12 Essential (and unusual) steps to survive a relationship breakup

Relationship breakup

Words can’t adequately express the pain of a relationship breakup with someone you love, especially when that loved one chooses to leave. Some of the uncomfortable emotions include:

  • Pain
  • Regret
  • Anger
  • Grief
  • Disappointment
  • Shame

There’s a gaping hole in your stomach at the thought of being alone again, not to mention the fear that it may be forever.

Of course, during all the turmoil, the one person you would normally go to for support, is the one that caused it in the first place.

When your emotions are in survival-mode, it’s hard to know how to make it better because you need to heal ... not only for yourself, but for your little ones, especially if they had become attached to your partner.

For this reason, making the right moves towards your recovery will help clear the emotional fog and give you the strength to power on through.

My essential (possibly unusual suggestions) will give you clarity and confidence in your journey back to empowerment, following a relationship breakup.

How to get through your breakup

1. Isolate the ‘breakup’ wound

We’d all love to do a 3-month ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ getaway, or move out to a new pad but the reality is we don’t always have the time, money and support to escape our situation; especially when our finances may have just halved!

Instead, look to create a safe environment wherever you are, and treat your breakup like you would a physical injury. Put yourself in a physically and emotionally safe environment that will allow you to recover better and surround yourself with positive energy and people.

This is vitally important and allows for time and space to get our thoughts in line for what to do next.

This stage may also mean seeking professional medical or psychological help, and by all means, follow this up if you feel you need it. Your GP might not be your first port of call after a breakup, but they can refer you to someone and, in some cases, offer a mental health plan.

2. Try hypnotherapy to reframe your mindset

Hypnotherapy is a method that uses repetitive words and mental images to help you get into a state of deep relaxation and improve your focus. All of these must be done by a trained professional, of course.

With all the stress you're dealing with while trying to get on with your life, think of every session as a mental spa day. I know how the journey post-divorce can be a rollercoaster. With hypnotherapy, you can find inner peace and build a positive mindset.

If you're willing to try it, you can look for a hypnotherapist or certified hypnotist near you or ask your friends.

3. Build a breakup garden

If you have no idea what a breakup garden is and this is the first time hearing (or reading) about one, let me tell you: A breakup garden is a patch of plant paradise that helps you through the post-breakup chaos.

To make one, just grab some flowers and plants that can bounce back from anything, toss in some rocks (symbolising the hurdles you'll conquer), and paint it with colours that scream 'I'm thriving!' Water it with love, and voila, you've got a living, breathing breakup survival kit.

Don't worry if you don't have an actual garden. You can make a mini breakup garden in a pot on your windowsill or anywhere with lots of natural light in your house.

Taking care of my little green babies and witnessing them bloom into gorgeous flowers helped me forget about my heartaches. Nurturing them kept me busy. Whenever I am in my garden, I'm in my sanctuary. It was like I was rebuilding myself through those tiny seeds.

It wasn't easy, though. There were times when I either put too much water or forgot to water them. But these obstacles made me push myself to do better because I know those plants are relying on me. So even if you haven't tried building a garden before, with the right mindset, you can do it too!

4. Do not get into the habit of stalking your ex

You want to know how your ex is doing - that's totally normal after a relationship breakup. But that doesn't mean you have to do something about it. So stop those fingers from checking his social media account! Because if you do this and things get nasty, it will only add to your problems.

Stalking can put you in jail. Nope, I'm not kidding. What you thought were harmless messages can be used as pieces of evidence for harassment, even if it's just online. Trust me, telling the law enforcement officers (and your furious mum) how you got there will be the worst embarrassment of your life.

Whenever you get the urge to stalk your ex, distract yourself. Go to your breakup garden and divert your attention to your plants, or go out for a walk with some uplifting music blasting through the headphones. It will take a lot of willpower, but it is one of the most important (and sometimes hardest) rules to follow after a breakup.

Further reading: 5 Good reasons not to stalk your ex.

5. Engage in laughter therapy

Laughter is the best medicine - I know, too cliche, but it's true! Allowing yourself to enjoy a good laugh (or two) while going through a relationship breakup helps! It's an antidote that has been tried and tested by yours truly.

Thankfully, I have a great best friend who is an expert in making me laugh. She would say negative things about my ex (in a funny manner, of course), and I would instantly feel better.

I know I can't always rely on my buddies, though. So I add as many funny and feel-good movies to my Netflix watchlist and play them whenever I feel down. Sometimes, when the flick is not PG-13, I ask my kid to watch with me, which makes it even better!

6. Take stock of what you’ve got (practice gratitude)

We’ve all seen a glittery ‘Gratitude’ plastered on mugs and calendars, but it’s hard to see the value in the word when we’re in a lot of pain.

Yes, it is about being thankful for what you have, but the essence of the word goes a lot deeper.

From a psychological point of view, ‘Gratitude’ is about resources, and letting that ‘fight or flight’ part of your brain know that you have enough to survive on. Acknowledging your resources, and knowing that you have air, shelter, family, and money, helps your brain not to panic and allows you to think from a position of strength, not scarcity.

