Breakups are hard—even if they don’t directly involve you.
Maybe your parents dropped a surprise divorce bombshell on you, or some close friends have unexpectedly announced they’re calling it quits. Or—no judgment—perhaps you’re feeling a little shell-shocked by the demise of a couple you’d once admired from afar, one that seemed like the pinnacle of #relationshipgoals. (Ahem, Brangelina.)
Of course, there are a ton of emotions that come along with a split, even if you’re only experiencing it by proxy. Not only is it normal to feel compassion for those involved, but for a lot of us, a big-deal breakup can cause us to question our own partnerships. (Like, if a seemingly solid couple can’t make it, what kind of hope do you and your summer fling really have?)
So if you’re experiencing secondhand heartbreak—or are going through an uncoupling of your own—take heed of this expert advice for getting through it the healthy way. And if anyone knows Brad, maybe send this his way? (We have a feeling Angie will be just fine).
Keep reading for seven steps to getting over a breakup—whether you’re half of the couple involved, or just witnessing it from the sidelines.
Step 1: Go on a social media cleanse
When a relationship ends, social media stalking is a huge temptation. But Love Rehab author Jo Piazza says it’s a really bad idea. “Get off Facebook and Twitter. Go cold-turkey,” she advises—and that doesn’t just go for those who are dealing with the aftermath of their own splits. If your friends have recently broken up, don’t obsessively check their profiles for signs that they’re okay; give them a call and ask them if they need anything.
Step 2: Buy yourself something nice and vibey (it’s not what you think)
What do high-profile Hollywood types do when they’re traveling through Splitsville? They turn to jewelry designer Sage Machado, whose “Breakup Sets” are made from soothing stones that “calm the mind and help healing begin.” Get one for a friend or family member who’s suffering through a breakup—and then score one for yourself if you need some metaphysical help dealing with your own emotions.
Step 3: Go for a run
Those endorphins you get from a dash around the block? They’ll have you feeling like you can conquer anything (including a breakup—yours or your loved one’s). As Running: A Love Story author Jen A. Miller says, “I lived through some tough relationships. But believing in myself enough to know that I would be okay is what got me through to the other side.”
Step 4: Get some perspective
“I try to look at myself from outside of myself, if that makes any sense. I take in my surroundings as if I were watching myself in a movie,” says Love Yoga co-founder Sian Gordon. “The enlarged perspective gets me out of my head and reminds me how incredibly lucky I am to have everything that I have.”
Yes, you may be stressed about being stuck in the middle of your best friend’s breakup, but don’t forget about the things in your life that are rad—like having a squad so tight that their problems are your problems.
Step 5: Open your journal
When Glee star Naya Rivera goes through hard times, she swears by the power of writing about her emotions. “If you don’t have some way of checking in with yourself, you’re always just going to be bouncing around like a pinball, losing your direction,” she says.
So if you can’t stop thinking about that headline-making celebrity divorce, ask yourself why and start putting pen to paper—you might come to some revelations about pain points in your own relationship that are lingering under the surface. (Advanced homework: try rewriting your love story).
Step 6: De-clutter your way to acceptance
According to professional organizer Tova Weinstock, breakups are a really good time to finally Marie Kondo your space (after taking time to feel all the feelings, of course).
This isn’t just a good idea if it was your own breakup, but also if the rift occurred in your inner circle. Look at it this way: You know all those pictures of your sister’s cheating ex-husband are only going to make you mad—so why keep them hanging around?
Step 7: Forgive
As psychotherapist and coach Terri Cole puts it, “Not forgiving is drinking poison and thinking the other person would die.” Translation? You can be as angry as you want with your ex (or, say, with your stepdad for walking out on your mom), but in the end, the only one that’s suffering from your pent-up vitriol is you. Release it and move on, and you’re sure to recover in record time.