The pain of a breakup can be excruciatingly intense.
I know because I’ve been there.
I started working in sex and relationships full time because the pain of a breakup levelled me so hard that it shook up my entire life.
We had been dating for just over a year. I thought I was going to marry her. And then, out of the blue, it was over. I had never felt so devastated in my entire life. I shut down emotionally and felt like I was numb to the happiness in my life. Nothing made sense without her.
But, like with most challenging experiences in life, it was the pain of this period in my life that catapulted me through some of the best learning lessons that I could have ever discovered for myself.
Not only did the breakup help me long term, but it also helped me in the short term. And it’s in this writing that I hope to ease your suffering even further. This is the article that I wish had existed when I went through my painful breakup so many years ago.
What Happens During A Breakup On An Emotional Level?
When you are torn away from the person that you love, you get huge spikes in your cortisol and adrenaline levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and adrenaline is the hormone that makes you want to take action (often out of fear and/or extreme arousal).
So, even if you feel like laying in a crumpled heap on the floor for a few days to begin with, your body is already working for you in helping you to take action in your life.
The cortisol and adrenaline spikes are almost like two forces subconsciously pushing you to either “fight hard to win this one back”, or “get busy improving your life so that you can attract a similar partner, or one who is even better for you.”
How Should You Handle The Pain Of A Breakup?
When it comes down to it, you have three major options about what to do with the pain you experience after a breakup…
You can take that emotional energy, and you can numb it, harness it, or heal it.
That’s it. Numb, harness, and heal.
So what do I mean by these words, and what does it mean that you should actually DO in order to feel happy, healthy, and complete once more?
Numbing The Pain Of A Breakup
This is the most common coping strategy that people race towards, and it’s also the most societally encouraged.
People say things like “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone new!”
Or your well-meaning friends tell you that you just need to go out with them and get drunk for a few nights.
Unsurprisingly, these numbing strategies (drinking, drugs, junk food, sex with random people, etc.) are often the most damaging option you could go with after a breakup.
I am not discrediting the fact that eating a tub of ice cream or being sexually validated by a brand new partner would be momentarily exhilarating and fun, and give you a short break from the pain you’re feeling, but it won’t move the dial much in terms of actually helping you feel any better.
So beware the actions that numb your emotions. They might seem appealing in the short term, but they often do more damage than good in your emotional processing.
Just because you found a way to sidestep your feelings, doesn’t mean that they aren’t still buried inside of you, waiting to find a way out (and believe me, they’ll find a way out… whether you want them to or not).
So minimize or avoid any and all numbing activities during your breakup processing (unless you’re a masochist and you want the pain to last longer than it needs to).
Harnessing The Pain Of A Breakup
So if we’ve gotten a heaping dose of stress hormones that are encouraging us to take action in our lives… what can we do to harness the pain of a breakup?
Lots of things, actually. And I believe that the highest leverage places to start are exercising, exploring new hobbies and interests, and diving into creative projects.
Exercising: this is one of the easiest ways to use up our excess energy in a productive way and feel better about ourselves post break up. Go to the gym… go kite surfing… start jogging again… just find whatever form of exercise makes you smile and makes you sweat and then go do it a bunch.
Exploring new hobbies and interests: it’s inevitable that some part of you probably got stifled during your relationship. Maybe you love going camping but your partner didn’t and so you never got to go (go camping!). Maybe you love watching sports and your partner didn’t (go buy tickets to watch your favourite team!). Maybe you loved baking but your partner was allergic to gluten and so you never had many chances to make baked goods over the past little while (bust out your mixing bowls!).
Whatever you haven’t been doing for a while that you know that you love, go do it again. And if you felt fully self-expressed and free to be yourself in your relationship, then go find new hobbies and interests that you’ve been curious to check out for the last little while.
Diving into creative projects: Whether you consider yourself a creative person or not, we all have creativity inside of us. Maybe your creativity expresses itself through making food… or creating art… or manufacturing bird houses… or building a new business.
However, your creativity shows up for you, the pain and excess of emotional energy that comes from a break up can potentially be harnessed into some of the greatest work you’ll ever do.
I know that after my big break up, I got into the best shape of my life, built a six figure business, and felt more tapped into my creative energy than I’d ever been. Within a few short months, I was the happiest and most fully self-expressed I’d ever felt up until that point in my life.
Healing The Pain Of A Breakup
While we might be drawn to the promise of the numbing solutions, and we can ride the wave of the stress hormones that allow us to cultivate our newer and brighter selves, there ultimately comes a time in every person’s journey of emotional healing when they must feel the underlying feelings.
There are only five essential things that you need to do in order to fully heal the pain of a breakup. This might sound overly simplistic… but it’s true.
That five step process is this: tell the truth, feel the feelings, self-love, find forgiveness, and revel in gratitude.
Here’s what I mean by each of these five points.
Tell the truth
In order to be able to fully move on from the pain of your breakups you must fully acknowledge the truth of the situation.
You can do this in one of two ways: writing it down or verbalizing it to someone.
I recommend you start out by writing it down (in a journal, on your computer, in your phone’s notepad… wherever works for you). Tell the full truth of the situation and let your heart face the reality of what has happened.