7. Create a breakup capsule

Who said only teenagers can bury time capsules under a special tree? You can, too! Creating one is a simple yet effective way to heal after a relationship breakup.

After we separated, I gathered mementos from the relationship and put them inside a box. Putting together significant stuff from all those years made me laugh and cry. And as I sealed the box, it also felt like I was officially cutting myself from all my connections to him. I did not bury the box (I didn't own a shovel at the time, lol), but kept it with other boxes in the basement. I promised not to open it until I'd moved on.

Fast forward a few years later, opening it was a funny and heartwarming reminder of how much I'd grown and survived the breakup rollercoaster.

8. Get new bedding!

Now here's a fun but meditative way to survive a relationship breakup - shopping for new decor or bedding (particularly the bedding).

This is especially handy if seeing your bed keeps reminding you of the sexual shenanigans you had with your ex. Take this opportunity to redecorate the house (or just your bedroom) and eliminate all the bad jujus that he-who-must-not-be-named left. You can also rearrange the furniture and paint the walls with a new shade.

If you want to do some serious rearranging, check out feng shui websites and social media accounts. You want everything facing the right direction for healing, moving on and ideally forgetting the name of your ex within a month.

9. Release emotions safely

Talking about our feelings is key to our recovery, but HOW we do that is incredibly important. We often think that offloading to every friend for hours on end, or posting (READ: ‘Ranting’) on Facebook will make it better, but it’s just venting without recovery.

What you are feeling is genuine pain, and what you need to do is find a genuine avenue to release it.

Finding a psychologist or coach is ideal as they have the right tools and practices to help. Friends and family can also help in these situations provided you talk to someone who is open to helping and understands the depth and repetition that’s required to be an active listener.

10. Buckle up for the turbulence of your relationship breakup

There will be days when you feel sad; when you feel amazing; when you miss your ex, and perhaps days when you’ll want to run them over. Such is the life cycle of the neurochemicals coursing through your brain after a breakup as the oldest part of your brain tries to make sense of tragedy.

Understand that during these first few weeks your mind will feel all over the place, but with the right ‘infrastructure’ in place, you’ll be able to navigate it better.

Among other coaching tools, meditation and mantras are actually really great ways to help get your mind right. Like walking over the same track on a field of grass, meditating & mantras help reinforce positive thinking in your brain pathways making them stronger. They also help calm the stress hormone (cortisol) to make you feel better and think clearly.

11. Have a breakup party

Your breakup party doesn't need to be extravagant, as long as the most significant people in your life are there. If you're worried about the budget, you don't have to splurge for this. You can just prepare a simple dinner at home and invite your closest friends and family. Some of them might even chip in!

This is not just any party, but it will also mark the end of a chapter in your life. Think of it as a celebration of your new found freedom. You can even have theme for the party - "To new beginnings," or "Single ladies rule!" You could go crazy and set up a karaoke machine and get ready to belt out "Since You've Been Gone."

This event will not only show your ex that you're doing fine, but it's also a way for you to get closure officially. Plus, it's a great way of letting your friends know you are back in action and available for any social events they organise in the future.

Further reading: Should I have a divorce party?

12. Time doesn’t heal; Practice does!

It’s all very well thinking about these ideals, but unless we put them into practice they don’t provide any benefit. Most people think that as long as enough time goes past, we won’t feel like this any more – it’s only half true. The reason we don’t feel pain from the past is that the neurochemicals that caused it are no longer there, and the best way to get rid of them is to deal with them.

Get yourself safe, release what you’re feeling, take stock of what you already have, and deal with the emotions as they come. Rinse and repeat for as long as you need to, and along with the right support, you’ll feel better in no time.

Summary: How to survive a relationship breakup

Going through a relationship breakup can be a challenging and emotionally taxing experience. But there are essential steps that can help you survive and become stronger on the other side. Yes, some may be a little unusual but, believe me, they work! They helped me get through the darkest moments of my breakup journey.

My personal favourite was the breakup garden. It was more of a "dirt therapy," but despite the mess, gardening was a super effective way to keep my mind off "unnecessary thoughts."

You don't have to do them all at once, though. You can try one step at a time. Choose which one you think is the easiest and start from there. The most important thing is to have fun while doing them. Just enjoy yourself and you won't even know you finished one step already!

Remember, allowing yourself to feel the pain and process your emotions is crucial. Aside from doing the steps above, you may also need to seek support from friends and family or professional help. Focus on self-care and self-compassion can help you heal and regain control over your life. 

As horrible as a relationship breakup is, try to learn from the experience and use it as an opportunity for growth and self-improvement.

By following these essential steps, you can survive a breakup and emerge from it as a stronger and more resilient person.

Further reading: 7 Reasons why it's fabulous to be single.

Keep reading

Flower Decoractions Leaf Decoractions Plant Decoractions Branch Decoractions

Save. Share.

Leah Sheppard

About the author

Leah Sheppard is a breakup and relationship writer, coach and speaker based in Melbourne, and the creator of Honour Your Breakup; a personal development service that helps women get their ‘boss-factor’ back after heartbreak.

Visit website

Further reading