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 what steps to take 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.

2. Try hypnotherapy to reframe your mindset

Hypnotherapy is a method that uses repetitive words and mental images to help you get in 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. 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.

4. Build a breakup garden

Talking to my little green babies every morning has always calmed me down. During my first relationship breakup (post-divorce), it was one of my coping techniques.

Taking care of my plants 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!

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 gay best friends who are experts in making me laugh. They 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 (got no 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 (especially the bedding).

Do this especially if seeing the bed keeps reminding you of every sexual shenanigans you had with your ex. Take this opportunity to redecorate the house 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. Talk about starting fresh, am I right?

If you want to do some serious rearranging and don't know where to start, you can seek help from a feng shui expert.

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

I know 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. You can go to your breakup garden and divert your attention to your plants, or you can go out and get a massage. It will take a lot of willpower, but I know you got this!

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 there's booze (lots of it) and good music!

If you're worried about the budget, you don't have to splurge for this. You can prepare a simple setup at home and invite your closest friends and family. Some of them might even chip in! If you don't want your kids to see you wasted, you can do it at a friend's place and get a sitter (or your Mum, or a neighbour) to look after your little one.

This is not just any party or a reason to drown yourself in alcohol, it's also a symbol of the end of your relationship.

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. 

Remember, allowing yourself to feel the pain and process your emotions is crucial. This may involve seeking 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.

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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.

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