Your Ultimate Guide To Grieving A Breakup

As reported by The Washington Post, a study by Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld revealed that unmarried couples, both straight and gay, have much higher breakup rates than married couples. In fact, approximately 60% of the study's participants broke up before reaching their first anniversary.


Breakups are never pleasant. How hard the post-breakup period ends up being depends on several factors: who broke up with whom and why, how deeply involved you were, your individual and joint love goals, the dynamics of the relationship itself, you and your partner's overall approaches to life, and how well other areas of your lives are going.

Whatever your circumstances are regarding a recent breakup, never fear. We've got you covered with strategies that will help you not only to mourn your lost love in a healthy way but to heal and become the best version of yourself — or even upgrade your ex, if that's your wish — sooner than you expect.

Cry if you want to

Breakups may not be the end of the world but they are painful experiences to go through. In fact, while the term heartache is often used in a figurative sense, research shows that the pain of breaking up is more real than we once thought. As reported by NPR, people who had recently experienced a breakup and were shown photos of their exes exhibited similar brain activity on MRI scans to people who had experienced physical pain.


No matter how cool and rational you usually are, owning your vulnerability and being true to your feelings is the healthiest way to deal with the heartache of a breakup. Therefore, allow yourself to navigate the natural stages of grief, which may include ugly crying, venting to your loved ones, and feeling like an overall hot mess as you work through denial, bargaining, anger, acceptance, and hope (via Psychology Today).

Mind your mental health

While being in touch with your feelings, validating them, and taking space to cry and let it all out is the honest, healthy approach — and an important part of the healing process after a breakup — you need to set a limit on these feelings for the sake of your mental health.


If you took the time to process what happened and cried tears to your heart's content, but you still find yourself feeling physically affected or numb to the point of not being able to function day-to-day, consider seeing your healthcare provider. According to Verywell Mind, having passing moments of sadness is normal, but "crying for days and days can be counterproductive to the healing process." 

If your breakup was particularly stressful, it can trigger "prolonged and severe emotional distress," or situational depression (via Verywell Mind). However, with the passing of time and the support of your healthcare provider, you'll find yourself gradually feeling better. 

Beware of social media

If you want to heal quickly after a breakup, mind your use of social media. Spying on your ex, although it's natural to want to do so, can make it harder to move on. "Losing a partner can really feel much like withdrawal from a drug, due to a sudden loss of dopamine (the love hormone)," licensed counselor Dr. Rebecca Cowen told HelloGiggles. "Therefore, we often look for anything that reminds us of that person in order to increase our dopamine levels. Social media makes this incredibly easy to do ... However, this ultimately leads to a lengthier recovery process."


Equally harmful is using social media to keep tabs on your former flame and write snarky remarks on their posts. Remember, post in haste, and you'll likely regret it once you're over the grieving process. A spiteful action is not worth the embarrassment you will feel once you come to your senses again. Hold your tongue (or your fingers) and make sure to be a class act during the ordeal. You will thank yourself later.

Be honest, but save the drama for your mama

Whether online or in real life, breakups are private and no matter how unfairly you were treated, discretion is always a winning approach. If your relationship was very public and you really must let people know, social media has tools that allow you to update your status as gracefully as possible (via Headspace). To avoid the dreaded wave of intrusive questions and condolences after changing your Facebook status to "single," you can set your relationship info to private before updating it. That way, your change will not pop up in everybody's feeds.


If you absolutely must announce a reason, you can take inspiration from celebrity PR teams: Post a short and sweet statement, and move on with your life. Both on social media and in person, keep the details and motives of the breakup to your inner circle, avoid any salty interactions or comments in public, and save your distant relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances from the soap opera. Whatever you do, make sure to come out of it smelling like roses. Negative attention is never worth it.

Use your best reasoning and judgement

Once you are past that initial emotional state post-breakup, it's time to get your brain working for you again. Logical reasoning and strategic thinking will be your best friends to move you forward to where you want to be. Use the pain of the breakup as your motivation pushing you toward your romantic and personal goals.


Consider that the saying "It wasn't meant to be” is actually rather logical. If you and your ex were suitable as a team and thriving, your relationship would have flourished despite any obstacles. According to Attuned Psychology, we don't break up without good reasons. "It's called a BREAK up because something was broken, it wasn't working. Healthy, happy relationships do not end, unless of course someone passes away."

And ultimately, even if it was true love, having strong feelings for someone doesn't always mean you and them are a good fit. Each breakup, however, is a bump in the road on the journey to your dream life. Keep that in mind whenever you feel like a failure just because you turned a page.


Take a note from the past

We're socially programmed to expect a "happy ever after" from relationships, ignoring another old social norm: seeing dating as a test and preparation for marriage (via eAstroHelp). This seemingly unromantic, pragmatic rule is still active in some conservative social circles and cultures, and it actually makes sense. Back when the sole purpose of courtship was an eventual marriage, there were only two possible outcomes for a love story: a short dating period followed by an engagement, or, if the couple wasn't suitable, a clean break. In fact, a breakup was deemed preferable to a failed matrimony. According to Mimi, "if an engaged couple discovered that they were incompatible, Victorian era marriage manuals and books on etiquette strongly advised breaking the engagement rather than embarking on what would surely be a miserable marriage."


