The feeling of loss after a relationship break up can be similar to how we feel after experiencing bereavement. Even if the split was mutual or you’re the one who initiated it, the end of a relationship can leave a void.
The length of time it takes to get over a relationship break up will vary from person to person – there’s no set rule. However, there are some things you can do to help yourself recover.
Adjust your digital life
Social media is great for staying connected with friends, but the last thing you need after a break up is to see photos of your former partner appearing in your feed. As soon as possible after you’ve split up, go through the accounts you’re connected to them on and either unfollow or unfriend them. If any of your profile photos are of the two of you, consider changing them.
Avoid venting online or using social media to tell the world what an awful person you think your ex is. This won’t make you feel any better and may give your social network a negative impression of you.
In fact, you may want to think about taking a break from social media for a few days, especially if your feeds are normally filled with images of happy, smiling couples.
Embrace your emotions
Bottling up your emotions isn’t good for you, so give yourself time to let them out. If you need to cry, have a cry. If you feel angry, find a safe way to express it such as hitting a pillow or doing some exercise.
It can feel a little like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster, especially when you go through very different feelings very quickly.
It can help to allow yourself some time to do something that’s purely for you. Think about what you enjoy doing and maximise the time spent doing these things.
You could try:
- A long walk
- A soak in the bath
- Spending time on a hobby, interest or sport
- Reading a good book
- Immersing yourself in music, poetry or a film
- Seeing people who make you feel good – friends and family.
Look after yourself
Avoid the temptation to bury your feelings with drink or drugs as these can make you feel worse in the long-term. Be patient with yourself. Getting back on your feet after a break up takes time and will be different for everyone.
Look after your physical health by eating regular, healthy meals, trying to get enough sleep and exercising regularly. Feeling hungry or overtired will only make you feel worse. You can find advice for looking after your physical health on our physical wellbeing pages.
Give yourself something to look forward to
When you’re grieving for a lost relationship, it can be hard to stay upbeat, so having things to look forward to gives you something positive to focus on when things seem hard. Some ideas are:
- Book yourself a holiday to somewhere you’ve never been
- Try out a sport or hobby you’ve always wanted to do
- Get in touch with a friend you’ve not seen in a while and arrange to meet
- Start a project you’ve been putting off.
Have a break
Give yourself some time to recover before starting a new relationship. Most people take between three to six months before they feel ready to start dating someone else.
If you do decide to start dating someone sooner, take it slow and make sure you’re dating them for the right reasons. Going out with someone to fill a gap or – even worse – make your ex jealous will only end in someone getting hurt.
Try to let go
It can be very tempting to keep going over all the details of a break up, trying to work out who was at fault or what you could have done differently. However, these types of thoughts have a tendency to go round in circles and can leave you feeling regretful, sad or angry…
- Don’t focus on who caused arguments, but what. Is there anything you can learn that will help in the future?
- Avoid blaming yourself for everything that went wrong. There are two people in a relationship, and it’s unlikely that only one of them contributed to its breakdown
- Limit the time you allow yourself to dwell, then make yourself to think about something else. Having something positive to focus on can help with this (see below)
- Jot down 10 positive aspects of yourself to look at if you feel your confidence ebbing
- If your ex offers to be friends, have a think about the implications before accepting.
Try to avoid contact with your former partner unless absolutely necessary. If you feel you want to meet and talk things through then be sure there’s a specific reason and that it will help you in some way. Chatting with a friend or family member first can help you decide. Some people may benefit from a discussion about a relationship’s end, but it can also result in a lot of heartache.
If you have to meet (for example, because you have children) try to stay patient and polite, but keep conversation to a minimum.
Sometimes kids believe that they must somehow be to blame for their parents’ separation. It’s possible, for example, that your child believes that you and your ex separated because:
- They’re unlovable
- They’re too naughty
- They don’t do enough at home
- They argue too much
- They aren’t good enough at school.
You child may not be able to express these feelings – or even realise they have them – but you may notice they lack confidence at school or with friends.
You can boost your child’s positive feelings about themselves by praising them for their achievements and spending time with them doing things you enjoy.
You can find out more about supporting children during tough periods on our family mental health blog.
Talk to someone
Have a chat to someone you trust, such as a friend or family member. Tell them what happened and have a cry with them if you need to.
Distracting yourself by spending time with people who make you smile and feel good about yourself can be really helpful. Reach out to the people who care about you and make you feel happy, and arrange to meet up with them. Even a movie and pizza night can be a good way of taking your mind off your ex.
If you can, don’t meet up with mutual friends of you and your ex straight away – give yourself time to recover first. When you do, try to avoid talking negatively about your former partner – remember they’re your ex’s friends too.
If you’re struggling to move on or you don’t know who to turn to, we’re here for you. You can ring our free, confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat.