Just popping in to wish A Somber and Ironic Valentine’s Day to everyone out there going through heartbreak!
My forever Galentine and platonic life partner (Anna-Bella Skye) and I have compiled a list about the trials and tribulations of True Love™, or more to the point: what to do when it ends.
There are a zillion and one posts out there about recovering from break-ups, dealing with heartbreak, and getting your life back together without The One™. Some of the advice here you’ll likely find in other posts, and others are our own (kind of weird) methods. All steps in here come tested, approved and peer-reviewed.*
*Peer-reviewed is a word which here means: two crazy yoga chicks who used to live on a boat did this stuff and it worked.
Note: we’re not talking about any dinky little break-up here. This is advice for the full-on, gut-wrenching, soul-destroying kinda heartbreak. The kind that stays with you, that still stings long after your friends have gotten sick of hearing about it and your therapist says you should have moved on. You’ll read nothing in here telling you to “find a hobby” and “start dating again,” because screw that. You already know that. And most of the time, it doesn’t work.
The thing about heartbreak is that it’s contradictory. Love is contradictory. Life is contradictory. It’s about owning the extremes and striking a balance, dabbling in each, and forging your own path among and between them. Some of these steps are literal, some are emotional, and most of them are both.
Without further ado, here are 13 Home Remedies for a Healing Broken Heart:
- Own your heartbreak.
Maybe you were together for 30 years, or maybe it was only a week. Maybe you were never really “together” at all. Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter. You feel love when you feel it because you feel it. The same goes with heartbreak.The more you deny the pain you’re in, the harder it will be to heal. Stop telling yourself “I should be over this” if you’re not over it. Don’t minimize a thing about it. There is no set timeline for love, and no set timeline for healing. Just let yourself feel. Let yourself be in pain.
Your heartbreak, like your love, is yours and yours alone.
- Indulge in drama for as long as you need to.
Eat that entire tub of ice cream. Cry to Bridget Jones. Punch your pillow. Revel in your misery. Call your friends and family and sob down the phone. Be the drunkard at the bar yelling into your beer about how evil your ex is. If you need to do it, let yourself do it.
You don’t need to judge yourself about being dramatic, being a stereotype, being ridiculous. Your self-judgment isn’t helping. Just let yourself be dramatic for a bit.
You probably won’t need to forever, and it’ll pass sooner the more you let it out.
- Only worry about the next five minutes.
One of the hardest parts about a break-up is saying goodbye to the life you might have lived with that person. Maybe you were going to go traveling, live together, have a family, and then the door got slammed in your face and you’re left blinking at it, thinking: what the hell am I gonna do now? The thing about now is, it’s now. It is not the next month, the next year, the rest of your life. It’s right now, in this moment. Ask yourself only, “What am I gonna do now?”
Instead of trying to figure out the next however-long, focus on the next 5 minutes. Check in with your needs. Are you hungry? Do you need to pee? Do you want to listen to music? Watch TV? Go to sleep?
Make a plan for the next five minutes. Keep doing that thing until you have the moment again, of thinking, “What am I gonna do now?” Then plan the next five minutes.
The answers to the big questions will come in time, when they need to. They will come more easily from you following your feelings and needs than you trying to determine ahead of time what they ought to be.
- Don’t poke the wound.
Treat your heartbreak the way you’d treat an injury: if you scratch at the scab, it will keep bleeding, and it’s far more likely to get infected.
So, don’t talk to your ex. Don’t hang out with them. Don’t be around them. You don’t have to cut them out or block them forever, but for now, while you’re still healing? Get away from them.
Depending on what kind of relationship you’re leaving, this may be more complicated. Do you live together? Do you have kids together? Do you work together? Do you have the same friends? Each of these things requires its own conversation, but wherever possible, keep your distance.
If your ex is amenable to a conversation about it, set out clear, strong boundaries from the get go. If possible, talk to the other relevant people in your life about what’s happening and establish some ground rules to keep your ex away from you.
