How to Overcome a Broken Heart

Posted on 28th May 2018 by

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“You have to let people go. Everyone who’s in your life is meant to be in your journey, but not all of them are meant to be until the end”


You should probably know from the start, this is a long post. A broken heart is a complicated issue though and there is a lot for us to talk about.


It’s no secret to us that heart break is one of the most challenging, painful and life changing experiences you can go through, at any time and any age.


It feels like the loneliest time and it feels like you are the only person that has ever been through it. Yet we know it is very much a shared experience. At some point, we all have to endure it. If you are heart-broken, know that thousands of people are also going through this today, with you.



When it was my turn, I remember searching the internet, looking for someone to tell me what to do and how to get over it. I asked anyone I spoke to “Have you been through this?” (everyone said yes), “How did you get through it?”, “How long did it take?”, I was on the hunt for a secret cure.


Of course no one could give me the cure because it doesn’t exist.


I had experienced enough hardship, enough mini heart ache and listened to enough Kelly Clarkson, to know, that in the end, time will be my best friend.


The thing is about break-ups, although you can’t magic the hurt away overnight, I believe you can actually speed up the process. The decisions you make, the way you think and the things you do. They can get you through this at a faster pace.


The problem, as we all know, is that when we are overwhelmed by emotion, making the “right” decisions is tough. That reasonable, logical part of our brain, isn’t really working. Making it all too easy to fall into the trap of doing things that will only prolong the pain.


If you wish to truly recover from this, that can only happen if you commit to doing it in a healthy way. Below I have outlined the main areas that I think contribute to making that possible.



The initial pain


Those early days where it is pure agony. Some people report feeling physical pain at this stage because the heart hurts so much. You can’t imagine you are ever going to recover. You’re not eating or sleeping and everything brings back memories of your ex. I clearly remember more than anything wanting to see myself in one year, just a one second peek, to know I was going to be OK.


I want you to remember, that it feels this bad because it has to get worse before it can get better. It will get better and you will come out stronger.


My best friend gave me the greatest advice at this stage, when I didn’t want to face the day or see anyone:


‘If you need a day by yourself then that is understandable but I am pretty sure you will feel better if you get out later and see people. Just take it in little steps – have a shower and see how you feel, then if you want to get dressed, promise yourself you are going for a coffee and cake from Starbucks!!! Then try and work and just think you can go home sick after lunch if it’s too much’.



The message is clear for this stage. Take it one step at a time and be kind to yourself. Don’t think too far into the future. The only thing you need to do is get through the first week or two. Then the pain will begin to ease slightly. You will notice that life goes on and this will kick-start the shift you need, a bit of hope.


At times you will question whether you have the strength to get through this. You do. Remember, everything you have ever been through and got through. It always worked out, this is no different.


Don’t underestimate the power of a shower. Seriously.





This might seem like a funny one to talk about but it was a huge part of my experience…


The fact that time seems to stand still and you can’t imagine that a week, month or year will ever pass. I think because of the fact, we know time is the healer, it was concerning to me that it was now passing so slowly. Every hour felt like three hours. I just wanted the painful part to be over. Around the one month mark, time will start to go back to normal and the focus of having to get through each day or week becomes less/disappears. Because life goes on.



A rollercoaster of emotions


Elisabeth Kubler Ross developed ‘The Change Curve’- a model used to explain the cycle of emotions we go through when faced with significant change in our lives. The model prepares you for the rollercoaster of emotions you are likely to experience through a break-up. You will go through a complete cycle of feelings. All the ones you expect to experience following change and loss… shock, denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. You will go back and forth between them all. Embrace the cycle, it means you are moving forward.


Understanding your emotions is important. It is confusing when they change so suddenly, and you don’t know what you are feeling or thinking from one minute to the next. That’s normal.


Keep checking in with yourself and how you feel. Check things are getting slightly easier. That’s your marker. If things aren’t improving, do something different, it’s all trial and error.


As a general rule, the times where you feel really stong emotion, try not to do anything drastic. Wait until you feel calmer to make any decisions.



Feel the feelings


To get past this, it requires you to feel uncomfortable, a lot. Acknowledge the feelings and FEEL them. When you hurt and cry, it feels dreadful and you want it to stop, but actually, it’s a good sign. It’s needed for this to work.


When we feel pain, whether it is physical or emotional, we want it gone and we will do pretty much anything to get rid. Hence, it’s easy to go on the hunt for a replacement partner, down a bottle of wine, or work yourself into the ground. Whilst these strategies will work for a while, that emotion is still there somewhere, waiting to pop up when you least expect it.


