Navigating a painful breakup

Navigating a painful breakup is a profoundly personal and often intensely emotional experience. The rawness of ending a significant relationship can feel as though your heart is both heavy and hollow, and moving forward might seem nearly impossible.


If you're going through a breakup, you might find yourself questioning many things: "How did this happen to us?", "Is this really over?", "What could I have done differently?", "Why me?". You may replay the relationship's final moments, wondering if there was anything you could have done to save it, or how they could leave after everything. You might also be wrestling with the anxiety of an uncertain future, pondering whether you will ever feel okay again.

How therapy can help

Therapy offers a safe space to express and work through these feelings and thoughts without judgment. A therapist can help you navigate your emotions, offer new perspectives, and equip you with coping strategies that are healthy and productive. They can guide you through the process of grieving the relationship and help you understand the underlying patterns that might affect your relationships. Therapy isn't just about getting help to move past your breakup; it's also about nurturing your overall mental health and well-being. Below are some strategies to aid in your healing.

Acknowledge the pain

First and foremost, it's crucial to acknowledge the pain you're feeling. A breakup can shatter your daily routine and sense of stability, leaving you with feelings of loneliness and despair. These emotions are normal; they reflect the depth of what you have lost. Give yourself permission to feel everything, whether it's sadness, anger, or confusion. Ignoring your feelings can delay the healing process.

On the other hand, if the intensity of your emotions feels overwhelming, it's perfectly okay to take a break from the heaviness. Engaging in hobbies or activities that you enjoy can provide a respite from feeling everything so intensely all the time. Whether it's painting, hiking, reading, or any other activity that captures your interest, these hobbies can act as a gentle distraction, allowing you to manage the waves of emotion at your own pace. This doesn't mean you are avoiding your emotions, but rather giving yourself permission to breathe and find joy, making the journey of healing feel more balanced.

Living moment to moment: one step at a time

During a breakup, it's common to feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the future. It may help to shift your focus to living moment to moment. This approach isn't about ignoring the future, but rather, gently setting it aside to manage the present more effectively.

Start by asking yourself, "What do I need right now?" This could be as simple as nourishing your body with a meal, getting a good night’s sleep, or perhaps immersing yourself in work for a few hours. These actions might seem small, but they are profoundly significant in healing. They help stabilise your emotions and ground you in the present, reducing feelings of being overwhelmed.

Each moment you choose to focus on meeting your immediate needs, you build resilience and gradually regain your footing. Remember, healing is not a race—it's a day-by-day journey of rediscovering your strength and peace.

A line of affirmation

During times of emotional turmoil, it’s common to reminisce about the happier times, potentially obscuring the reasons why the relationship ended. Maintaining a line of affirmation can be incredibly helpful in such moments. This could be a simple statement that reminds you of the fundamental reasons for the breakup, helping to counterbalance the selective memory that often accompanies emotional pain.

This affirmation acts as a grounding truth, helping you to remember that the decision to part ways was based on valid reasons, even when nostalgia paints a different picture. This practice can help in keeping a realistic perspective of the past relationship.

The affirmation could be: "I deserve a relationship that brings me happiness and mutual respect, and I am moving towards a healthier future." Or “I am growing stronger and more self-aware from my experiences, and I am worthy of love that supports and nourishes me”.

Create new routines

Creating new routines can also play a crucial role in your healing journey. After a breakup, the spaces, and times you once shared with someone else can feel particularly empty. Filling these with new activities or routines helps in reclaiming your space and time. It’s about constructing a new normal where you are at the centre. Whether it's a new hobby, exercise, or spending time with friends and family, find what enriches you and brings you joy.

Connect with others

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of connection. Reach out to friends and family for support. Sometimes, sharing your thoughts and feelings with others who care about you can be incredibly healing. They can offer comfort, advice, and, most importantly, a reminder that you’re not alone in this journey. Navigating a breakup is never easy. It feels raw, sometimes unmanageably so, but with the right tools and support, you can begin to piece together your path forward. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Bedford MK40 & London N1
Written by Emma Hirst, (she/her/hers) - MA in Psychology, MBACP
Bedford MK40 & London N1

Emma-Jayne Hirst (MA Psych, Dip Couns, MBACP)

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