The problem is, poking the wound is so tempting. Just like picking your scabs, you’ll want to engage. You’ll want to Facebook stalk them, Instagram stalk them, tell them about your day, explain yourself to them. It is really, really hard to stop.
You don’t need to judge yourself for poking the wound, because chances are, you’ll do it. Take the steps you need to make it harder on yourself to poke it, if it’s blocking their number or their social media accounts or asking your friends not to talk about them. You’ll want to keep poking and poking, but eventually, the sting of it will stop satisfying. It’ll just hurt.
The point is: ensure you have as little contact with your ex as possible. When you’re a bit more healed up, then you can talk to them again if you want to.
- Lean into everything they hated about you.
Everything they judged, everything they didn’t accept, everything they disliked or criticized you for or frowned upon: Do it. Do it all.
Did they hate how messy you were? Toss your bedsheets on the floor, let the dishes pile up and throw the broom out the window. Did they judge you for watching bad romance films? Open up Netflix, I recommend A Christmas Prince.
Revel in everything they thought was a flaw about you. Own these parts of yourself. Live these parts of yourself. Reject your ex’s negative judgments outright.
Maybe when you’re feeling better, you can do the dishes and watch some nouvelle vague. But right now: Fuck that.
- Make a list of everything you did for them, then do the opposite.
Did he love your blonde hair? Dye it black. Did she want you to take dance classes? Sit your ass on the sofa and play some PS4.
Part of the problem with giving your heart to someone is how much they’re still in you when it ends. Maybe you really did learn from them in ways that make you better and stronger and happier. You don’t need to unlearn those things, but put them on hold for now.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what you did to please that person and what you did for you. If there’s even a chance it was for them, write it down and do the opposite. These can be anything, large or small, from the clothes you wear to the food you eat to the religion you practice. If you can change it, change it. Try on the Anti-Them version of yourself.
The things you really did for you will emerge naturally from this process.
Your flat, your Instagram, your friend group. Remove the things that remind you of them. Take the cute couple photos off the wall, whether it’s an actual wall or your Facebook wall. Surround yourself with the things that remind you of you: the you that exists without them.
Go beyond simply removing direct reminders of them from your surroundings. Actively project the parts of yourself that have nothing to do with your ex.
Did he draw out your dark and moody side, but there’s a part of you that’s peppy and exuberant? Go buy yourself the brightest duvet you can find and fill your room with flowers. Did you bond with her over Communist philosophy, but you also love fantasy? Put Marx under the bed for now and go get that Lord of the Rings replica sword you’ve always wanted.
Make your space a reminder of the sides of yourself you’d neglected while in that relationship. Coming back to those other parts of yourself will happen in time. For now, live the parts of you that are nothing like your ex.
- Do things for them, without them.
Doesn’t this directly contradict Step 6? You bet your ass it does. Because love and pain and healing and life are absurd, hilarious contradictions. That’s also why this step comes later.
Did you feel like he never respected your intelligence? Does your ego still burn to learn German just to show him up? Go learn German. Learn German at him. Do it for him, completely behind his back. Fantasize about the day he happens to see you at a bar in Berlin and you’re flirting with the bartender in fluent German.
So much of the pain of the healing process comes from not owning your emotions, not allowing yourself to have them, and judging yourself for what you want and feel to do. If you want to do it, do it. If you’re doing it for your ex, do it anyway. Do it for them until it’s not for them anymore, or until you quit doing it.
- Be them for a day.
Dress up as your ex. Walk like them. Talk like them. Do the things they love to do. Listen to their favorite songs. Watch their favorite films.
After you’ve owned what makes you different from them, try them on for a day. Feel out what it’s like to be them, what parts of them are in you. Own the parts of you that are them. Find the things you admired about them in yourself.
Maybe you loved their compassion, their humor, their intelligence. Maybe their favorite band really does rock. Maybe you like wearing flannel shirts too.
After you’ve sunk into how you’re different from them, let yourself sink into how you’re the same.
- Water yourself.
