This guest article from PsychCentral was written by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
There’s a reason why “heartbreak” is synonymous with “breakup.” Breakups are painful. It can feel like the pain resides in our heads, our hearts and in our bones. Sometimes it’s a faint ache, like a sore muscle. Other times, it’s a full-on throbbing, a raw wound.
Post-breakup, people often “feel sad, lost, empty, alone, and angry,” said Meredith Hansen, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert. They might withdraw from friends and family and have a hard time doing their work, and their self-esteem might suffer, she said. According to Hansen, they might also show other signs of depression, such as loss of interest in activities, loss of appetite, development of sleeping problems or feelings of hopelessness.
People suffering from heartbreak might turn to self-destructive behaviors with grave effects. “Substance abuse, multiple sexual partners, and avoidance of vulnerable emotions can lead to serious health issues, long-term health problems, and potential mental health issues,” Hansen said.
Time helps to heal heartbreak, but there are many things you can do now to feel better, she said. Below, Hansen shared six suggestions for healing healthfully.
1. Seek support from loved ones.
“Reach out to people in your life who love you, care about you, and want the best for you,” Hansen said. “Talk to them about your feelings and how the loss has affected you.”
2. Seek support from a therapist.
Right after your breakup, you might feel more comfortable talking to your loved ones, Hansen said. However, after a while, you might avoid reaching out because you worry your loved ones expect you to stop grieving. That’s when talking to a therapist can help. “Having an outlet to express the pain, discomfort, fears, and sadness, such as a therapist’s office, can reduce the sense of guilt and shame a person may feel for not ‘getting over it yet.’”
Also seek help if it’s been a month or two and you still don’t feel better — or you feel worse and have more intense depressive ruminations, Hansen said. “A therapist will be able to assist with the depression, helping you feel better and regain your self-esteem and hope for the future.”
3. Be realistic about bouncing back.
Expecting yourself to bounce back after heartbreak is unrealistic. (And this expectation, when inevitably unmet, can just make you feel worse.) “You have lost an important person in your life and it is to be expected that you will not feel like your normal self or be able to accomplish normal chores, activities [and] duties,” Hansen said.
4. Appreciate your steps — however small.