A breakup or divorce is a loss that can shake up your entire life. You might feel confused, angry, or broken-hearted. It’s completely normal to feel all of these things. The end of a romantic relationship is painful. No matter the particulars, it’s a loss that needs to be grieved.
It’s natural to want to “get over” your ex and start feeling better as soon as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes in an effort to feel better, we do things that get us stuck and unable to move forward. There isn’t any quick or easy way to grieve such a significant loss. There are, however, ways to move your recovery along in a healthy way.
Grieving the end of a relationship takes time, but there are also proactive things you can do to help yourself through the grieving process. Healing your grief requires acknowledging and experiencing your feelings, and also stretching yourself toward new activities and roles and ultimately bringing new sources of happiness into your life.
In addition to my suggestions, I contacted six therapists experienced in helping individuals navigate grief and relationships to offer some helpful advice on getting over your ex.
- Make a clean break. “Don’t let yourself get caught in ‘relationship purgatory’ – where you’re not back together, but you still talk, text, and hook up,” recommends Dr. Erika Martinez. And the virtual version of this isn’t any better. Social media makes it very easy to stay connected to your ex. You a need a clean break in order to heal. This means not communicating with or even viewing his/her social media accounts.
- Give up the idea of staying friends. Many people think remaining friends after a breakup will soften the blow. Trying to remain friends slows down your grieving because you don’t feel the full extent of the loss. For some, it’s an excuse to stay in contact, and for others it’s simply an unrealistic expectation. If trying to be friends is causing you pain, it’s best to let go of this idea. Even if you need to stay in touch to co-parent, you don’t need to remain friends; it’s possible to be polite and friendly without being friends.
- Allow yourself time and space to feel your feelings. Avoiding feelings and filling the void by working more hours, staying so busy you don’t have time to think, eating and/or drinking too much or dating again before you’re really ready might seem like you’re “getting over” your ex. But honoring your personal journey, fully present through the challenges, is an important step toward healing, according to Cynthia Blake, a licensed counselor in El Paso, TX.
- Take care of yourself. It’s important to do things to take care of yourself such as “exercise, make healthy smoothies, volunteer for a cause that really matters to you…anything where you’re investing in your emotional health,” says Jennifer Huggins. ”And, do something that you make progress with; for example, exercise, or a project of some sort. Once you see that you are succeeding and progressing at a chosen task, it will help to restore your emotional well-being.”
- Restore your self-worth. The end of a relationship can leave you feeling unlovable or wondering what you did wrong. Part of recovering is also separating your self-worth from the problems with your ex and the pain of the breakup. “Thinking of an ex, an issue often arises of irrevocably connecting events with a desired value, “according to David Teachout, LMHCA. “We think of what went wrong and connect it to the value of love and our self-worth. Getting over your ex is to first split these two and recognize that meaning and value comes from you first.” You can begin this process by making a list of your strengths, roles, and accomplishments separate from your ex.
- Symbolically let go of your ex. You can do this by burning a candle, releasing bubbles (an environmentally friendly alternative to balloons), or writing a farewell letter to your ex. Jamie Daniel, LMFT, a therapist specializing in divorce recovery, says “writing a farewell letter (that you never send) to your ex thanking them for the blessings of the relationship, wishing them well, and disposing of the letter to release them,” can be a healing ritual.
- Don’t rush into a new relationship. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Kimberly Sandstrom reminds us not to rush right into a new relationship. “Give yourself time to heal. Grief can be masked by busyness and something ‘new and shiny’… You can’t go around grief, you have to go THROUGH it.” A new relationship is often a quick way to feel better, but it’s ultimately a distraction that will slow your recovery.
- Surround yourself with supportive, positive people. You don’t need to suffer through grief alone. Reach out to supportive friends and family members who can listen with empathy and also offer hope and encourage you toward positive activities.
As you move through the process of “getting over your ex” be gentle with yourself. Remember that you’ll have your ups and downs. Healing grief definitely doesn’t go in a straight line. It does get better, however, and it helps to focus on the things within your control that can aid in healing.
©2017 Sharon Martin, LCSW.
Photo by Tikkho Maciel on Unsplash.