Let’s not sugarcoat it: A breakup doesn’t just hurt. It can feel like pain itself has chewed you up and spat you out.
“Your mind and body actually go through chemical changes after a breakup, which is why breakups can make us feel sensations of emptiness, sadness, pain, anger, and loss,” says New Jersey–based psychologist and divorce counselor Danielle Forshee, PsyD. “There no way to predict how long it will take get over these symptoms. But no matter what, you will get through it.”
Anyone who’s gone from a sobbing mess to a self-loving babe after a split can totally vouch for this. With this in mind, let these 6 women share with you what they did to get over their ex and emerge from the trenches of heartbreak.
‘I joined a soccer team’
“It was the first time I’d dated someone I truly believed I was going to marry. But the relationship was far from perfect. We had issues, other women entered the picture, and he cheated. When the relationship ended, it was devastating for me and my mental health.
I had always loved watching soccer but I’d never played the sport a day in my life. On a whim, I joined my college soccer team and it was truly the best decision. The women on the team took me in, helped me learn, explore, and re-build my self-confidence and sense of worth as a single woman. The sport didn’t come easily to me, so I started to spend solo time on the soccer field working on my foot skills. The more time I spent alone figuring out new skills, the more I realized I’m the answer to my own happiness and success.” —Sarah, 27
“I’ve been married and divorced, but my recent relationship was much harder for me to get over. Truthfully, I think it was the first time I was in love, and even though I ended the relationship, I didn’t want to. We were in love, but the relationship wasn’t working.
When it ended, I realized that I had spent the last 10 years of my life being someone’s person. This was the first time I’d been really alone. Following the breakup, every day felt like the hardest day ever. I just wanted to get through the pain, so I didn’t have to feel the pain anymore.
Two friends who I didn’t know very well invited me to visit them 5 hours away. So I drove to the middle of nowhere to see them for the weekend, and I felt the most alive and free I’d been since even before the breakup. I started to travel almost every other weekend—not to get away from my feelings, but because each trip helped me learn more of who I was. I was doing things that scared me, meeting new people in different places, and learning how to do life alone, instead of always being part of a couple. Traveling helped me mend my broken heart.” —Rachel Turner, 24
‘I filled up my schedule’
“We were only together for a year, but the relationship, and then the breakup, were very tumultuous. It took a hit on my happiness, my self-worth, and my friendships. It was a hard relationship to be in, and an even harder one to leave behind.
After we finally cut ties, the first thing I did was talk to my friends. When I spoke with them, I point blank asked for help. I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to be distracted as much as possible. I wanted to have a constant string of plans. So every day, I met up with my friends for dinner or drinks and, if I wasn’t doing that, I was face-timing or texting my college buds.
The best thing I could do, and the best thing I think anyone can do after a breakup, is to focus on myself and my friends rather than what could have been.” —Emily Ohrtman, 24
‘I let myself feel sad’
“After moving in with my partner of three years, it dawned on me that our relationship might not be one that would serve me in the long run. As I was coming into that realization, I met someone new. When I made the decision to leave my ex, I told myself I had to be 100% okay because I was the one delivering the bulk of the hurt. I was choosing to end it.
And in part, this is true: my ex deserved to feel whatever it was he was feeling. But no matter what, breaking up with someone you’ve been with for three years brings up a lot of memories and emotions. The best thing I did was to give myself the space to feel. I let myself feel sad, nostalgic, bitter, mad, excited, optimistic without guilt or rules on whether or not these emotions were ‘okay.’
I let go of the narrative of what I was ‘allowed’ to feel, and I felt the whole mess of emotions. It was imperative for me to feel those things in order to process them and learn from that relationship.” —Abby Hofrichter, 24
‘I started saying yes’
“During the year-plus we were a couple, my ex and I did a lot of things together: gym, friends, meals, everything. After we broke up following my move to New York City, I was devastated. When we were dating, a lot of ‘me’ things became ‘us’ things, so I had to find and create my me time again.
How did I do that? I started saying yes—to ballet classes and happy hours and dates and everything in between. I wanted to add some great moments to my life resume, not just sit around being sad. I started saying yes to spending time alone. I read. I meditated. I dug deep to figure out who I had become and who I wanted to be moving forward.
I started saying yes to all the me things I’d pushed to the side during my relationship. I started saying yes to my own happiness. And I started saying no to people and things that weren’t adding value to my life. Splitting up turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me. I felt liberated in a way I hadn’t in so long. And today, I’m more me than I’ve ever been.” —Olivia, 23
‘I ran a marathon’
“Running became my release valve. While I was running I let anger scream through my earbuds and the salty sweat stain my shirt with pride. Running provided an escape from his leaving (after six months), who he was now sleeping with (my former best friend), and my inability to articulate the effect of his absence on both my psyche and self-confidence. So I decided to sign up for a marathon: a full 26.2 mile run.
Running began as a tool to run away from my heartbreak, but it became a tool for running toward a better, healed version of me. Through training and all that one-on-one time with myself, my lust for mileage stopped being about my desire to forget him and instead about my longing for body-mind connection and for the untamed smile on my face after a good workout.
Since the marathon, running continues to push me forward, both metaphorically and literally, into the next phase of my life with a whole heart, accomplished body, and focused mind.” —Anonymous, 24