditation can help require your brain so it can better control your thoughts. When you have better control over your thoughts, you’ll also have more control over your emotions. In turn, this can help you dampen grief.
There’s many different types of meditation, so try a few and see which works best. You can cope when a relationship ends by trying breathing, visualization, walking meditations and more.
Consider trying this break up healing meditation below:
A good way to cope when a relationship ends is to use mindfulness exercises. Like meditation, mindfulness can help you control your thoughts, affecting your emotions.
Mindfulness exercises encourage you to pay attention to the exact moment rather than thinking about the past or present. To learn the easiest exercises, read: 12 Best Mindfulness Activities For Kids And Adults: Quick Break.
Nobody is perfect. But when we miss someone, we tend to overplay their good and downplay their bad. To balance this out, recount the person’s negative qualities. What are you happy you’ll never have to experience again? What did you dislike about them? What annoyed you? What qualities do they have that you hope your future partner/friend does NOT have?
Set a timer for 5 minutes and write down all the points you can think of. Refer back to this list whenever your mind is replaying the rose-colored glasses version of them. Remind yourself that you can find a friend or partner that doesn’t have these qualities and who’s likely a better match.
Sometimes it can help to visualize the end of the relationship. To do this, choose a candle you’ll dedicate to the breakup.
Light the candle and see the flame as your friendship/relationship. As the candle shrinks, visualize your relationship coming to a close and your feeling dissipating. Light this candle for a few hours each day if you can. When the candle is fully burned out, visualize your relationship as fully severed.
There’s plenty of ways to cope when a relationship ends; not all of them healthy. If you find yourself engaging in these, have some self-compassion and then try to find an alternative. Remind yourself that unhealthy coping only prolongs the pain. You’ll have to deal with your feelings eventually.
Bad ways to cope when a relationship ends includes:
Going through a breakup of any type can be rough. Although it’s a very human experience, it’s challenging to go through the motions of grief. Take a break from the difficulty by treating yourself to something you enjoy that you don’t do often. Examples may include:
There’s plenty of reasons to exercise after a breakup. Perhaps the biggest reason to use exercise to cope when a relationship ends is because of the chemical benefits. Exercise releases endorphins—your body’s feel-good chemicals. This can help offset the depression or sadness you feel after the split.
Another reason to be active is that it helps increase confidence. After a relationship ends, your self-esteem may take a hit, leaving you feeling less worthy than usual. Studies show that physical activity is directly and indirectly associated with self-esteem.
Reading a book gives you something else to sink your thoughts into that doesn’t involve the breakup. Choose a genre you love reading.
Also, consider picking up a self-help book. Learning ways to improve yourself can help you feel like you’re moving forward, even when you feel stuck.
Religious and spiritual people tend to better cope through difficulty. Research shows that both religion and spirituality can have a positive effect on your mental health. It can increase your tolerance to stress and add meaning to tough situations.
Use this time to explore your spiritual side. That could mean diving deeper into a religion you already follow. It may mean following a science-backed practice, like that of mindfulness. It could also mean studying your intuition. Or simply, you may just consider spending more time in nature and feeling connected with life around you.
It might be hard to think about the benefits of breaking up. But there’s at least a dozen if you assess a relationship honestly. For example, you have more time for your hobbies and less time to argue.
Looking for ideas? Borrow some of ours. Read: 22 Bright Sides To Heartbreak: Breakup Encouragement And Inspiration
Whether it’s a new hobby or new adventure, novelty can help buffer the intense emotions you’re feeling. Pick something interesting and commit to trying it. For example:
For some people, journaling may be a helpful way to cope when a relationship ends. Although it’s helpful to talk with others, they’re not always available. As an alternative, “talk” to your journal. Write free-form what you’re feeling and thinking. Try not to think too much about it. Your goal is simply to get your thoughts onto a page.
While you’re finding ways to cope when a relationship ends, favor real life interaction over social media. In fact, try to stay off social media altogether.
Whether you’ve deleted the person off your profiles or not, they can serve as a constant reminder. For example, seeing your friends post about their boyfriends can trigger feelings about your breakup. Prioritize real life social activity during this time.
As we mentioned, you need to feel your feelings in order to move on from them. When you’ve taken time for that and are looking for ways to balance the feeling, try distracting yourself. One of the best ways to cope when a relationship ends is to find something you can get lost in for a period of time. Looking for ideas? Read 104 Things To Do After A Breakup To Stop Hurting | Best Distractions.
Whether it’s a friend or a romantic partner, you probably have items of theirs or things they’ve given you. When you’re ready, carve out time to get rid of these items. Here’s a quick step-by-step:
If it’s hard to get rid of items completely, at least hide them so you won’t see them and they won’t serve as a constant reminder. Consider:
After you’ve taken some time to feel your feelings, gain some insight about your role in the relationship. When we can look fairly and neutrally at ourselves, we can use the painful situation to grow and become better.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a time to blame yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself, even if you think you’ve done something wrong. Instead, use this time to evaluate what you can do better in your next relationship. You might ponder these questions:
When you’re feeling awful, one thing that can make you feel better is making someone else feel better.
Brainstorm way you can spread kindness to strangers, those around you, or in your community. Ideas could include:
Many of us feel we can’t cope when a relationship ends without closure. We’re forever waiting for the moment where everything is tied together and our negative emotions lift. Unfortunately, often this moment never comes. Instead, we need to create our own closure—which means reframing what closure means.
Are you looking for closure? Read: How To Get Closure From An Ex Without Contact: 12 Ways
Did you know that break-up support groups exist? Although you might not be able to find an in-person group, you can find some online. For example, on Facebook you can join:
Use these groups to share your story and gain support from other people going through the similar emotions. You can also give support to others and feel like you’re using your negative experience to offer something positive to others.
It’s difficult to cope when a relationship ends. Whether it was a short or long relationship, if it was meaningful to us, our lives may feel completely devastated. To help get over this hump, sometimes we need the help of a professional therapist.
If you can afford it, talk to a few therapist and find one who you resonate with. If you can’t afford it, ask your local community health center about free counseling resources. You can also look for mental health professionals who work on a “sliding scale”—lowering their rates so it’s affordable with your income level.
Whether you’re splitting with a friend or a partner, new beginnings can be uncomfortable and painful. If you’re looking for ways to cope when a relationship ends, the first step is to normalize your feelings—and actually feel them. Make use of your social support and lean on the people closest to you. Scroll through the list above for other ideas to cope when a relationship ends. Remember that healing has no timeline and to have self-compassion throughout the process.
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