How To Let Go After Your Breakup
Using science and experience, I'm going to teach you what can help.
Posted May 08, 2017
I've had my fair share of breakups over the years and recently came out of something that left me in a vulnerable, emotional fog. Actually, it was more than a fog.
I was completely addicted; she had just blocked me from every communication channel we had once used. This included texting, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. I crawled out of the bed we once shared like an addict withdrawing from hard drugs. In a way, she was my emotional drug dealer. Instead of being a shady scruffy character I’d meet in the dark, she would be the smiling, yoga pants wearing, person I’d meet on sunny weekends.
As terrible as I felt, there wasn’t much I could do besides try to understand the way I was feeling.
Feelings are a lot like drugs, but produced from our experiences instead of substances. These consist of neurotransmitters made up of dopamine and serotonin that result in our moods. A loss of any neurotransmitter depletes our brain chemistry levels and causes us to feel symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, or manic.
Even though my situation felt like torture for the first week, I know others have been in the same boat for much longer. It’s a hard place to be, but time passes, and we will move on. I know I have moved on, and today I’m more emotionally intelligent from this experience.
The goal of this article is to support your adjustment. I'll cover the stages of breakup grief and the solutions that will decrease your symptoms. I’m going to clear the air of any emotional fog. I can’t promise the tears and sad feelings will end, but utilizing ideas in this article will decrease those emotions and have you smiling like a kid eating ice cream.
Psychology teaches us that there are five emotional stages of loss. According to the famous Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, there’s a process:
You’re in disbelief and hope to get that person’s attention. You may even obsess and check your phone hoping they text or call you like they once did. You may think: “This can’t be real. I have to see her. Why hasn’t she texted me back? She’s not serious. I know she’s playing around. She’ll come back to me.”
You feel frustrated that this has happened, and may even blame yourself or the other person for causing such anger. “Why me? This isn’t fair!”
You start coming up with ways to get them back and wonder what you can change. “I’ll do anything to get her back. I’ll be the person she wants me to be. I’ll just buy her flowers, knock on her door, and beg her to take me back. Then she’ll see how much I care for her!”
You feel sad without him or her. Everything reminds you of them and the memories you shared. Things that were once vibrant are now gray, and now you don’t enjoy anything. “I can’t deal with everything right now. I just want to see her.”
You embrace the experience and realize you will survive. You abandon efforts to contact the person who broke up with you. “I know I’ll be just fine without her. Until then I’m going to have fun and meet other people. Time to get that new haircut, join a gym, and buy that plane ticket.”
Some of us move through the five emotional stages faster than others, and it all depends on the length of the relationship, as well as how attached you were to the other person. If you were married for 25 years, then it may take months, or even years to officially move on. If you only dated for a few months, then you may get over that person within a few weeks.
Here are a few ways to accelerate the process and get to acceptance sooner rather than later:
- Social support
As much as it sucks going back to a life without him or her, you need to return to that world. You need to spend time with your friends and family. They can support you by being present and by validating your emotions as you vent to them about your experience.
- Fun activities
I recommend watching comedy or going back to the activities you once enjoyed. You may still have that person on your mind, but at least you can elevate your mood without them.
- Date new people
I find dating new people to be the quickest way to forget and let go of someone. You may just want the person you confessed your love to, but dating new people shows you what other people have to offer. You may even find someone better than the person you once had.
- Use supplements
The worst thing you can do is drown your sorrows in alcohol and drugs like there is no tomorrow.
Even if you’re hungover the next day, you’ll still need to learn how to deal with the situation. Let’s be realistic, dealing with all these emotions with a hangover is going to be ten times worse.
I’m not a doctor, and you should consult yours, but I’ve found 5-HTP to be really useful. 5-HTP, naturally found in food, is a supplement that is a precursor to serotonin (aka the happy neurotransmitter). Science says that 5-HTP will promote a positive mood, and ease you out of your emotional fog.
- Remove them from your life
Addicts are triggered into relapsing by people, places, and things. Even thinking about their addiction can trigger them back into bad habits. In the game of break ups, you'll want to decrease any exposure you have to him or her. This means letting go of stalking their social media accounts and throwing away certain possessions they may have given you. Having fewer things attached to them will decrease painful memories.
Running and lifting weights does more than help us look hotter than our ex. They stimulate endorphins which act as the body's natural stress relievers. I found myself taking all the negative emotions I felt from the situation and redirecting them into exercising.
The way we think about a situation causes us to feel and eventually act upon it. Being a psychotherapist intern has taught me that the way we interpret a situation dictates whether we feel good or bad about it. Here are just a few ways to think through the situation.
- Reframe the situation
- Look at all the positives of leaving that person. They may have been amazing in some way, but so are many other people in the world. What do you gain from no longer being with that person? This is a tricky one since you may be replaying all the things you miss about them in your head. I realized I had more time for my friends, myself, and I could spend more time working on my career.
- Write a letter
- If you were unable to get the closure you wanted (like me) you can try writing a letter sharing all the things you wanted to say in it. It may have been their issues or yours that resulted in the breakup. What matters is that you express yourself, and once you are finished, either read the letter days later for solace, or discard it. Remember: DO NOT mail this emotional letter since you may open up wounds or seek attention they are not willing to give.
- Magnify their issues
- This one’s a bit harsh, but if you’re in an emotional fog, you need to downplay the positive traits you remember of him or her. You need to understand that they aren’t perfect. They had their issues, and in the end you may have dodged a bullet. You’ll never know, but the point is to cope through the loss of being around them.
Breakups are miserable, but only as much as we let them affect us. I could’ve spent days moping around my house like a sad lonely puppy, or I could get up and focus on something to take my mind off of the breakup. I chose to understand that she wasn't for me and I took my sorrows to the gym. I also sought supporting friends who turned on fog lights to clear the emotional fog. It helped.
I encourage you to be hopeful in your situation. The time will pass. You will heal, and things will get better. As cliche as this sounds, you’ll look at this moment in a few months or even a year, and laugh knowing that the experiences sucked, but they taught you how to cope and make better decisions.
Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth; Kessler, David (June 5, 2007). "On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss". Scribner. Retrieved November 27, 2016 – via Amazon.