I'm not sure there's a word in the English language that accurately describes the sadness after a breakup. Grief, the feeling reserved most commonly for death, is part of it. So, too, is suffering. Agony, remorse, self-doubt. Breakups are traumatic. They are, of course, heart-breaking. They will make you reevaluate everything you think you know, and force you into new thoughts and experiences that are often incredibly distressing. But there is also a silver lining in every breakup.
Unfortunately, the silver doesn't rain down for at least a month or two, especially if it was a long relationship. You may have sprinkles, little drizzles or lining flurries, but these are few and far between in the beginning. And your mind will tell you to do crazy things. It'll tell you to try to get your ex back. It'll tell you that you were way happier than you actually were. It'll tell you, above all, that you are going to die alone with ten cats.
None of this is true. Your brain is clouded right now. Your thoughts cannot be trusted. You're just going to have to wait for your mind to work properly again. In the meantime, here are 10 things to keep in mind as you put one foot in front of the other.
1. Breakups happen for a reason.
Regardless of who initiated the split, both of you weren't happy. It's tempting to keep the dysfunctional or ill-fitting relationship instead of letting it go and free-falling into whatever the future may bring, but that's guaranteed to bring more of the same. It's scary to release what's not working, but I can tell you this: You have no idea what next week holds. If last week or last month or whatever held a relationship that was not quite right, you can be sure it would have stayed that way. Trust that something different — and better — will come, and in the meantime, don't second-guess the past.
2. Do not, under any circumstances, trust your thoughts.
They may tell you, among other things, that you are stupid, worthless or deeply flawed. They may suggest that you go on a marathon spending spree, or shave your head, or do ecstasy. They may tell you that the only way you'll get through this is a one-way ticket to Croatia, or China, or Cameroon. None of these things are true. But be gentle with yourself. You'll find yourself doing some of these types of things, which is totally OK. Roll with your weird decisions, and know that you'll feel more like a normal person again soon.
3. Let your friends and family rally around you.
Do not isolate. No one likes crying in front of other people — well, I suppose maybe there are a few of us out there who do, but I certainly don't — but now is the time to keep tissues nearby and let it all hang out. Establish a rotation of friends, and let them show up for you. Don't stay home alone. You'll be in your head the entire time, which is the most dangerous place to be right now.
4. Force yourself into a routine.
The best possible thing you can do for yourself is wake up and move every single day. If you can make it to an early morning yoga class daily, do. If you can do nothing more than get yourself to walk around the block, do that. Distract yourself with work as much as possible. At night, make plans with friends or family. It's a good idea to let yourself spend a night alone here and there, but in the beginning, there's nothing wrong with spending most waking moments with others. Sign up for a class. Say yes to plans. Do whatever your calendar says. Make your schedule your guide.
5. Allow yourself a certain amount of time for wallowing each day.
Set a timer. Literally. In the beginning, you can give yourself an hour a couple of times a day. Then 45 minutes. Then a half hour. In that chunk of time, allow yourself to cry, look at photographs, write, cry some more, talk about your ex — whatever you can dream up, do. But when the timer goes off, it's time to peel yourself off the floor and go for a walk. Or go to work. Or do whatever it is your calendar says it's time to do.
6. Your self-esteem is going to be compromised right now.
So do whatever it takes to build yourself back up. Affirmations are crazy cheesy and feel really weird, but they work. So does meditation. Exercise helps. And sometimes it's as simple as poking holes in the thoughts that arise. It's unlikely that you're as bad as you make yourself out to be in moments of despair. Sit with the uncomfortable thoughts, thank them for their contribution, and move on. If that doesn't work, call someone and tell them what's on your mind. They'll point the flaws in your thinking.
7. Delete texts.
This is a controversial view, but I advocate deleting your entire text log with your ex. It is not going to be helpful to go back two years and read all of the loving things they ever said to you. Deleting an entire conversation is as easy as a couple of flicks of the wrist. It's like a bandaid. Rip that sucker off.
8. Eat well.
Leafy greens work wonders. Fresh fruit. Lots of protein. Of course, easier said than done, and surely comfort food will appear in your diet, and that's OK. But food can affect the way we feel, so make it a goal to eat what makes you feel good to keep your mind right. I know that sounds like something a really annoying life coach would say. Actually, a lot of these things sound that way. But I've been through breakups, and I've watched others go through them, and these are the practical things that helped me.
9. Don't throw yourself into a bunch of meaningless flings.
It might be tempting to commence Tindering, like, yesterday, but that will not make you feel better. I don't believe in getting over someone by sleeping with someone else. That'll just conflate your feelings and leave you more confused than you already were.
10. Cast a wary eye upon alcohol. And drugs.
Getting wasted is not a breakup cure. Unfortunately, the only way across is trudging straight through your feelings. There's nothing wrong with a little distraction here and there — in fact, I advocate diverting yourself with as many healthy distractions as humanly possible — but drinking heavily will likely make you feel worse about yourself. Instead, take yourself to the movies. Read really, really good books. Take long walks. And when everything feels too overwhelming to bear, look at your feet. Ground yourself. Take deep breaths. Remind yourself that you are OK, you were OK before the relationship ever happened, and not knowing what the future will look like is exciting, not scary.
Images: lauren rushing/Flickr; Giphy