Here’s an unfortunate truth: By and large, humans are pretty bad at relationships. Sure, we do relationships well enough that the world keeps spinning, but when it comes to deep, personal relationships it’s pretty inevitable that we’ll all encounter heartbreak at some point. (And yes, I’m mostly talking romantically, but the principle applies to basically any sort of close personal relationship.)

There are no perfect guidelines to navigating the fallout from failed relationships. Relationships are a bunch of trial and error to begin with, so we shouldn’t expect them to be any easier when they end. What matters, though, is that we don’t become the proverbial insane person, trying things the same way over and over and expecting something to change. That’s a good way to get really, really hurt emotionally.

So it’s important to ask ourselves when we’re confronted with the end of a relationship: How do you handle the heartbreak in a way that will help you heal and grow?

Give yourself time, and as much of it as you need.

There is no official timeline for getting over a breakup, so don’t rush yourself. Focus on self-care in this time. Give yourself the treatment you need and be patient with yourself. Many well-meaning friends might say to move on by finding someone new right away; instead, try taking time to be with yourself. We can learn so much about ourselves when relationships end.

Trust your instincts.

You know best what you need to heal your heart. Everyone has a different method (one they’ll probably offer you unsolicited), but you know what resonates with your heart. Maybe for you the best way to heal comes with creating a physical change to match the emotional change, like getting a haircut or color. Even something small like this can help you feel in control, as well as boost your confidence.

Try spending time with your family. If they don’t live near you, take the time to visit them. Visiting your roots can help ground you in a difficult time. Or take a trip by yourself to clear your mind. Maybe there’s somewhere you’ve been wanting to go but have been waiting for the right time. Now’s that time.

What matters, though, is that we don’t become the proverbial insane person, trying things the same way over and over and expecting something to change.

heartbreak wisdom peony

Make room for processing the relationship.

If you need to grieve for the relationship, then grieve. Feel the emotions of grief and don’t be afraid to encounter them and work through them. Putting on a “strong face” and just getting through it will not help you in the long run. When we shove our emotions down, we are just suppressing them instead of managing them. Chances are they will arise later with more vengeance, possibly in another relationship.

It is so important to allow yourself the time to process so that when you are ready for a new relationship you know you won’t carry previous hurt and loss into it. Unresolved old relationships can poison new ones that would have otherwise been beautiful.

Do you see anything that needs to change?

This question can be tough but should not be skipped over. Once you’ve given yourself some time, some self-care, and have begun to process the relationship, it’s important to honestly evaluate for yourself.

Were you treated well in this relationship? If not, did you recognize it when it began? How can you protect yourself better next time?

What did you learned from the relationship? What parts of life were you ignoring before it? How are you wiser now?

It can feel weird to think through the positive and negatives of relationship that was important to you in such a straightforward, mechanical way, but it can help you move forward confidently in your next relationship.

Work through the hurt in order to learn from it and be able to be open again. Don’t allow the pain to close you off to others. It’s easy to develop a false-belief during a breakup that says, “There’s no one better out there.” It can lead you to questioning the path you’re on, but it’s not true. Our paths might be marked by heartbreak, but they don’t have to be defined by it.

What’s been the best piece of advice to get you through a breakup?

Images via Tereza Janakova



  1. Having a counselor has definitely helped me overcome a major heartbreak in the last couple of months. I would also say doing a purge of social media has allowed me to process my own grief without the pressure of seeing how my former partner was telling their story of moving on and grieving. Time heals and eventually there is life beyond the trenches of grief.

  2. My advice (this was touched on in the piece)–that I wish I had been told 12 years ago– is to realize it doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship to bring trouble into new relationships—romantic or otherwise! “Unresolved old relationships can poison new ones that would have otherwise been beautiful.” This really resonated with me. The last couple of years I have realized just how true this can be. I am happily married, going on 8 years, but I have begun to notice how I’ve brought in unresolved grief from a previous relationship and how it can often spiral completely normal occurrences into arguments. The most interesting part? That relationship wasn’t even romantic, but a close relationship nonetheless, where I felt abandoned and never really processed how I felt about that. I am, thankfully, realizing this and working through it, even talking to my husband about it. “You know when I get upset about X… well, I’m realizing that’s because I never dealt with feeling abandoned in that relationship and I’m sorry, because it’s not YOUR fault, I’m bringing unresolved feelings into our relationship”. I was young (young enough) when the other relationship ended, and didn’t realize I needed to process, grieve, or practice self-care. But, now that I do, I see how important it is. This article is a wonderful reminder to us all—to stop, process, grieve any sort of loss (death doesn’t have to be involved to grieve!), and let ourselves heal so we can give our BEST to ourselves and loved ones in the future. Thanks for a beautiful piece!

  3. I haven’t experienced heartbreak in 5 years, but I remember I would just distract myself and go out with my friends more. Everyone says it, time really does heal. Most of the time it’s just you thinking wistfully about the positives!

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