What to do for yourself when you're suffering in the aftermath of a breakup
Reach out to your friends so that losing this partner does not mean isolation or deprivation from human warmth. One of the things we miss most when we lose a partner, is that soft voice in the night, that person you share good news with, you connect with when you are just doing nothing much, parking your car, whatever. Get your best friend and other trusted friends on board right away; ask them to be there for you, so that you can be amongst friends and feel supported. If it is a situation where you must go ‘no contact’ with the person you had a relationship with, then friends who can act as mentors or buddies for those times when you find it hard to resist calling the person, are great...and plus, you can return the favor to them if you ever need to. Breaking the habit of calling and being around the loved one is the key to this acutely painful early stage and if you do this well, you can make the time afterwards to look at what happened and retrieve any insights, but right now, you need to take care of yourself and breaking down isolation and loneliness, whilst keeping some solitude for deep recovery is essential.
Next, having talked it out and asked for some support from trusted friends, run yourself a long scented bath, put on some music you love that doesn’t remind you of them, pour yourself a glass of red wine and do your best to relax yourself in the warmth of the water. Add some Lush products for good measure and even if you don’t feel that much pleasure from this experience, tell yourself that you are starting your recovery, that it’s going to take time to feel truly better and over this, but that you are just beginning and you are okay, this pain is just a temporary thing and will pass.
Allow yourself time and space to cry, shout, wail, sob, laugh...but keep it to the privacy of your bathtub/bedroom, so that you retain your dignity. No-one is worthy of you losing your self respect over. But when you feel them, give rein to the full gamut of your emotions, the best way out of pain is to go through it and in stages. Don’t deny it or pretend it isn’t happening, unless you want to be dealing with it in your next relationship. Let it out, let it go, be mindful of what you need and that you are essentially in the Emotional Hospital at the moment and therefore what you need is rest, recuperation and a light diet and plenty of time to be with how you feel.
If you have to be alone, and many of us do have to be at these times, find some fascinating and absorbing thrillers or box sets to watch, preferably ones that are not too romantic or overly happy; rom-coms don’t work at this time, but intricate dark thrillers like The Tudors or The Borgias, Wolf Hall, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Peaky Blinders, anything where there is that side of human nature that you might be able to really identify with at the moment, cruelty, abandonment, maliciousness, lies; somehow, dressed up in period costume drama, it makes it all so much better. If you don’t like films, the same applies in terms of books, thrillers, horror, crime, anything that occupies your mind is brilliant.
Treat yourself. M & S or Waitrose, your favorite takeaway; something delicious and lovely, and above all easy. Maybe you have favorite foods from the past that remind you of an easier, more homely time; this is the time for Chicken Soup and all that comforting food that restores the body and helps you begin healing. If you don’t feel like eating, that is okay too; heartbreak can be a lot like flu and sometimes, not eating for a short while is the right thing for you. But keep hydrated and don’t be tempted to drink and get out of your head; no-one is worth you causing your body damage over.
Make your room as comfortable as possible. Throw out immediately any lingering memories of Them, toothbrush in the bin, overnight bag or stuff left over, bag it up and put it in the boot of your car or dispense with it In a way so that you don’t have to see it or them. Perhaps change your bed linen, fragrance the room, make it into your sanctuary so that you can sleep when sleep does come, and it will, but for now, just find a way to make this space your own.
You will be surprised at your capacity for hard exercise at a time like this…often post breakup is the chance to take up something more vigorous, kick boxing is great or bootcamps; anything intricate like zumba is fabulous for occupying your mind. If you like yoga, try the online Zenward community, which is varying lengths of yoga practice photographed in luscious locations. Any practice of mindfulness or yoga, which is very tough on the body and forgiving on the mind and the emotions, but accepting of where you are right now, can be amazing. Swimming works well for some people; perhaps because the holding of the water is so comforting. Dancing classes are great but you may not be ready for them; once you feel strong enough to get out and socialize again, Ceroc is a great way to learn partner dancing with simple moves and the music and company are guaranteed to give you a great night out and a way into an accessible dance style in literally a matter of weeks. Check out Ceroc to find a venue near you (hint, there are loads!)
Keep off it; if you know them, block or delete them. This is your recovery space. Instead, use useful sites, like Eddie Corbano’s Ex Detox programme which gives many practical and emotional tips on how to move through the early post breakup stages. Also Youtube has amazing talks that may help you with the deep feelings you may be experiencing as you begin your recovery. I recommend especially Tara Brach, on The Dance with Pain, Eckhart Tolle, on Trusting the Pain in Your Life.
There is so much of value also in Ted Talks, on depression, hopelessness and heartbreak.
Have a Clear Out
Of your house, your clothes, anything…and then take yourself shopping, charity shopping or even, dare I say it, the local refuse collection centre, aka the ‘Tip’, which often has furniture for sale for pennies, meaning that you can change the look of something in your home. Plant a garden, a window box, some tubs outside your door if there is space. Clearing out your hallway especially works because it is saying to the Universe, let this old stale energy go and let something new and good and nourishing come into my life.
Plan your days for the next few weeks so that you don’t feel tempted to call the Ex, and don’t go to places where you might meet him/her. Plan some treats, even a trip away, go visit an old friend and stay there if possible. Take a week off work if you can – just because it isn’t technically physical illness doesn’t mean you are functioning at full capacity. Be gentle with yourself for a time and keep yourself occupied and busy.
If you find yourself disturbed all night by unwanted thoughts that go round and round in your head, buy yourself a beautiful journal from Paperchase and write down whatever occurs so that you don’t hold it all in. It will be your friend in the middle of the night.
Lastly, but this is for when some time has elapsed – I suggest not less than 3 weeks:
Write the person a letter about all the good things in your relationship and thank them for the times you spent; in the letter list all the things that you feel you did wrong as well as where the relationship broke down. DON’T SEND THE LETTER. Think about a place you could go that is meaningful to you and either BURN the letter there (safely) or tear it up and throw it into a fast running stream / the sea / down a well …. As you do that, remember that person with love but also give love to yourself for emerging from this event well, healthy and more than okay and ready to move forward with your life.