Heartbreak — even the word is a veritable drag.
And while there's no way to control how or when you'll get your heart broken, you can control how you cope with the pain — and ultimately, move forward.
“Breakups cause an intense amount of grief," Lexi Joondeph-Breidbart, LMSW, a licensed social worker who leads an eight-week breakup support group called Lonely Hearts Club NYC, told TODAY. This may show itself through "depression, difficulty sleeping, hair loss, change in appetite, crying spells and more."
In many ways, a broken heart requires the same TLC as a broken bone. "Just like you would treat a broken leg with rest, physical therapy and patience, you must do the same for your heartbreak. It will take processing difficult emotions, having new experiences, time and support," Joondeph-Breidbart added.
Consider this the ultimate playbook on how to get over a heartbreak while maintaining grace and compassion for yourself. Below, therapists and psychologists share their best tips for navigating the breakup blues — and how to end up stronger and wiser in the long run.
Lean into your feelings
Although it's easier said than done, staying present and feeling your emotions (both the highs and the lows) is pivotal to healing after heartbreak. “Pretending you are OK will only intensify the sadness," Joondeph-Breidbart said. "Reach out for support whether it’s with a therapist or a support group that focuses on breakups, depression and/or loneliness."
Remember that it's normal to feel like you're on an emotional rollercoaster. “You will be a ball of conflicting emotions, one minute you might feel sad and another angry or guilty. These competing emotions are normal," David Tzall, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist in Brooklyn, NY, told TODAY.
Feelings of guilt — not just sadness — often take over. Because of this, Tzall says "we do not take the time to register the sadness because we are too preoccupied with paying attention to a feeling out of shame and internal or external pressure."
By leaning into your feelings, Joondeph-Breidbart says you'll be able to successfully "move through [Elisabeth] Kübler-Ross’s grief stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance."
Focus on self-compassion, not self-esteem
Be kind to yourself throughout the healing journey. "Self-esteem implies that there is a level of value to you — a scale of worthiness," Lindsey Konchar, MSW, LGSW, owner of Coping with Lindsey and author of "I Got 99 Coping Skills and Being a B---- Ain’t One," told TODAY. "When heartbreak strikes, your self-esteem reinforces negative beliefs like shame, guilt and inadequacy.
On the flip side, Konchar says self-compassion "encompasses kindness, humility and understanding. There is no comparing yourself to others and you leave behind the notion of right versus wrong."
"Self-compassion still says, ‘I am worthy.’ It just ditches any contingencies," she added.
Turn to others
“Support is vital for healing emotional pain and letting people in allows you to do this,” Joondeph-Breidbart said, adding that you have to be willing to be vulnerable and accept help from others.
But sometimes, it can be difficult if "individuals feel like they are crawling back to their friends that they left for their relationship." This behavior shouldn't stand in your way, though: If someone who you were once close with reaches out amid a breakup, you would likely show up for them. Remember the same applies in your situation.
If you feel like your network is a little thin or you shared a lot of mutual friends with your ex and are looking for new bonds, making some new friends may prove beneficial. Even better, they won’t know you in relation to your ex so you may find it easier to focus on building a better you.
Pursue your interests
It may be tough to snap yourself out of the ice cream and rom-com cocoon, but it will help catapult you on the road to feeling better. “Go back to the things that brought you joy before the breakup or explore new passions,” Joondeph-Breidbart said. “By engaging in your interests, you will feel fulfilled outside your ex and will likely make connections with new people."
Make time for new hobbies
It's a fresh start, so you might as well open yourself up to new experiences. “As sad as a breakup might be, it can be a chance of revival. Picking up new hobbies, starting new classes, or moving to a new city can be ways to refresh ourselves and allow for continued internal growth," Tzall said, adding that transitions are a great time to take stock of what your needs are and if they were met in your last relationship.
Konchar echoed that in relationships it’s common for partners to have mutual hobbies. “After a breakup, those pastimes might become painful reminders of what once was. A great way to heal after heartbreak is to be in a new environment or start a new routine."
This period of reflection may take you in exciting new directions and open up doors you never saw with your relationship blinders on.
Block your ex on social media
Speaking of blank slates, make sure your digital presence reflects your newfound singledom. “Blocking your ex on social media is a healthy coping mechanism," Konchar said. “When you see your ex, even just on social media, your brain gets a hit of dopamine (the feel-good hormone). After that initial rush, you might feel anxious, sad or even impulsive.”
Give yourself grace
There’s a reason why this expression is uttered during life's most difficult moments. Grace moves the needle in the right direction — away from the blame game, and onto embodying an empathetic, strong version of wonderful you.
“Having grace toward yourself is most crucial during these periods when you’re healing from deep relational cuts,” Tzall said, noting that moving beyond a painful breakup can be particularly challenging when you still have strong feelings for the other person. Remember what we said about self-compassion and self-love earlier? It really makes a world of a difference.
Keep the focus on yourself
This is a time for deep contemplation, not a time for agonizing over your ex’s every move. “Do not stress about what the other person did or how what they did was unfair or wrong. When we focus too much on the other person, we do not bring our awareness to our role in the breakup,” Tzall said.
“A breakup is caused by both people who have certain degrees of culpability in the matter. We can move through the pain quicker when we see what we did to add to the dynamic so we do not play it out again," Tzall added.
Don't judge yourself in the process
Let’s make it a judgement-free zone, folks.
“I have heard many individuals express that they feel pathetic for feeling such intense heartbreak for their ex. Heartbreak is supposed to be painful. When you judge yourself for feeling intensely, you start cutting off emotions that you have to face for your healing,” Joondeph-Breidbart said.
Joondepth-Briedbart recommends shifting your perspective to "see your emotions as a positive part of your character." Think about it this way: "Feeling so much for someone shows how seriously you take relationships and how much dedication you put into them."
Try to limit the advice you get from others
Yes, leaning on friends and family during this time is important, but getting too much advice from others can be dizzying. “They are trying to help and be supportive but they are likely speaking from their own experience and that is not always helpful,” Tzall said, adding that it’s best to be around others who simply listen rather than talk.
"Make sure that you know this is what worked for them and does not mean it will work for you." Brilliant advice for all aspects of life, if you ask us.