Ending a relationship is never easy - and it can be even harder if there is still love shared.
But just because heartbreak may feel like the end of the world, the good news is the pain won’t last forever - and it certainly won’t keep you from falling in love again.
According to research published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, it takes 11 weeks to feel better after a relationship ends. But a separate study found it takes closer to 18 months to heal from the end of a marriage.
In reality, heartbreak is a grieving process - and it looks completely different for everyone.
Because love is a messy emotion, and each relationship comes with its own memories and feelings, the end of any relationship will be a unique experience.
And there is no set time limit for healing - as factors including the length of the relationship, shared experiences and memories, whether you had children, betrayal, and the depth of emotion all play a part in the healing process.
The break-up can also be worse or more painful if you didn’t want the relationship to end.
Fortunately, although it may not seem like it in the moment, millions of other people are experiencing similar emotions - and millions more have.
Human beings are meant to form relationships and fall in love. And just as most people will experience love at least once in their lifetime, many will also experience the sting of heartbreak. It is natural, and expected, to be upset and devastated at the end of a relationship - even when the relationship might not have been a positive thing. After all, love is blind and it has the ability to make people overlook their partner’s flaws. This is truest at the end of a relationship, when bad memories are often overshadowed by good ones that make us question why we broke up in the first place.
But, just like any other wound, heartbreak heals with time, self-care, and a positive outlook - and it is possible to move on.
And while no two relationships are alike, there are certain things that everyone suffering from heartbreak can do to move on.
According to relationship expert Ammanda Major, there are four steps that will help you get over someone.
Take time to grieve your loss
For some, losing a significant other because of a break-up can feel as painful as if they died. From seeing or talking to the one you love every day to having no contact, it can seem impossibly daunting to imagine your life without them. But it is important to come to terms with this new reality and accept it before you can move on. While it may seem appealing to fast-forward through this period of sadness by keeping busy with other things and people, the reality is the end of a relationship requires a grieving period where we process what has happened. This is a period of time where those suffering from a heartbreak can reflect on the relationship and their own behaviour. Rather than trying to suppress these feelings, allowing yourself to feel them is integral to the healing process.
And while you are reflecting on the relationship and your emotions related to the break-up, you may learn a thing or two about yourself and what you want out of a future relationship.
Reconnect with yourself
In many relationships, the primary focus is on “we” instead of “me” or “I.” But the end of a relationship offers a unique opportunity - to take stock of where you are in life, and then to do something for you. Although it may sound cliché, the end of a relationship offers you the chance to reconnect with you. This may mean taking up a new hobby or reuniting with friends. Taking the time to do things that make you feel good, like seeing family, finding a new talent, or going on holiday will all help boost your mood post-break-up. This focus on yourself also means you can enter your next relationship with a self-awareness you may have lost. Rather than rushing into a new relationship, take time to focus on your relationship with you.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
Rarely do people come to the decision to end a relationship at the same time. When this is the case, one side is usually surprised or shocked - which will only extend the grieving process. In addition to these feelings of shock, feelings of rejection can also be apparent when a partner ends a relationship seemingly out of the blue.
If the end of your relationship came as a shock, it is normal to feel rejected or question your self-worth. But if your partner has made it clear that they no longer want a relationship with you, and that there is no chance of reconciliation - accept what they are saying and focus on yourself.
Just because a partner has ended a relationship does not mean you are unlovable or unworthy of their love. Rather than focusing on what you did wrong, focus instead on what you can do to make yourself feel better in the moment.
If you think that blocking your ex on social media will help you feel less sad, then it is the right thing to do - as limiting exposure can often help us keep our mind off of the pain.
Talking also helps - but just make sure to set limits with your friends and family about what you feel comfortable discussing. While you may be ready to talk about your ex, you may not feel entirely comfortable hearing them talk badly about your ex or your relationship. However, talking through your emotions can be beneficial and often an outside perspective can be helpful. The same is true when and if you decide to get rid of the physical reminders of your relationship. While keeping pictures and other memorabilia is perfectly okay, it is also okay to throw this stuff away if it only causes you pain.
And if you have things that you need to return to your ex, having a friend or family member deliver them for you can ease some of the pressure and sadness associated with seeing them again.
During a break-up, and in the time that follows, relying on your support system is necessary for healing.
Time does actually heal all
You may not realise it in the moment, but as time goes on, the feelings of hurt and betrayal will lessen. Reminders of your relationship won’t be as painful and one day, whether it is months or a year from now, thinking of that person won’t cause the same feelings of sadness and hurt to bubble up.
Although time is relative to each relationship, moving past these negative feelings in the time we feel we need is integral. If this means ignoring the typical timelines for dealing with heartbreak, that is okay.
However, if our negative feelings aren’t healing in time, it may be beneficial to seek professional help in coming to terms with these emotions. As thinking negative or painful thoughts can be damaging to us and to future relationships, getting back into a positive mindset is crucial.
The first year will be the hardest - and understanding this is important. You will have moments of sadness and nostalgia, but as long as you remind yourself that the end of the relationship wasn’t entirely your fault, they should pass.
Do not accept complete blame for the break-up - but at the same time, try to reflect on what you could have done differently. Relationships involve two people, and a break-up is never the fault of one person entirely.
But if you are still having trouble moving on or feel that your emotions relating to the break-up are affecting your ability to enjoy life, talking to someone can help.
If you are to successfully move on with your life after a heartbreak, letting go of the negative and focusing only on the positive and the future is key.
This way, when you do find love again, you will be entering the relationship as the best version of yourself.
Being able to love deeply is an incredible ability - and it is one that will benefit you as you move forward with your life following a heartbreak.
This article has been updated. It was originally published in February 2020.