You might write about how much you loved your ex, all of the amazing times you had together, how much you miss them every day. Write it all out. The full truth.
After you’ve done this once or twice (or three to five times… there’s no time limit on emotional processing), it helps to move on to telling the truth to someone out loud.
Find a supportive, non-shaming friend/companion that you feel totally safe with, and tell them the full truth. Ask them simply to listen to you as you share what happened in your life. Again, you can tell this to them once, twice, or a few times. But make sure that you tell it fully so that you can begin to scrape all of the emotional residue out of your heart and mind in order to feel it fully (see next step).
Feel the feelings
Once you have told the truth in written word and out loud, it’s time to feel the feelings fully.
It’s very likely that you cried, or felt angry, or felt any number of emotions while journaling/speaking your truth in the previous phase, but now it’s time to feel all of the emotions that you have available to you.
Your unfelt emotional energy will stay stuck inside of you until you face it and feel it completely.
When we ignore one of our emotions, it goes down to the basement to lift weights. It comes back stronger and it bangs on the door, demanding to be recognized. It only becomes quieter, and loses it’s power over us when we decide to start feeling it.
So feel your sadness. Feel the loss. Feel your frustration, your hurt, and your anger. Whatever there is to feel, you must feel it all until it isn’t there to be felt any longer.
(Side note: if you’re anything like me, you might want to buy a few boxes of tissue from the store before leaning into this stage of the process. You’ll need it.)
Once you have told the full truth and felt all of the feelings, you’ll likely feel a little raw. You’ll feel a bit gutted. You’ll feel the feeling of a fresh start forming in your body. You might think “Okay, I’ve bawled my eyes out. Now I’m ready to fill in that space inside of me that I’ve hollowed out.”
The thing that you fill that internal space with is love. More specifically, self-love.
You must be kind, compassionate, and empathetic with yourself.
This is not the time to tell yourself to “Snap out of it!” or “Get over it”, but rather, it’s the time to be gentle with yourself. You’ve just experienced a loss. And that loss hurt you. It’s completely normal and healthy to mourn the loss of a relationship that you had high hopes for.
So how do you practice self-love?
One of the most important things you can do to be self-loving is to live a life of your highest, and truest ideals. You become completely, authentically, 100% yourself.
You want to take up a new hobby or creative pursuit? Go for it.
You feel like having a lazy day, staying inside to drink tea and journal out your thoughts? That’s all you.
You want to sign up for a half marathon and start training for it? Why not!
By tapping into your internal desires, and honouring what you find there, your soul/inner child/heart/whatever you want to label it will feel more seen, heard, and appreciated. You will literally be honouring the core of who you are.
So get back to you, by doing what you want to do, and doing so from a place of self-loving intent.
Whether you keep running around in circles in your mind because you’re beating yourself up (“What could I have done differently? Did I do enough? Did I ruin the relationship?”) or you’re still upset at your partner for hurting you (“They could have tried so much better. They didn’t appreciate me. Why didn’t they see what we had?”), there is undoubtedly some forgiveness work that needs to be done in your mind/heart.
Whether you journal it out, meditate on it, or vocalize a mantra to yourself, sit with the idea that you and your partner both deserve forgiveness for what transpired between the two of you.
It might help to repeat something along the lines of “I did absolutely everything that I could, and I forgive myself completely,” or “I forgive (your ex’s name) completely and unequivocally for their sake and for my own.”
Even if your ex did something in your relationship that you deem as unforgivable, you eventually have to forgive them as an act of self-love. You’re not forgiving them because what they did was acceptable, you’re forgiving them because you don’t need to carry around the emotional weight of them any longer.
Revel in gratitude
So now you’ve processed the truth of the matter, felt the feelings, continued the process of loving yourself, and found forgiveness (or are still in the process of finding forgiveness for yourself and/or your ex)… now what?
Now you begin your relationship to the gratitude that you have for your relationship.
Feel grateful for it’s existence, for the fact that it happened at all, and for all of the lessons and gifts that it brought to your life.
What did your ex teach you about yourself? That’s a gift.
What did they highlight in you that you realized you need to do some self-work on? That’s a gift.
What did you come to acknowledge that you do or do not need in a future romantic relationship? Those lessons are gifts.
Write them all down in one place so that you can see the overwhelming abundance of how much you learned and grew from your relationship having come into your life. And don’t stop writing until you have truly come to the mindset of “Wow… this person truly was a blessing to me on every level. I am so grateful that they came into my life to teach me the lessons that they did.”
No matter how hard you try, you must come to a place of forgiveness and gratitude with your now completed relationship. Otherwise, you will be a prisoner of your thoughts and stuck emotional residue for eternity.
They are forgivable. You are forgivable. And you can learn to find the beauty, the lessons, and the gifts that your relationship brought to your life.
How To Get Over The Pain Of A Breakup Fully
That’s it, that’s all.
Don’t numb your underlying emotions. Harness them for a while, and then heal them eventually. It’s really as simple as that.
I wish you the absolute best of luck in your emotional healing journey. And if you want someone to talk to about the loss that you recently experienced, I’m always here to listen to you.
Dedicated to your success,