Essentially, journaling for heartbreak entails writing down all the things you wish your former partner would say to you and say them to yourself. According to experts, the practice works to heal heartache in a few ways.
First, says licensed marriage and family therapist Karla Zambrano-Morrison, LMFT, when you write down all the things that you wish your ex would’ve said to you, you’re meeting your own emotional needs instead of relying on a partner to do so.
Relationship therapist Chautè Thompson, LMHC, adds that journaling for heartbreak “can help you to identify what is important to you in a relationship,” she says. “From there, you are able to spend time in introspection to discover what you might need to give yourself, in addition to the deal-breakers to which you might need to hold significant others.” (Perhaps these might include red flags that you’ve identified in your former partner.)
Though the intended function of journaling for heartbreak is to heal, there are related fringe benefits of the practice, too.
Though the intended function of journaling for heartbreak is to heal, there are related fringe benefits of the practice. For example, says Jacqueline Méndez, LMFT, when you’re journaling for heartbreak, you also start to build more trust and confidence that what you want and need from a romantic partner isn’t an irrational demand.
“People trust that what they're wanting and what they're needing is okay—that it's good to have those needs,” says Méndez. “A lot of times, people are afraid to say those things out loud, or to their ex-partner, because they don't trust that those are actual needs.”
To get the full benefits of journaling for heartbreak, though, it’s important to keep in mind best practices. Find out three, according to mental health experts, below.
Journaling for heartbreak can help you heal—here are 3 best practices to keep in mind.
1. Journal in a quiet place
It’s important to set the mood and context when you’re working on the list of things you wish a former partner said to you. To facilitate this, Méndez recommends finding a quiet place where no one will interrupt you. The quiet will help you be in the present moment and provide an opportunity to focus on your breathing to figure out how you’re experiencing emotions somatically, says Méndez.
“Start by breathing and really feeling the tender parts. Is there heaviness in your chest? Do you have a stomachache?" she says. "From there, ask yourself where these [sensations are] coming from. What's the hurt that needs to be cleaned out?”
2. Allow yourself to feel all your feelings
Because of the sad nature of heartbreak, you might find that you’re more emotional than you'd prefer. However, there really is growth in discomfort. That’s why Zambrano-Morrison encourages people not to shy away from what they’re really feeling when they’re journaling for heartbreak.
“As you write down the things that you would like your ex to say, identify the feelings that are coming up and sit with them,” says Zambrano-Morrison.“If they make you cry, then cry. Give yourself that space to heal." If you’re feeling more angry than you are sad (or another emotion, for that matter), the tip still applies. Whatever feelings come up, allow yourself the grace to experience and work through them.
3. Focus on yourself
Journaling for heartbreak is about things you wish your ex said to you. That’s why Thompson says the focus of the practice shouldn’t be the party you’re trying to get over. Instead, she says, make a concerted effort to be introspective.
“It’s easy to get lost in what you desired and what was lacking in the relationship,” says Thompson, adding a helpful reminder: “You hold more power than you realize, so focus on your own journey, who you are today, and what you are learning about yourself.
Yes—heartbreak can make people feel hopeless. But your life was okay before you met this person, and you’ll be okay even if they’re no longer in your life. The only person you truly need in your corner is you. You’re your fiercest advocate, after all.
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