The end of a relationship can be gut wrenching. We wallow in our deep emotions and succumb to the pain of the heartache. While grieving a relationship is necessary and takes time, you want to stay on the healthy side of grief. I’m Christine Tomasello, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a highly sensitive person (HSP).
As an HSP, I know what it means to have intense emotions and feel feelings very deeply. I know what it’s like to have big, painful, scary, gut-wrenching emotions caused by heartache, and I also know that it’s a journey you can get through. This blog is intended to offer you tips to help you navigate the turbulent times post-breakup and tools to support yourself as you go through this heartache. It won’t take the ache away but will lessen the pain and help you not drown in the sorrow.
The biggest factor in healing from heartbreak is time. It doesn’t feel fair, but that’s how it works. You feel like a big part of you is missing, but over time, as you heal, you will start to feel whole once more. I hope you’ll use the tips in this blog as a companion as you go through this time of pain and grief and sadness to manage the big emotions you might be experiencing. To get started, remember that emotions are like waves. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end and even the biggest waves of emotion will come to an end. When you feel a big emotion coming on, you can try some of these tips to help ride it out. Or, you can also try repeating the mantra, emotions are like waves to remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is temporary.
1) Keep Busy
Throw yourself into something that will distract you and keep your mind occupied. Maybe that’s a new hobby, business venture, exercise routine, or a good book. Create structure for yourself and give yourself something to look forward to. Additionally, make time for self-soothing activities. Take a bubble bath, chill out on the couch under a weighted blanket, go for a walk in nature, color, journal, pray, visit with loved ones. Give yourself time to engage in self-soothing behaviors that will make you feel at ease and cope with your more difficult emotions.
2) Change It Up
Self-soothing activities and regular routines can be an important part of moving on, but sometimes, change is just as essential. Do something out of the ordinary even if it’s something small. Drive a different route to work, go to a different café for lunch, or you can even sit in a different place to watch TV or read. Change stimulates your brain and helps you see things differently. Temporarily re-focusing on these small changes can also make it easier to stop thinking about your change in relationship status, even if it's just for a little while.
3) Live By Your To-Do Lists
Make a list of things you have to do, and make sure they get done. When we’re in the first couple weeks after the end of a relationship, it’s hard to focus and concentrate. Follow a list to tell you the next thing you have to do. It helps take the pressure off. At the very least, I recommend doing at least three acts of self-care every day. Keep in mind that they don't have to be big, costly activities - they can be as small as brushing your teeth, taking a shower, paying a bill, drinking enough water, or making your bed. These small actions help you stay afloat as you reintegrate into the world around you. As you find yourself ready to interact with the outside world, take yourself on dates. Get to know yourself as a single person again, and give yourself permission to be single as long as you need to.
4) Make Plans
At the end of a relationship, many people focus on all the plans that aren’t going to happen anymore. Instead of fixating on your changing future and the things you’ve lost, change your perspective to planning for something. Give yourself a trip, an event, a new book or movie, a spa day, or anything to look forward to. Having something to look forward to plants a seed of excitement in your brain that can get bigger as the plans get closer. And it probably goes without saying, but it's important to set goals and make plans for yourself without your ex.
5) Ask For Help
The end of a relationship can be extremely hard on you, but you don’t have to do it alone. Know when to reach out. Talking will help, but others can’t take your pain away. That’s where the self-soothing, planning for the future, and the other coping skills we talked about in this blog come into play. You can also try therapy if you need more support than your friends and loved ones can offer. If you find yourself getting frustrated or angry with your support system because their support isn’t making the pain go away, that’s a clue you’re asking too much of them and may need to find other options like therapy. It also may be a clue that they don’t know how to support you through this, so you may need to teach them.
Need some extra support?
One of the central tenants of therapy at Beachside Counseling is that hope and healing can lead to happiness. In the case of the end of a relationship, hope is about feeling like things will get better, you will heal, life without this relationship will feel normal again, you will survive, and you will move forward. Hope may start small, but it will act as a lighthouse to keep your eye on while you navigate the sea of grief. If you need help finding that beacon of light after the end of a relationship, I’m here to help. You can reach out to schedule therapy any time by filling out my online request form, or by calling (858) 863-8695, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image from Canva.
About the Author
Christine Tomasello is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Founder of Beachside Counseling in San Diego, CA, where she helps clients work through grief and loss, major life changes, and challenging relationship patterns. Christine identifies as a helper, healer, and highly sensitive person (HSP), and specializes in working with other therapists, helpers, healers, and HSPs.