Try your best not to numb the feelings, instead work through them.


I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t numb mine at all. I was mindful not to drink more than I usually do. I definitely fell into the rebound trap. And can confirm, I just had to feel the feelings later. Plus it’s confusing because you think you are upset about the rebound. It’s not about the rebound.


If you don’t recover and process the loss, it will lead to what Guy Winch (Psychologist and author of How to fix a broken heart) refers to as ‘complicated grief’, meaning that you do not fully heal. This then impacts on your mood, responses and outlook on life in the future.


Know your triggers and prepare for them. I knew the mornings were by far my worst time, for some reason that’s when it hit me most.




Normal worries and thoughts


Break-ups come with a truckload of worries and unhelpful thoughts. Mostly though, they are the same patterns everyone falls into.

At this time, you are overestimating how bad things will be, and you are underestimating how well you can cope with difficulties.

Let’s look at some of the worries/thoughts everyone has:


 What if he/she meets someone else?

The fact is you just can’t think about that, you have to either stop yourself or reframe the thought. It will drive you crazy.

Your ex-partner being with someone else is not a good enough reason to be with them.

You forget, you are going to meet someone too. And your ex-partner doesn’t like the thought of that either. If they say they don’t mind then they are lying, or they were never worth your time anyway.

When they meet someone new, it will certainly sting but you will deal with it. But deal with it when it actually happens, it will be easier then.


 I can’t imagine ever fancying anyone again.

You will. As you heal and when the time is right. Don’t rush it.


I’m going to be alone

You are not going to be alone.

Connections with others are vital towards our wellbeing, but it doesn’t have to be romantic. Focus on all your other relationships.

Time alone is great, if it’s not something you are comfortable with, then work on getting comfortable with it. It’s a strength.


I wasn’t enough

Don’t spend your time blaming yourself and thinking of what you did or didn’t do. This will torture you. 99% of the time, it’s not about you. Your ex-partner is on their own journey too.


I need him/her back

This is the fear talking. The fear of being alone. The fear that you have been rejected. The fear that no one else will ever love you. The fear that there are no good people left. Fear, because the unknown is scary.

You convince yourself you are better off being in a non-perfect relationship than no relationship at all. It’s not true. You deserve 100% the best, nothing less.


Everything I thought was my future isn’t anymore.

You never ever know what the future holds. There was no more certainty yesterday, you’re just more aware now. As you start to feel yourself again, you will begin to create a new ideal for your future. Decide what that looks like and make it happen. Life is short, there isn’t enough time to suffer and think about what could have been. Have a little trust in the fact that things will work out.



Idealising the relationship


When you are fresh out of a break-up and facing the fear of being single again, one of the first things you do is reflect on all of the good things about the relationship and person. You will remember it as perfect. Of course you’re going to miss the relationship when you think of it like that.


You will need to actively draw on the reasons for why this break-up is going to be good for you. It will take your effort to remember the parts that were not so good, the things you have missed out on and the compromises you have made.


Hate takes up a lot of energy that you don’t have, that’s not what this is about. It’s simply a way to balance out those strong positive memories with realistic ones.



Contact with your ex





 Look, everyone some people will tell you to stick to a no contact rule; I just want you to heal. I stayed in contact with my ex. But our break up was as amicable as a break-up can be, so it was possible. Looking back, I wouldn’t change it; it helped my healing process. Had it caused me more misery, I’m confident I would have not maintained a relationship. It’s very much individual and it depends on the break-up itself.


This is a difficult one for me to advise around. The truth is, I’m pretty useless in general at cutting people out unless absolutely necessary, but I do see the benefits and know where people are coming from with the no contact rule.


Of course if you do choose to stay in contact, then not texting every day is recommended. Don’t text all the things you want to, like the cute dog on the train. You need to get used to not doing that.


It is best to have space. Seeing each other isn’t going to help you move on, certainly resist any drunken meet-ups.


If you live together, one of you will need to move out if you intend to start the healing process sooner. Otherwise it is on hold until that lease is up.


When you go through the angry stage, don’t text them. It’s too late for me but save yourselves.


One thing I will say here; if you do send a drunk text, angry text, meetup or do anything that you had been trying not to, don’t beat yourself up. These things might set you back but so will berating yourself.


Have a break away from social media, or at least unfollow anything that isn’t helping. Don’t stalk your ex on social media; if you start now then you will just get into a bad habit.