Courtship, spent mostly in chaperoned conversation, served to assess whether the couple was well suited for a life together (via The Frick Pittsburgh). If they weren't a good match, the disappointment wasn't tragic and both would dive back into the social scene to try again. This may seem like an outdated practice, but it's not a bad idea to have a time frame and clear standards for gauging if a relationship will last. Even progressive or marriage-averse people can take inspiration from old-fashioned etiquette, in the sense that a breakup is a blessing in disguise: It frees you to go find your perfect match.

Give yourself some tough love and get busy

After a breakup, you need to be kind to yourself, but after the initial pity party, regain your perspective by asking yourself bluntly in the mirror: "Don't you have anything better to do?" Keeping yourself busy will stop you from thinking about your ex or, worse, contacting them, as breakup recovery specialist Amy Chan explained to Refinery29: "From a scientific standpoint, you're no longer getting your doses of dopamine and oxytocin (feel-good chemicals) from your partner. Your body is craving the chemical fix but isn't getting it so it's in a perpetual state of WTF." 


Replace your source of those feel-good chemicals by doing things you love with people you care about, such as focusing on exciting professional projects, working on your appearance, and indulging in your favorite little luxuries. If you are hoping for a reconciliation, though, be warned.

According to author and neuro-linguistic programming coach Farouk Radwan, superficially keeping busy without first coming to terms with the end of the relationship will hold you back. "Uncertainty prolongs the pain, and what hurts the most is the uncertainty, not the breakup itself," he told Sources of Insight. "Everyone tries to keep themselves busy after a breakup, but research has shown that thoughts that are suppressed become stronger. Focus on accepting what happened, not on suppressing it."


Count your blessings

Although emotions matter and your romantic future is no small thing, at the end of the day, breakups are first-world problems. As in, only very privileged people can afford to dwell in the misery of separation.


It's important to remember that you can miss your ex while being fully aware that the relationship wasn't doing you any good. Therefore, you need to find the middle ground between not invalidating your feelings and realizing that, if you and your family are healthy and safe and your basic needs are met, you're doing pretty well.

Thanks to our society's focus on the "'til death do us part" paradigm, we can sometimes feel pressured to settle. This leads us to underestimate the simple pleasures of being single (via Attuned Psychology). Ordinary things like being free to playfully flirt, deciding your plans for the evening on a whim, cooking and saving the leftovers for work lunch the next day, or purely focusing on your own needs and no one else's, are priceless. Replacing the idea of losing your partner with the concept of gaining freedom can give you a fresh perspective.


Cut ties and don't stay friends

Being mature about a breakup is all well and good, but unless you have children or work together, there is no reason to keep in frequent contact with your ex. More often than not, deciding to stay friends means that someone is secretly hoping for more. Even worse, with this arrangement, you may end up in a friends-with-benefits situation. This does you no favors and will only hurt you further. Even more depressing, being friendly may mean that you will have to encounter your ex's new flings.


Staying close with someone you used to love is just too tricky to navigate. According to Elite Daily, there is a famous saying that goes, "if two past lovers can remain friends, either they were never in love or they still are." A breakup is a fresh start, so allow yourself to breathe, feng shui your home, and throw away your old bits and bobs — especially your ex. Life moves forward, not sideways.

Take your ex off their pedestal

Earth has nearly eight billion inhabitants (via Worldometer). Yet, it's common for people to think their ex was such a catch that will never come their way again. Glorification is never healthy because when you put somebody on a pedestal, the only place for you is beneath them (via Baggage Reclaim).


If you find yourself worshipping an ex because they have physical, intellectual, or social characteristics that you admire or are attracted to, you need to do two things: First, work on your own self-worth (with the help of a qualified therapist, if needed) and second, make an effort to meet more people with the qualities you like so much (and perhaps a few contrasting ones, as well). It's normal to have standards, but extremes can be harmful. You may overlook red flags just because a person fits a certain "type" or idolize someone to the point of forgiving abusive behaviors. Expanding your social circle can help you realize there are other — very eligible — fish in the sea.

Know the best revenge is living well

The best revenge after a breakup is success and living (fabulously) well. If a breakup is forcing you to start over, you might as well go big or go home by using the experience as an opportunity to really become the best version of yourself (via Insider).


To get there, you don't have to become a self-worshipping narcissist, but a dose of temporary and healthy self-absorption can do wonders for your life. If you were lacking professionally, work on building your skills; if you were already successful, expand to new ventures. Maybe your finances need a boost. Take care of that, one day at a time. If you aren't looking or feeling your best physically, view the breakup as a chance to glow up ASAP.

Vow to become the very best you can be in the fields you choose to thrive in. You won't have time to remember an ex's existence when you're focused on improving your life and relishing the many exciting opportunities that come your way. If your ex ends up feeling like a sorry mess for losing you when they see you on top of the world, that's a plus. But you'll probably be too busy living your best life to even notice.


Prepare to love again and upgrade

Once you are settled into your life as a healthier, happier, richer, and sexier you, you'll likely consider jumping into the dating pool again. This time, be strategic about it. You upgraded your life because success is the best revenge, so an upgraded partner is a natural result of that effort (via Thought Catalog).


Now you know it's possible to be madly in love and be loved back in a healthy relationship that actually fits into your life goals. Don't settle. Don't compromise. Date people who are where you want to be, instead of trying to drag reluctant partners to your ideal destination. Don't dream of marrying a bookish top lawyer and then fall in love with a free-spirited hippie surfer (or vice-versa) only to try and change them.

Take your time and enjoy the process, make friends, have fun, and polish your life along the way. When you are ready, The One will appear and they'll be lucky to have a whole, happy new you by their side to love and cherish.