Let’s be honest: Breakups can be brutal. Whether it just happened or is something you’re still trying to process, learning how to get over a breakup takes time.
After all, when a serious relationship comes to an end, it often feels like you have to start all over; like you have to relearn life without them and the people and things that were an extension of them. This is all part of the post-relationship grieving process—and it’s totally normal. The important thing is to give yourself grace and cultivate self-love as much as possible as you navigate the experience.
“Breakups are a loss, so when a relationship ends you experience grief—and not just grief for the person you lost, but the idea of a future you might have had with them, potentially close relationships with friends and family members that were established through the relationship, and loss of a part of your identity that was defined by being a partner,” explains Licensed Mental Health Counselor Beth Gulotta, who is the founder and owner of NYC Therapeutic Wellness. “There are so many layers of loss when you end a relationship. And while it might be the best decision for you and what feels right, it is still painful.”
Because of this, it helps to have a post-breakup toolkit of sorts. To equip you with just that, we chatted with Gulotta and NYC-based sex, relationships, and mental health therapist, Rachel Wright, about how to get over a breakup. Ahead, uncover their top tips and find ways to rely on, nurture, and love yourself through this next season of life.
Acknowledging and Validating Emotions
Breakups—whether anticipated or sprung on—are often met with a flood of emotions.
“If it is the right decision, there can be a sense of relief, of empowerment, but at the same time there can be deep sadness, confusion, shame, and anger; it depends on how the relationship ended and why,” Gulotta says. Where more amicable, mature breakups can sometimes feel easier to navigate—especially if they’re mutual—those that are the result of infidelity or another type of betrayal can feel more heartbreaking, particularly if it’s a one-sided breakup.
No matter which type of breakup you have, though, Wright emphasizes that no two endings are identical, and thus the healing process isn’t linear. Instead, she says that it’s normal to leap around the five stages of grief and then some.
“One of the myths around the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—is that they have an order, and once we’re through one, we don’t go back to it,” Wright says. “That’s not true. They don’t go in order, and we can jump around. You may even feel something not on this list first (like relief or pride) or even start with depression. You may never be in denial about it, or the denial could be pre-breakup.” She says this to emphasize the point that there’s no such thing as a “normal” approach to getting over a breakup. “You’re going to feel how you feel, and it’s up to you to get curious and compassionate with yourself to soothe and move through these complicated emotions,” she empathizes.
The first step of moving through your emotions, though, is acknowledging and validating them to begin with. “Holding space for all the emotions and not judging what comes up for you is important for healing after a breakup,” Gulotta assures us.
With this in mind, you may want to take up a journaling practice to write what you feel, which can help you reflect on and learn from the experience. “Journaling is a great tool to process and reflect on the breakup, to start to process the grief of the vision you had, and start to embrace the new vision that is forming,” Gulotta says. “It is a great place to put and process all the emotions that will come up when you are navigating a breakup.” In addition to providing yourself with hard evidence of your post-breakup journey, journaling can also serve as an outlet for thoughts and feelings you wish you could say to your ex but choose not to. (Need a journal? We love the beautiful Hardback Notebooks from Papier, $30.)
Establishing Boundaries and Seeking Support
Following a breakup, it’s important to set boundaries—with your ex, as well as your support system. Again, there’s no one right way to go about this. If you had an amicable split, you may want to remain friends with your ex. If that’s the case, perhaps you’ll want to create a boundary not to discuss intimate details of your past, nor those of your own in the future.
“I think this is a personal decision on what boundaries feel healthy and healing for each person,” Gulotta says. “I tend to think that initially having little to no contact is helpful to heal and process and sort through what life looks like and who you are without this relationship and partner.”
Meanwhile, if your family and friends are eager to support you but are doing so by bashing your ex, you may want to create a boundary to not discuss them at all so as to not constantly be sucked back into the turmoil that triggered your split in the first place. If you find yourself in this situation, or if you simply crave an unbiased opinion, you may also want to consider talking with a therapist who specializes in relationships.
All in all, the best way to approach this post-breakup chapter is by prioritizing communication. “Some people choose to have a no-contact period (30, 60, 90 days) and then re-connect to decide how they want to proceed from there; some people can’t do that because they’re co-parenting or dealing with logistics, so they agree only to talk when it comes to logistical stuff and save emotional stuff for therapy or after 90 days,” Wright says. “You have to get really self-aware and ask yourself what you need and ask for it.”
For more advice on setting boundaries, check out episode 62 of Wright’s podcast, The Wright Conversations: A Conversation About Boundaries (& How They Can Change Over Time) with John Romaniello.
Practicing Self-Care and Prioritizing Mental Health
Arguably the best way to navigate a breakup is to turn your attention inward, focusing on all the ways you can pour the love you once shared with your partner into yourself. This manifests in self-care and self-love, which can boost self-confidence and self-esteem, and benefit your mental health overall.
While journaling can serve as a powerful self-care practice, exercising, meditating, traveling, eating well, dressing to please yourself, spending time offline, hanging out with trusted loved ones, going on nature walks, allowing yourself to cry, and getting plenty of sleep are other self-care methods that can help ameliorate the post-breakup experience. So can reconnecting with personal interests, hobbies, and passions—key components of your identity—that you may have neglected while in the relationship, so long as they’re not destructive.
The point is, there are many, many ways to tap into self-care. “Almost all self-care practices can help support you during the post-breakup experience—it’s just a matter of figuring out what you need and making sure you’re hitting all areas of self-care,” Wright says, noting that self-care can be categorized as physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and professional, which she outlines in her workshop, Self-Love 101: Mastering the Art of Loving You (So You Can Have the Life You Want!).
To fully submerge yourself in self-care post-breakup, Gulotta suggests taking a solo trip. “I am a huge advocate and fan of solo travel and encourage my clients to have this experience at least once, whether they are going through a breakup or not,” she reveals. “There is something about solo travel that brings out empowerment or sense of confidence like no other experience. You get to be fully with yourself and have full control over each day and you get to make choices truly about what you want to do and what you need.”
Reframing Negative Thoughts and Practicing Self-Compassion
As you navigate your breakup and all the emotions that surround it, you may feel overwhelmed by negative self-talk. While easier said than done, we encourage you to lean into self-compassion instead. To do so, consider starting each day with positive affirmations in the mirror and/or gratitude.
“Start each day saying five positive and empowering things about yourself—it will get your mindset in a healthier place as you start your day,” Gulotta says.
While looking in the mirror and talking to yourself may feel hokey, motivational speaker Mel Robbins, who inspires millions of followers every day, is such a big believer of the practice that she went so far as to publish her best-selling book, The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit.
Meanwhile, if you plan to incorporate gratitude into your daily routine, make it a ritual with a beautiful notebook.
Another helpful tip? If negative self-talk feels incessant, ask yourself this: Would you say these things about your best friends—the people you love most in this world? No? Then don’t talk about yourself that way, either. Rather, stop and notice something you love (or even like) about yourself and take time to acknowledge and honor it until it becomes second nature to embrace every part of yourself.
Cultivating Self-Love and Building Confidence
At the end of the day, prioritizing self-care and re-embracing your passions will put you on a faster track toward healing following a breakup—and it will bolster your sense of self-love, which is paramount for healthy relationships in the future. As you navigate this painful experience, be sure to maintain perspective.
“There isn’t a guidebook for the right way to do a break-up which can make it very difficult,” Wright admits. “We love guidelines as humans, and just like every relationship is unique, every breakup is unique.” With this in mind, she says to give yourself grace as you process this painful experience and make room for a beautiful, fulfilling future ahead.