Here’s something that probably won’t shock you: breakups suck.
The truth is, unless you’re lucky enough to marry your high school sweetheart, most of use will endure a breakup or two. That means until the day they invent some kind of heartache magic bullet—or the brain erasing clinic from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind becomes a reality—we’re left with a lot of emotional pieces to pick up.
While there’s no exact science to getting over the post-relational ache, here are a few steps you can take to start moving on with your life after a romantic split. If there’s one thing we know for certain, there’s a lot of life out there to lead, no matter your relationship status.
1. Be Honest About Your Feelings
You’re never going to move past the hurt/bummed out/sad phase if you try to deny the fact these feelings exist.
Whether you were in a long-term relationship or just had a couple of dates, you’re actively mourning the passing of something that was great at the time. Acknowledge that rather than reasoning away your emotions or trying to tell yourself you don’t deserve to feel a certain way.
Find someone you can honestly talk to—or buy a journal and write everything down as honestly as possible. It doesn’t matter if you burn it or tear it up later—the point is to get the feelings out of your head where you can start sorting through them all.
2. Don’t Wallow, Even Digitally
In the age of hyper-connectivity, it’s quite possible that you might be connected to your ex via Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/whatever the cool kids are on these days. No matter how tempting it might be to check in on their lives, just to see how that big event went, or to wish them a happy birthday, or to share that amazing meme, don’t.
No matter how you might reason it out, there’s a certain pain that comes with realizing that their life has gone on without you. If you don’t feel ready to pull the digital plug completely and hit the unfriend button, most social networks have a function where you can mute a user/stop getting updates about their social activity. If you still feel tempted to peek, remember: there’s nothing wrong with taking a few days away from the interwebs.
3. Get Living
You know how they say, “Time heals all wounds?” Well, funny thing about that—it doesn’t when you’ve locked yourself in your house, washing down pints of ice cream with multiple viewings of Annie Hall. (Not like I would know anything about that.)
To experience time’s full healing power, get out and start living your life. Go on a trip. Take a class. Get some friends together and try a new restaurant. At first, you may feel like a kid trying a new vegetable for the first time. Do it anyway.
Once you’re out, your mental instincts will be to edit your ex into the current situation. (How would he like this new menu item? What would she think of this flight delay? Would they want to go zip-lining?) But the more life experiences you cram into your brain, the less room you’ll have for this line of thought.
4. Get Involved
Humans are communal creatures. There is no better way to get outside your own head than to pour into the community.
Does a friend need help packing before a big move? Does your church need a new Sunday school need a teacher? Does a local soup kitchen need someone to help bake cookies? Throw yourself into situations where you’re forced to consider other people’s needs and desires, and suddenly yours will be put into dramatic perspective.
Oh hey, guess what? There’s someone who already knows the end of the story. God knows who you’ll end up with—or if you’ll lead an incredible life while staying single.
Tell Him about your hurts. Tell Him about your frustrations. Trust Him about your setbacks. You may be on the up and up one day, and the next day fall into a semi-obsessive funk. It’s OK—give the good and bad to God. Then try again.