Most of us deal with heartbreak at some point in our lives, but we don't always get the support we need to get through it. That's the gap that psychologist Guy Winch, PhD's book How to Fix a Broken Heart aims to fill. Using the stories of clients of his who have dealt with forms of heartbreak that are often trivialized, he gives advice on dealing with heartbreak in a way that heals you rather than making your heartbreak worse.
Winch chose to focus on two particular situations — a breakup and the loss of a pet — because people don't always have access to enough resources or enough compassion from others to get through them. When a human family member dies, we get time off work and we get sympathy from everyone at the funeral. But during a pet's loss or a breakup, we're too often left to our own devices to pick up the pieces — or, worse, criticized for not being able to "get over it."
From his experience as a therapist, Winch extracts lessons on how to move through heartbreak — and how not to. Here are some tips from his book that you could apply to any heartbreaking situation.
1Find People Who Understand The Depth Of Your Grief
Unfortunately, many people trivialize heartbreak, especially in situations like breakups or the loss of pets. Make sure you turn to people who are understanding.
Surrounding yourself with supportive people can also distract you from the heartbreak. "Use social contacts and events to keep your mind off dwelling and misery," Winch tells Bustle. "Engage with the people and activities that make you feel like you and connect you to your core."
2Don't Judge Your Reactions
Just as you need friends who validate all the emotions you're experiencing, you need to validate yourself. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there is no timeline. Your emotions will pass sooner if you let yourself feel them.
3Don't Analyze Why It Happened
In the case of a breakup, many people prolong their heartbreak by trying to figure out why it happened. The partner of one of Winch's clients gave her a reason, and she still chose to hunt for an alternative explanation rather than believe him. Believe your ex about why they broke up with you, take from it what you need to, and stop analyzing it.
Winch writes that cyber-stalking our exes keeps us thinking about them, and there's research to prove this. One study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that those who Facebook-stalked their exes were more upset about the breakup and more likely to pine after their exes. "Don’t text, message, or contact your ex — you need to go cold turkey to get them out of your head," says Winch. "Resist the urge to stalk your ex on social media or via other means — you need to move on."
5Don't Idealize Your Ex
Winch writes of one client who would often think about leaving his ex, but once she left him, he acted like he'd lost his dream relationship. It's easy to idealize another person when they're not there. But there's a reason you broke up. Chances are, your relationship had problems.
"Balance your idealized memories of your ex by listing all the ways they were wrong for you," Winch says. "Balance your idealized memories of the relationship itself by listing all the compromises you had to make in the relationship you would rather not make next time."
6Don't Avoid Things That Remind You Of Your Ex
Many people will avoid songs that their ex played for them, restaurants where they went on dates, mutual friends, and other reminders of their exes so that they don't experience the heartbreak all over again. But this will just make you continue to associate these things with your ex, so it's best to revisit them and build new associations with them.
More generally, don't let the breakup interfere with your life. "Keep doing the things that used to bring you enjoyment and interest even if they don’t seem interesting and enjoyable," says Winch. "Going through the motions is an important way to give yourself the message that life goes on."
7Get Rid Of Reminders
That said, don't leave your ex's stuff lying around the house. This will make it much harder to stop thinking about them. "Resist the urge to keep reminders if they cause you pain or make you idealize your ex," says Winch.
Throughout this process, have compassion for yourself and remember that your feelings are valid and worth attending to, even if others aren't attending to them.