When I see a client for individual therapy who is coping with the loss of a relationship, they will often say, “I feel like someone died.” I will respond and say, “Yes, that’s exactly right. When a relationship ends, you must mourn the relationship.” Just the way you would mourn the death of someone, you must give yourself the time and space to mourn for the loss of your relationship. People who have gone through a break-up will often show signs of sadness, isolation, anger, loneliness, despair, and hopelessness, which are also signs of depression. While it may feel that you will be sitting in these feelings forever and you will never get over the relationship, this is not the case. Here are 5 ways to help cope with the stress and sadness of going through a break-up:

  1. Accept your sadness, anger, fear, and any other emotion. When we internalize our difficult emotions, they end up bottling up inside and manifesting in other areas of our lives. If you need to cry, then cry. It is important to understand that you will have good days and bad days. We crave instant gratification, especially when we are feeling down. An important skill to learn is to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings. If you’re feeling upset, acknowledge your feeling, label the emotion you’re feeling, and let it move on. There is no shame is telling yourself and the people around you that you are not ok and not everything is fine. Admitting these feelings is the first step to accepting them.
  2. Lean on your social support. Friends and family can be your biggest source of love and support during this time, so use them to your full advantage. Don’t worry about being a burden, because the people who love you and care about you won’t see it that way. Whether you need to call a friend to vent or need a happy hour to distract you, utilize the power of friendship in your favor. Invite a friend to see a movie with you or play a sport. Friends are a perfect sounding board and should be supporting and empowering you. It is also advantageous to reach out to a therapist for support during this time, as an objective opinion can be incredibly useful.
  3. Find a hobby or activity to channel your energy and aggression in. Exercise may become your new best friend after a break-up. Studies show that exercising releases natural chemicals in your body, like endorphins, that actually make you feel better and even happier. While it may be easy to lie on your couch for 5 hours at a time catching up on the latest binge-worthy Netflix show, it is not doing your mind or body any favors. Having a normal exercise routine can prevent symptoms of anxiety and depression. Another healthy way to cope with difficult emotions is journaling, listening to or playing music, taking a class, learning a new language, and so forth. These activities can serve not only as a distraction, but also as a way to empower yourself.
  4. Cut off contact with your ex. While it may seem difficult or impossible, this is the best way to cut ties and get over someone. This may also mean deleting their number and unfollowing or de-friending them on social media. If your ex reaches out to you, take a breath and evaluate the situation before you immediately respond. Ask yourself what good could come from this communication and what hurt could come from this communication. Deleting their number will also prevent you from reaching out to them when you’re having a bad day or when you’re under the influence. Have a list of close friends or family members that you can call instead when you need that extra support or someone to vent to.
  5. Use this time for self-reflection and focusing on growth. It will probably feel completely alien and uncomfortable to be alone. The most effective way to grow and move forward is to spend some time alone and reflecting on the relationship. You can learn something new and enlightening about yourself from every relationship you’re in. You will also learn what you need from a partner and what you will no longer settle for. Taking time to be alone and not pursuing new relationships will be vital to having relationship success in the future. If you jump into a new relationship before you’ve fully processed your last one, you run the risk of carrying baggage, such as fear and mistrust, into your next relationship. You may also be bringing old and unhealthy patterns into your next relationship. Seeking individual therapy to process your past relationships and understand your patterns is an excellent way to prevent them from occurring again in your next relationship.

The most important thing you can take away from a break-up is to process what you liked and what you didn’t like about the relationship, and learn from it and grow as a person. The more comfortable you are with your sense of self, the more likely you are to find a happier and healthier relationship. If you just went through a break-up and need extra support and an advocate for self-growth, reach out to Symmetry Counseling Chicago to set up an appointment.