At the start of quarantine, I met the person who I thought would be my forever person. But, just a few months into our turbo relationship, during which we moved in together, we had a pretty ugly breakup. Breakups are tough to navigate in the best of situations, but a breakup during the pandemic, wherein tensions are already running high with people feeling stuck, scared, and lonely, is even harder to handle.
“Breakups are never easy, but a breakup during a pandemic adds to the isolation and sadness that many people are already feeling,” says dating coach Tennesha Wood. If you’re currently going through a breakup (or anticipating one in the near future) during this pandemic, trust that you’re not alone and that you will overcome it. To help you do so, here are seven tips on how to heal your heartache amid this already challenging time.
7 tips for healing from a breakup during the pandemic
1. Create distance from your ex
The first step for a successful pandemic breakup is making sure you don’t fall into the trap of going back to your ex because you fear the loneliness of life in lockdown. “After a breakup, it’s important to cut all communication with your ex—at least for a while,” says Wood. “Continuing to communicate blurs the lines while emotions are still very fragile.”
“After a breakup, it’s important to cut all communication with your ex—at least for a while. Continuing to communicate blurs the lines while emotions are still very fragile.” —Tennesha Wood, dating coach
To keep those lines clear, establish boundaries that make sense to uphold given the specifics for your situation. Maybe that means blocking their number or unfollowing them on social media until further notice, or maybe it means something else. The boundaries you set should increase virtual and physical distance and allow you to start the healing process.
2. Get rid of material reminders of your ex
Especially if you quarantined or moved in with your partner, you’ll want to cleanse your home of anything from the relationship that could prevent you from healing. According to Wood, this is a key second step because “your surroundings can have a significant impact on your emotions.” To clear your mind and space, she suggests removing your ex’s stuff from the space, and getting rid of any other items that remind you of them.
3. Work through your feelings
No matter what happened between you and your ex, let yourself process the situation rather than suppress it. “You’re allowed to be hurt, sad, unsure, angry or upset,” says Wood. “Give yourself time to grieve the relationship and the grace to laugh, cry, and display the range of emotions you’re feeling.”
After processing the breakup, work toward the goal of acceptance. “Accept what was and what is,” says Wood. “No amount of anger or hope can change the past. The only thing that you change is how you see the situation and how you will move forward.” From there, you can work toward forgiving yourself, your ex, and whatever other factors may have contributed to the breakup. “Forgiving is a declaration to yourself that you will not let the situation or your ex dictate your decisions and how you will move [on],” Wood adds.
4. Take care of yourself
Practice self care as well as you can. “Make a list of self-care skills and aim to do one at least once a day,” says Boston-based psychotherapist Angela Ficken, LICSW. She recommends journaling, taking a shower, repeating healing mantras, or creating music playlists to help you move through whichever emotions you’re feeling at the time. “These small steps can go a long way when your heart is heavy,” she says.
Don’t forget about your physical well-being, either. “Our nervous systems essentially go through withdrawal from no longer being physiologically bound to an ex—no matter how healthy or unhealthy the relationship was,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Indigo Stray Conger, LMFT. “Make sure you cultivate a routine of sunshine, moderate exercise, and a nourishing and consistent diet. When your body is tended to, your heart and soul will follow.”
Many of our favorite pre-pandemic activities may not be safe to engage in right now, so try to find safe, socially distanced substitutes instead. If it’s difficult for you to find the motivation to exercise amid the heartache, she suggests recruiting a friend with whom you can go on a socially distant walk or hike. As for sunlight, you can buy happy lights to help shield you from symptoms of seasonal affective disorder during the darker months.
5. Reconnect with loved ones
“Our partners can become our best friends, and a breakup can shake our trust in ourselves and other people,” says Wood. “Combine all that with a pandemic, and it’s easy to feel alone and lose trust in many things.”
“Engaging people who love you in your healing process, even from a distance or over Zoom, can go a long way in reducing irrational thoughts and sadness.” —Indigo Stray Conger, LMFT
Move forward in healing by reconnecting with friends, family, and other folks you know you can depend on in your time of need. “Engaging people who love you in your healing process, even from a distance or over Zoom, can go a long way in reducing irrational thoughts and sadness,” says Conger. This can also help to strengthen your other relationships that might have been back-burnered before your breakup.
6. Reach out for support
“Since we’re already more isolated during the pandemic, with most of us receiving far less in-person contact and physical touch, dealing with a breakup leaves you more susceptible to depression and isolation,” says Conger. “Let your friends and family know how they can help, whether by off-loading practical matters or taking midnight phone calls for emotional support. Your loved ones want to help you, and it’s imperative that you’re not alone during this time of grief.”
Don’t want to vent to your friends? Consider navigating your breakup during the pandemic with the help of a mental-health professional. “Start seeing a therapist,” says Ficken, “or, if you already have a therapist, consider increasing the amount of sessions you have for a period of time to help cushion your mood.”
7. Reflect on the experience
What lessons can you take away from this breakup? Did you jump too fast into the relationship out of fear of going through the pandemic alone? Would you rather find someone else with whom you’re more compatible? ”Learn from the breakup by taking an objective look at the situation and being honest with yourself,” says Wood. “Use the breakup as an opportunity to examine your needs and understand your motivations.” She suggests doing so by answering the following questions for yourself:
- Were there signs or feelings you saw but ignored?
- What did you learn about yourself as an individual and as a partner?
- What will you do differently in your next relationship as a result?
- What did you tolerate in this relationship that you won’t moving forward?
The insight you gather from answering these questions may help you better understand the situation and lead you to a healthier relationship once you’re finally ready to get back out there and start dating again. When that time comes, have hope that there are plenty of folks who are just as ready to find an authentic, meaningful relationship as you are during this challenging time.
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