What to do after a heartbreak

Some simple pieces of advice that can make a big difference in your healing

By Jessica Militello

When I think about mistakes I made after getting my heartbroken, I was in too much pain to think clearly or make decisions that were healthy for me. And that’s okay. At the time I was too focused on how to soothe my pain, but I tried to make my pain go away by staying near to what caused it in the first place. I wanted to make an article like this for a while but I felt hesitant to be so vulnerable. These are things I learned the hard way after many mistakes. I’m grateful for the lessons and the growth that came from it and I hope this helps whoever needs it.

  1. Find one or two trusted people to share your feelings with

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made right after one breakup in particular was explaining the story to a lot of close friends and acquaintances-it was mostly because the breakup itself was surprising, and it was extremely confusing and painful to me to try to make sense of it. I ended up getting a ton of different opinions-mostly from people who barely even knew him. I ended up hearing things like, “he didn’t really appreciate me, he didn’t think I was “worth” fighting for, his reasons for breaking up weren’t in fact the actual reason and he was just bullshitting me,” things that they had absolutely no way to possibly know unless they were fucking mind-readers or fortune tellers and trust me, these people weren’t experts in anything. In retrospect, thinking of these gem “words of advice” that they decided to share with me sound absolutely ridiculous for anyone to try to guess or assume, but when I was going through the raw pain of this heartbreak and confused, I didn’t know what to believe. It’s important to note that when you are in deep emotional pain, your brain perceives this pain the same as physical pain, your IQ is lower, and the feeling of rejection itself causes pain. It’s also important to note that during a heartbreak you are in the feeling part of your brain-logic does not exist at this point. So let’s add up all of this stuff that’s going on in your mind and heart plus getting shitty opinions from well-meaning people-are you picturing this? Yeah it’s a fucking disaster. The last thing you need when you’re sitting on the floor trying to pick up a million pieces of your heart are people idly standing around telling you that the reason you are in pain is because the person that you just lost didn’t really give a fuck about you and that there’s some “top secret” reason that he broke up with you. To be fair, I truly believe these people were trying*** to be well-meaning. It is hard for us to see other people in pain. We want to make their pain go away, but if you don’t know how, telling someone something that you think will make them magically move on seems like the quick fix in the situation. All it did for me was make me feel ashamed and stupid on top of heartbroken and confused. But thanks to all of the bad advice I got, I can now share a golden piece of advice here. Please- do not do what I did. Part of this was a boundary issue as well, which I did not set at the time, with people insisting I talk about it or pushing me to share my pain by telling their friend/spouse/relative what happened for them to chime in. Your life and pain are not a soap opera to entertain and amuse others and give them the chance to play armchair detective and therapist. Find one person, two people max who you trust, who is a great listener, loving, caring, and validating. State your boundary right away in whether you want to simply vent or if you want advice. You are also allowed to tell someone that what they are saying is hurtful if it is. This time in your grieving is about feeling your loss and simply being where you are. I know-especially if the breakup was surprising in any way that you want answers. Part of this is also that when you are in deep emotional pain, it is your brain that is trying to make sense of why you are in pain so that it can protect you from future threats. But this is not the time to think of and question all of the why’s-this will only hold off your healing. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Stop pretending and performing to yourself, your ex, and your social media followers

For some reason, unbeknownst to my soul, there seems to be some stupid contest right after a breakup of who can appear as if they do not give a fuck. There is no prize for the winner of this contest and yet, we love to play. Unless you are both actors vying for an academy award at the end of the year-do yourself a favor and cut the show and theatrics, especially via social media. How many romance stories have you heard that sounded like, “he broke up with me but once he saw my selfies and how fun, hot, and interesting I was from my IG stories, he came back and now the wedding is next spring in Tuscany.?” Oh wait that’s because things don’t work that way and if someone only changed their mind because of the way you look and how entertaining you are on social media, then good luck trying to keep up that show so that they’ll want to be with you. It would be best at this time to remove him as a follower, stop following him, and make your page private. If he truly wants to reach out-he will call you or text you, he will have a good reason explaining why he is reaching out and be understanding if you are cautious about it because he cares about your feelings instead of playing games and being ambiguous via passive Instagram ‘likes’ and random texts for an ego boost or attention. You will know the difference if that happens. If you feel the need to explain why you are doing this social media removing in order to focus on properly healing then use your own judgement on that. In general, your healing should be the most important thing and going no contact is the best way to begin this process.

 3. Don’t try to be friends right away

I get it, you are in pain, trying to accept a loss that you didn’t want, and now you are desperate for some way to be in this person’s life. See point one again about your IQ being lower while you are in pain and being in the feeling part of your mind with logic thrown out the window. I once felt that I was going to be in pain anyway, so the pain of keeping him in my life as a friend immediately after the breakup was better than the pain of letting go. LOL- how wrong I was. Sometimes we just want to find a way to lessen the pain and the loss, it’s our mind again trying to find comfort and not wanting to be in pain. Of course you still want the person in your life, regardless of who ended it-but you can’t keep someone in your life as a friend when you- still have feelings for them, are still attracted to them, still hope to be with them, are actively mourning the loss of them. Do you see why this is not good for you? Any time I thought the pain of holding on was better than the pain of letting go, the universe found ways to slap me back into reality. Hard. Do you really want to find out what they are up to? How would you feel if you saw them hanging out with a girl who might be a friend, but maybe they are hooking up, and going through their social media to compare and assume and put yourself through more pain? I know you don’t want to hear it but no contact is the only way to begin moving on. But I had to learn this the hard way so I’ll let you figure it out after many mistakes, confusion, and more pain. I refused to listen to logic and had to fall on my face more than once before I realized what was good for me.

4. Be where you are

I made this list short and simple on purpose- you’re going through a lot and don’t need to be inundated with tons of advice. Feel what you are feeling-it is normal, it is human. It is not weak or stupid to miss and still care for someone who was a big part of your life. It means the relationship meant something to you, it means that despite all of the heart aches, struggles, and losses throughout your life that you can still feel, you have the ability to love, you trusted yourself enough to let your guard down and be vulnerable enough to risk getting your heart broken in the first place. Understand in a world of apathy and indifference that loving someone and letting them in is the bravest act of all. Take care of yourself, stop judging yourself, blaming yourself, or wondering if you weren’t good enough. Your worth and your happiness is never in anyone else’s hands but your own. Find things that make you happy and small moments that put joy in your heart. You are enough and so worthy and when you are ready, your pain will only help you to grow and become stronger. Please love yourself and be around those who love you and spark joy in your soul. Those moments of joy and laughter will help to soothe you and slowly, over time heal the broken parts of your heart.

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