Literally. As the old adage goes, between tears, sweat and the ocean, salt water can heal anything. Fresh water heals too.
So cry it out. Cry as much as possible. Cry until you can barely breathe and then keep crying. Cry anywhere and anytime you can. Leave the room at a dinner party to cry. Hell, cry at the dinner table. Cry at work, cry at the movies, cry in bed. Cry.
Sweat it out. Go for a run, go for a bike ride, take a krav maga class, do some sit ups. Elevate your heart rate, release those endorphins, and get your body sweating. Even if you’re crying while you sweat. Just make sure you drink plenty of water.
Soak. Shower and bathe like you’ve just been sprayed by a skunk. Whether you sit on the floor of your shower and listen to Alt-J for an hour or soak in a bathtub with candles and Enya, just relax and be in water.
Swim. Preferably in the ocean, but a river, lake or pool will do. Submerge yourself underwater and scream. Float along the waves in the sun. Find any way you can to get your body into water, jump in the water and stay there.
Drink water. Hydrate yourself. It is amazing how much just being well-hydrated can change your mood for the better.
- Write about it.
Write them letters you’ll never send. Write yourself love notes. Write lists of everything you hate about them, everything you love about them, and everything you love about yourself. Write until you have an entire folder on your laptop of nothing but “misc post-breakup notes.”
That perfect comeback to the argument you had six months ago? Write it down. What you really thought about their haircut? Write it down.
Write, and write, and write. Get the feelings and the thoughts and the questions and the anger and the pain into words. Read them, or never look at them again. Writing helps us understand ourselves, name our unnamed feelings, and relate to ourselves and the world more fully.
- Seek closure when you don’t need it anymore.
One of the worst parts of a break-up is all the baggage left behind. The unsaid things, the questions, the confusion.
Why did they do it? What were they thinking, feeling, imagining? Did you never really feel appreciated, or seen, or valued? Do you think they’re really wrong about something? Are you left wondering if they ever really loved you?
Good lord, those unanswered questions can drive you mad. But here’s the thing: Even if you ask those questions, you may never get answers. And if you do get answers, the answers may break your heart all over again.
While the wound is still fresh and the pain is still real, this is not the time to seek closure. The time is after the pain has dulled, the healing is well underway, and the questions don’t nag so much.
Seek closure when you don’t need it from them anymore, when you’ve already given it to yourself. You may find that you don’t even need to know those answers anymore.
- This too shall pass.
This isn’t really a step, it’s just true. Things will (probably) get better. No matter what, you won’t feel this way forever. Something will come up, something will get in the way, something will evolve, change, shift, grow, and some things will subside.
And the things that hurt the worst usually help us grow the most.
If your heart is broken, you have a wealth of self-understanding at your fingertips. You can vastly expand your empathy. You can rethink your entire way of being. You can know yourself and love yourself and be yourself so much more.
This, too, is an opportunity. This, too, is coming to you with potential. Whether you believe in destiny, or free will, or both, there is a chance in all this pain. A chance you would not have had otherwise.
I wrote a mantra in the back of my traveling notebook, in thick, black marker, taking up the full last page. It said: I manifest it all. If it does not happen, I do not need it.
Call it hippie bullshit. Maybe it is. But it’s never, never been wrong.
The moral of the story is: the more you let yourself feel, the closer you are to that feeling finally passing.
Emotions are a hole, and your only tool is a shovel. The more you try to dig yourself out, the deeper you will go. It is only when you look at the shovel with your hands and choose to dig that the hole becomes a tunnel, and you come out the other end.
That metaphor might be a bit convoluted, but the point is: the only way out is through. The only thing you can do with an emotion is feel it.
Ironically, to paraphrase the person who most inspired this post: you can deny your emotions and remain where you are, or you can accept them, feel them, and then something will happen.
Let yourself feel.
Let yourself feel without judgment.
Breathe it in, let it out, and keep going.
(And you never ever ever need to judge yourself for crying to Lana Del Rey.)