How to mend a broken heart?

If you’re reading this and you’re heartbroken right now, I am so, so sorry. Heartbreak is one of the most painful experiences we can have as human beings. Having to say goodbye to the person you were deeply in love with is excruciating and can completely upend your world. Some psychologists have compared getting over heartbreak to addiction withdrawal, with research suggesting that our brains respond the same way as addicts withdrawing from heroin.

It often feels like we will never find love again, or never be loved in that specific way again. However, it is so important to remember that this is completely untrue. That we will heal, we will find love again. It may seem unachievable but it’s just a matter of time. And if you can’t believe this right now, that’s ok: we’ll hold that belief for you.

Although there is no quick and easy way to mend a broken heart, here are some things you can do to help yourself heal.

1. Cut off all contact

This is the best thing you can do for yourself to move on quicker. It can feel unbearable, but if you are able to do it, your future self will be extremely grateful. Don’t message, email, meet in person, or call. This doesn’t have to be permanent, and if you’re intent on trying to remain friends after breaking up, you can agree to check in with each other in a couple of months. However, whilst you’re still vulnerable, it’s best to stay out of contact.

Try this:

  • Think of a couple of friends to be your break-up support system and ask them if it’s ok to message them when you feel tempted to message your ex
  • This one is a bit dicey, but if you really feel like messaging your ex, open up their chat window in your phone, type out the message, but don’t send it. Copy and paste it into your notes app on your phone. Sometimes, just writing out what you want to say, even if you don’t send it, can feel very cathartic and help the feeling move on
  • Find something you can do instead of messaging your ex that you can reach for right away if you feel tempted to message

2. Feel all the feelings

Allow yourself to feel all the feelings. Whether you need to cry or scream, feel it all. Don’t expect too much from yourself in the early stage of a break-up: it’s ok to have days where you feel like you’re just functioning and going through the motions, or days where you can’t stop crying. Losing someone who is still present and accessible is accompanied with intense longing and hurt, and we go through all the stages of grief (in no particular order): denial, sadness, anger, bargaining (questioning, analyzing why it ended, if it could have been saved), and acceptance. Give yourself time to grieve the loss. This means acknowledging everything you’ve lost: your home, perceived social status, the future you envisioned, friendships, family through your ex. The only way to get over it is through it.

3. Accept that it’s over

At least for now. A lot of the pain comes from not being able to accept that it’s over. Only when we accept that it’s over can we truly start to heal and move on. The end of all suffering is acceptance. Adopt the principle of radical acceptance: fast-track your way to acceptance by simply deciding to accept that it’s over because you know that at some point you will have to accept it. This is, indeed, radical. However, if you get this principle, and are able to do it, you will save yourself a lot of heartache. The idea is that, whether or not decide to accept it today, or a few months from now, or a year from now, at some point, you will be able to accept it. And so, why wait and wade through the suffering. Accept now, accept today. The other angle about why we should accept that it’s over sooner rather than later is because even if we want to get back together with our ex, and we think we’ve made a mistake, or think we can work it out, we still need to be able to close this current chapter first, before attempting a new one. The fastest way to do that is to accept that this way of being together has ended. Then, once you’ve accepted that, you can choose a new way of being, whether it’s with your ex, or without. But if we don’t accept that it’s over, we can’t choose a new way of being. This is a very painful limbo to be in.

Try this:

  • Tell yourself that in order to move on, whether it’s with or without your ex, you need to first accept this chapter has closed
  • Get rid of, or hide away all the things that remind you of your ex. Out of sight, out of mind

4. Focus on yourself

Think back to the person you were before the relationship started and what you enjoyed doing, and do those things. Do the things that have been on your bucket list. We forget that we were a fully functional, confident, independent, desirable person before the relationship began. That person hasn’t gone anywhere. We can reconnect with that person again by doing the things that used to give us joy. Heartbreak gives us tunnel vision and so it can be difficult to trust that we can be whole again when it feels like a part of ourselves has been ripped out, but know that we can.

