Breakup grief is the intense emotional pain and distress that occurs when a romantic relationship ends, especially one that was long-term and intensely bonded. The grief stems from severe feelings of loss – not just of the partner, but also hopes, dreams, and the future you envisioned together. Breakup grief can involve deep sadness, anger, regret, loneliness, hopelessness, and even physical symptoms.
Healing from a major relationship loss takes time and self-care. Grieving is a journey of grappling with the myriad of emotions, processing the trauma of the breakup, rebuilding your sense of identity, and eventually allowing yourself to love again. With compassion, support, and intentional personal growth, most people do find their way to the other side of grief, changed but stronger.
Myths About Breakup Grief
Ending a romantic relationship brings a unique and intense kind of grieving process. Often attached to that are numerous myths and misconceptions about how grieving “should” look at this juncture of life.
A major myth is that you should “get over it” quickly and feel fine soon after leaving any relationship that wasn’t “the one” or headed towards marriage. This attitude diminishes the real sense of loss and change someone feels when a bond they cared for breaks. Grieving takes time, regardless the type or duration of relationship.
Accept Your Feelings
The first step in recovering from a breakup is to allow yourself to fully experience whatever emotions arise, without judgment. Suppressing your feelings or beating yourself up for still caring will only prolong the grieving process. Let yourself cry if you feel like crying, journal your thoughts if that helps you process, or talk to close friends about what you’re going through. Facing your emotions head-on is the only way to work through them. Expect that you may cycle through disbelief, sadness, anger, and regret—sometimes bouncing rapidly between them. This is normal following a major loss.
When you’re grieving, it’s crucially important to take extra good care of yourself physically and emotionally. Combat feelings of depression with regular exercise, even if just a short walk outside each day. Eat plenty of nourishing foods and avoid unhelpful coping mechanisms like excess alcohol. Get enough sleep each night, and engage in relaxing activities before bed like taking a bath or meditating. The better care you take of your body and mind, the faster you’ll recover. Surround yourself with positive influences and uplifting people who care about your wellbeing. This is a time to be gentle with yourself.
Reflect on the Relationship
Once the initial rawness of the breakup subsides, you can gain helpful perspective by taking time to reflect. Consider the ways the relationship wasn’t working, as well as your unmet needs. This isn’t about placing blame, but better understanding why things ultimately ended. Even long relationships that are overall loving can have unhealthy patterns that lead to their downfall. Reflection will help you identify how you want your next relationship to be different. You can take these lessons forward.
Look to the Future
An important part of healing is focusing your thoughts on the future, rather than dwelling on the past. Whenever you catch yourself ruminating about your ex or the pain of the breakup, consciously shift your mindset to envisioning possibilities ahead. Think about goals and dreams you have outside of romantic relationships. How do you want to grow as a person? Consider taking a class, starting a new hobby, deepening friendships, traveling somewhere new, or beginning a new career path. Infuse your life with things that energize and inspire you. The more you focus forward, the less stuck you’ll feel.
In most cases, maintaining contact and trying to remain friends right after a breakup makes it much harder to move on. You need space and distance to gain perspective. This means defriending them on social media, removing their number from your phone, putting away gifts and photographs, and halting communication unless absolutely necessary. If you have shared financial or other obligations requiring you interact, keep it brief and focused on the logistical issue. Visibly clearing your ex from your life is cleansing and empowering.
You don’t have to go through the grieving process alone. Seek out the support of trusted loved ones who will listen without judgement. Or, consider talking to a counselor who can help you navigate the emotional aftermath in a healthy way. Joining a support group is another option for making connections with others experiencing similar losses. There is nothing weak about asking for help when you need it—in fact, it takes great courage and vulnerability. Know that others care about your wellbeing and want to be there for you.
Honor What Was Positive
Even if the relationship had to end, try to look back on the good times and happy memories with gratitude rather than bitterness. Appreciate the ways this person enriched your life for the period of time you were together. Though the future you had planned may not have come to fruition, you still shared meaningful experiences that contributed to who you are. Honor the positive without dwelling on it.
Trust the Process
It takes time to truly heal from a major breakup. There will be good days when you start to feel hope, and inevitably some bad days when feelings of grief surface again. Ups and downs are normal. Trust that if you are patient and nurturing with yourself, follow a healthy mourning process, and remain open to new beginnings, the pain will subside. One day in the future, you’ll wake up and realize you feel genuinely happy and optimistic about love again. Breakups alter us, but they don’t have to define us. You will get through this.
Going through the ending of a long-term relationship is one of life’s greatest challenges. Allow yourself to fully grieve, but also know you have the strength to eventually rebuild your life and thrive again. Be compassionate with yourself each step of the way. If you implement healthy coping strategies and give the healing process proper time and care, you can emerge wiser and more resilient. The loss may always be part of your story—but it doesn’t have to be the whole story. Keep believing in yourself and the promise of brighter days ahead.
Cleveland Clinic. (2023). Grieving After a Break-Up? 6 Strategies to Help You Heal. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/grieving-after-a-break-up-6-strategies-to-help-you-heal
How to mourn a breakup so that you can truly move on. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/how-mourn-breakup-so-you-can-truly-move-ncna1034181
Pattemore, C. (2022). Your Permission (and Guide) to Grieve a Breakup. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/relationships/coping-with-the-end-of-a-relationship
Coates, T. (2024) Build Resilience in the face of Grief and Loss. Retrieved from https://warmpathways.com/blog/2024/01/building-resilience. Accessed 03 Jan 2024.