How to recover from heartbreak

The end of a relationship is devastating, overwhelming and all-consuming bringing with it so many emotional and practical challenges. Anyone who has been through a breakup, separation or divorce will understand that heartbreak is often one of the first feelings we face, and can be debilitating. In my experience, the depth of heartbreak does not seem to correlate directly to the length of a relationship, whether someone has been married or only recently got together, or whether you initiated the breakup or were broken up with. A breakup is still the end of something, whatever the circumstances, and change can be hard to handle whoever you are.


What is heartbreak?

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of heartbreak is an “Overwhelming, unbearable, or intense sorrow or emotional distress, especially as a result of bereavement or the end of a romantic relationship; the fact or experience of having a broken heart”. 

Some individuals describe a physical pain associated with their feelings of heartbreak – my clients talk about an emptiness inside or a pain in their chest. There is a medical condition called ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’, with symptoms that can mimic a heart attack. The exact cause is unknown, but anything that causes a strong emotional reaction, like the end of a relationship or death of a loved one can be a trigger.

How to cope after a relationship ends

Getting on with life following a breakup can be challenging and stressful. In fact, divorce is thought to be the second most traumatic life event after the death of a loved one. Reading this article means you have already taken the first step to help you make sense of your feelings and so begin the process of heartbreak recovery.

STEP 1: You are in control of your emotions.

When you are feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions life can feel hopeless, like you will never be happy again, let alone love again. 

Those are all natural thoughts to have during heartbreak. Everything you were sure about has gone and that can be terrifying. One minute you feel denial then anger, then you blame yourself, to then feeling heartbroken and depressed. It is important, however, not to get ‘stuck’ in these negative emotions.

  • Acknowledge the feelings, work out what they are and understand why you might be feeling that way.
  • Allow yourself to ‘feel’ the emotion, eg to cry if you feel like it, as this is all part of the healing process.
  • You are in control of your feelings, and it is possible to change them, even slightly.
  • Picture your emotions as a dial with a scale from 1-10 and then turn the dial down for the negative thoughts and up for the positive ones. For example, if you can imagine dialling down your sadness from 10 to 9, it’s amazing how this can begin to make you feel a little better.
  • Shift your focus to anything, however small, that is positive in your life.
  • Realise that the feelings do not last, they will ease and go, so even if you feel awful at certain times it will end, allowing you to move ahead. 

STEP 2: Who is on your team?

Your partner may well have been your main source of emotional and practical support. Reach out to friends, family, work colleagues, and professionals like breakup and divorce coaches. Think about getting out and staying active – is there someone you can go for a walk or to the gym with? There are no rules as to what support is required as it is very individual. It is YOUR needs that matter, so think about those and put together the right team for you.

It is worth remembering that you are also on your own team. Treat yourself like you would your best friend – with respect, compassion and talk using positive language.

STEP 3: Get clarity

Clarity gives you power. Breakups often leave so many unanswered questions and confusion. It can be daunting to face some of the realities which result from the end of a relationship – from the ‘hamster wheel’ questions of “Why me?” or “No one will ever love me again”, to the practical ones like “Where should I live now?”, “What about the finances?” or “How do I tell the childen?”

The trick here is to face these worries head-on and not bury your head in the sand and pretend they don’t exist. It is frequently the lack of knowledge that makes thinking about these issues so terrifying, and often clients say once they have found out some facts they feel so much better and more able to cope with what is coming down the track.  It was the not knowing that was causing most of the overwhelm and anxiety, so find out as much as you can about the areas that are causing you stress. The clarity you gain will lead you to be much better informed and so able to make the right decisions for you.

STEP 4: Trust yourself

After a relationship ends it can be incredibly hard to make decisions and take responsibility for your life. This is understandable, but cutting those ties with your ex and becoming more self-reliant is key to thriving after a breakup.

In relationships, partners can become co-dependent. This can lead you to ignore your gut instinct, losing your self-reliance and an inability to trust yourself to make good decisions.  During heartbreak, this can add to the feelings of anxiety and helplessness.

Learning to rebuild these skills is important but start very small – for some that is even as tiny as choosing what coffee to order and then building from there. Self-reliance is not about never asking someone their opinion, but more about listening to yourself first. Next time you have a decision to make, before asking someone else, decide for yourself and then only check in before you action it.

STEP 5: Focus on the good things to come

It might feel like nothing will ever seem bright again, but it will. It’s the same with heartbreak - re-telling your sad breakup story and focusing on your past will not help your recovery because we see more of what we are thinking about and focussing on - have you ever noticed that if you decide to buy a red car for example, then all you see is red cars!

Now is the time to focus on you. It may not seem like it when you are heartbroken and confused, but this is a chance for you to really think about what you want. What direction do you want your life to take? Maybe there has always been somewhere you wanted to live, but your partner didn’t want to, or maybe you wanted a green bedroom, but your partner couldn’t stand the thought; have you always wanted to learn how to play tennis? Whatever it is, the world really is your oyster now. 

It can be fun and distracting to make some plans and create your future. What makes you special and lights your fire? This will gradually move you from focussing on what has been to what could be. Dream big.

There is no denying that breakups are practically and emotionally tough, but it’s not what happens to you in life that makes you the person you are, it’s how you react to those challenges that make the difference. You cannot expect a different result if you keep doing the same things, so now is the time for change so that you can create the exciting life that you deserve.

If would like my help to recover from heartbreak then why not have a chat with me? There is no obligation, it is free and I would love to speak to you.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Cirencester, Gloucester, GL7
Written by Vanessa White, Relationship and Divorce Coach (Master Accreditation)
Cirencester, Gloucester, GL7

Vanessa White is an Accredited Breakup and DIvorce Coach. Vanessa emotionally and practically supports Clients before, during and after their breakup or divorce, however complex. She combines her unique personal experiences with her certification training to give tools and strategies to help Clients recover and create a positive, fulfilling future.

Show comments

Find a coach dealing with Relationships

All coaches are verified professionals

All coaches are verified professionals