Try this:

  • List your strengths
  • Go on a weekend getaway or staycation with a friend or two
  • Rediscover yourself by dating yourself: decide what you want to do, schedule it in, and get as dressed up as you would if you were going on a date with someone else
  • Work out, eat well

5. Remind yourself why it ended

When we break up with someone, we can’t stop thinking about them. It can be really difficult not to replay the memories, images, and conversations of the relationship. This highlight reel has an incredible momentum in our minds. In order to help us stop this thought-pattern, we need to build up a new flow of thoughts, a counter-flow, that our minds can turn to.

Try this:

  • Write down all the reasons why the relationship ended. And then, write them down again the next day. And the following day too. You may be writing down the same things, and it may get tedious, but if we can keep this daily practice up, it helps to build up a pattern of thought that can start interrupting our indulgence in the highlight reel
  • Write down the things you didn’t like about your ex. Often when a relationship ends, we forget about the things that we didn’t like. Take a picture of the list and save it as your phone background

6. Minimize all things that trigger thoughts of your ex

Everytime we think of our ex and let the highlight reel play, we fire up a particular neuronal pathway in our brains. It’s important to try not to indulge the highlight reel because when we do, the neuronal pathway becomes stronger, and we often feel more pain, and more heartache. It’s hard enough not to think of your ex when you’re heartbroken, so help yourself out by reducing the ways that you could potentially be reminded of them via social media.

Try this:

  • Consider unfriending them or unfollowing them on social media so their updates don’t spring up on your newsfeed
  • Consider reducing the time you spend on social media by deleting social media apps from your phone, so that you have to log in via a browser in order to check them
  • Exit shared WhatsApp groups. Or if you can’t exit, there’s no shame in renaming your ex on your phone to something neutral and/or random so that you don’t constantly see your ex’s name pop up
  • Create new Spotify playlists with songs that are not associated with your time together, and ask your friends to send you their happiest tunes
  • Get new Netflix recommendations from friends: nothing that involves relationships

7. Help someone else

This can help us take our minds off our own pain. It’s also a wonderful way to get perspective, which is something we’re in desperate shortage of in the throes of heartbreak. Helping others also can remind us how capable we are and give us a much needed confidence boost.

Try this:

  • Volunteer with a charity or NGO
  • Take it upon yourself to help a friend organize a birthday party / baby shower / hen or stag do

8. Create a new world

In a relationship, our world merges with our partner’s. This may mean that friendship circles have now combined. It can be helpful to branch out and make new friends, and adopt new routines and habits.

Try this:

  • Join a group activity with new people who don’t know you or your ex, so you don’t have to talk about them and can practice being and presenting yourself in a new way
  • Get a haircut: there’s nothing like a new look to mark a new beginning
  • Change up your morning routine, or create one if you haven’t before

9. Have self-compassion

Sometimes we feel that we “should have moved on by now”. There’s no timeline for heartbreak so be kind to yourself. If we beat ourselves up for thinking about our ex, it only makes the thought stronger. As the saying goes, it’s in resistance that there is suffering. So we need to take a mindful approach and let our thoughts of our ex come and go as clouds in the sky, or as cars passing by on a highway. The relationship may have ended, but love sometimes doesn’t, and that’s ok. Know that it is natural to think of the people we love, beautiful even.

10. Gratitude

Gratitude can be the difference between “I’m good”, and “I’m great”; between surviving and thriving. Having a daily or weekly gratitude practice can do wonders for your outlook on life, your sense of wellbeing, and hopefulness.

Try this:

  • Keep a daily gratitude journal where you write one thing you’re grateful for
  • Have a weekly gratitude check-in with a group of friends, or just one friend over WhatApp

And finally, remember to love again.

It’s difficult to look forward to falling in love again when we’re heartbroken, but remember that your present is not your future and “it’s never too late for a new beginning in your life” (Joyce Meyers). “Flowers grow back, even after the harshest winters, you will too” (Jennae Cecilia).

If you are interested in scheduling a session with Bhavna Bharvani or have further queries, please contact us today.

About The Author

Bhavna Bharvani

Bhavna is a US-trained Clinical Counsellor, registered with the California Board of Behavioural Sciences. She is trained in San Francisco, where she worked with individuals, couples, teenagers, and LGBTQIA+ folks whose lives have been disrupted by chronic and complex trauma. Bhavna has worked across a range of community mental health settings, high schools, and residential substance use treatment centres.