Make healthy decisions


When faced with change, you have a choice which path to go down, you really do. The way I see it, is you either get stuck in this break-up and let it consume you, or you decide this will be the making of you. I remember very early on, deciding that this pain cannot be for nothing, I am going to take as much as I can from this experience.


When faced with every day decisions, try to ask yourself what is truly going to make you feel better. Is staying in bed going to be better than going for a walk? Is looking at their social media better than reading a book?


Do things that you know make you feel good on any normal day. Whilst they might not have the same impact they usually do, feeling a bit better is progress. It’s movement, that’s what you are looking for.

            Break-up holiday


It’s true that you won’t feel like doing things, do them anyway. It will help you in the long run.


Things that definitely helped me, was exercise, having things to look forward to (booking fun things to do and holidays), reading, long walks, writing things down, contacting friends, watching movies and anything else that gave me time away from dwelling on should haves and could haves.




Connect with others


This is a time to connect with others in a way that suits you. Initially for the first few days I chose not to see anyone face to face or speak on the phone. It was all messaging, but it was constant contact with those people who pick me up.


People deal with emotions in different ways, some people choose not to talk to others. I’m no one to tell you to change. The thing is, after a break-up people tend to feel more lonely than they actually are. When you feel lonely, it’s natural to isolate yourself even more. Try not to block people out. It’s an important time to remind yourself of the relationships you do have.


If you do feel lonely, reach out to others. Yes, you are going through a hard time, but they can’t check in with you 24/7, because their lives haven’t changed.


Getting out and seeing your friends provides the opportunity to laugh and focus your attention elsewhere. It’s not going to take the pain away, but you will feel slightly better than if you stay home and wallow.



Time alone


As important as it is spending time with others, it is equally as important to spend time alone. To get used to not having someone around. This can be really hard, but being comfortable in your own company will really help with this whole process. This is when you can check in on how you are doing and get used to being with your own thoughts and feelings.





This is another one where we hear mixed messages all the time. Everyone has heard the classic ‘the only way to get over someone, is to get under someone’. Personally, I just don’t think it’s useful at all. See above points about feeling the feelings.


There are definitely benefits to getting back out there and dating. Let’s be honest, dating can be fun and it is a good confidence boost following a break-up.


Don’t rush into dating. Take your time. Keep in mind that your heart is fragile at the best of times, let alone post break-up. It doesn’t take much to bruise it again. Despite its benefits, dating comes with its own issues and frustrations.



Work out your passion


You may not see this right away, but a break-up is the perfect opportunity to focus on yourself. When you are in a relationship, you often become a pair and subsequently, you lose a part of you. You put the needs of someone else above your own and focus your attention on making them happy.


When you find yourself on your own and you suddenly have lots more time on your hands, it’s possible you have forgotten what you enjoy doing. It sounds simple, but start by identifying your own likes and dislikes. Start to try new things, go to new places, discover what lights you up.


Since the day of my break-up, what has struck me most is how suddenly life can change. One minute I was living one life, and within seconds, life was no longer as I knew it. And would never be the same again. This reminded me that no matter how much we plan, we do not know what is round the corner. It is this that triggered me into finally focusing on my own passions and being determined to create a life I am happy with. Since then I have been more determined to live in the moment and enjoy life as it is. This attitude has seen to it that I get out of my comfort zone and do the things I was too afraid to do.


Do more of what makes you happy, and less of what makes you unhappy.



 Break-up Songs


Break-up songs are a must. These were my top 3, in this order:


Kelly Clarkson (obviously) – Cry. “Is this as hard as it gets? is this what it feels like to really cry?”

Sarah Evans – A little bit stronger. “Even on my weakest days, I get a little bit stronger”

Katy Perry – By the Grace of God. “I know I am enough, possible to be loved, it was not about me”



Moving on


“Healing is not linear”


As you move through your break-up and start to feel stronger, your main focus won’t be on the relationship anymore. It will be on you. Notice your progress. A break-up is a form of loss, you deserve to acknowledge what you have just been through.


Expect highs and lows, there will still be times when something reminds you of that relationship. It’s OK to reflect on it from time to time.


You will have learned so much from this, don’t let that pass you by.  Some of those learning points will help you in the future. In fact, I will leave you with another gem that my best friend said to me a year ago:


  “It is this time that you will learn so much about yourself and how to deal with these huge life changes that can be used for other stuff in the future”, quickly followed by “I just know that on your wedding day you will be so so pleased you went through this to get to where you will be that day”. – Charly, again.


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Carly Ann xx





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