Beautiful relationships are all about how your life is interwoven with the lives of the people you love – so when your relationship ends, you can be left feeling literally torn apart. And confused and hurt and angry and hopeless. How do you heal your heart and get excited to move forward again when you have to reckon with all of the time you put into knowing and being known by a person? And when all of a sudden the person you talked to every day isn’t someone you can call anymore? And when the person you’d made plans for the future with won’t be a part of those plans anymore? And when you feel rejected by someone who you’d opened up to?
The hard news is that a relationship has ended. But the good news is this transition time is an opportunity! It’s a chance to become an even braver, wiser, more adventurous, compassionate and confident version of yourself. When you move forward healthily and gracefully, you grow. And every relationship you have in the future will benefit from what you’ve just learned.
So let’s dig into four practical ways to heal and move on after a breakup or fallout or the end of any relationship:
1. WHEN POSSIBLE, MAKE PEACE:
Moving on is so much simpler when you’re not leaving active turmoil behind. Knowing that things are left unresolved or that there’s lingering anger or hurt is an invitation to keep turning the breakup or fallout over and over in your mind. And when it’s all you’re thinking about, healing is put on hold. Here are a few ways to make peace, regardless of how well or poorly the relationship ended:
- Write a sincere letter. If you’re the kind of person who’s an internal processor – or who always feels like you think of the perfect thing to say after a conversation’s already over, writing a letter is a great way to make sure you’ve said what you want. And you can edit out things you might regret saying. It can be a letter of apology detailing what you wish you’d done differently and acknowledging how your actions affected the other person. Or maybe you’ve never had a chance to clearly articulate how the other person hurt you. Maybe a friendship has ended because of distance or differences, but you’d still like to let that person know how much their friendship meant to you. Write them a letter thanking them for all the ways they brought joy into your life.
No matter what the content of your letter, be honest, be gracious and try your best to present your perspective in a way that can inspire growth in both of you.
- Grab coffee (or jump on Skype) and talk things out. Maybe things ended abruptly (or maybe they’re being dragged out) and you’d like to have a calm conversation to talk things out face to face. Start by letting the person know what you hope to get out of the conversation. For example, “I wanted to get a chance to listen to your perspective on what happened between us, so that I don’t hold onto any misunderstandings.” or “I’d love to decide together about what things will look like for us moving forward.” (Maybe you need some time of no contact so that you can heal your heart, before you can start communicating again.)
Either way, decide in your mind beforehand the outcome you’d like from the conversation.
- Decide in your heart to forgive. This one often takes time, and can be extremely difficult when you’ve been deeply wronged or betrayed by a person. But when you can forgive, regardless of whether the person deserves it or even asks for forgiveness, you lighten your own emotional load. You won’t have to carry the burden of hatred and resentment and hurt, dragging it along into all of your future relationships.
2. JUICE THE EXPERIENCE:
Juicing is all about wringing the goodness out of something and then discarding what you can’t use. You can use that same process to help move forward with new wisdom and insights after a relationship ends.
Answer these questions to begin the process of extracting the good and discarding the bad – and write down your answers! Getting these insights out of your head and onto paper will be super helpful:
- Why did the relationship end? Did I do anything to contribute to it ending? Did the other person? Was it just circumstances outside of our control?
- What did [person’s name] teach me about relationships?
- What did interacting with this person teach me about myself?
- What was most challenging to me about this relationship?
- What mistakes did I make with [person’s name] that I don’t want to repeat in future relationships?
- How did I grow by knowing [person’s name]?
- What aspects of this relationship will I leave behind and decide not to revisit in my mind or heart?
3. ESTABLISH NEW BOUNDARIES:
A wound can’t heal if you keep picking at it. Decide what boundaries are most conducive to your healing and then set clearly articulated boundaries for yourself and for that person.
Will talking with the person on a regular basis reopen the wound of hurt over and over? Will checking their Facebook make you depressed? How will you respond if the person reaches out to you? Will you still spend time with each other’s families? Get each other birthday gifts? Do you need a stretch of time to yourself before you can start spending time together again? Or in extreme circumstances, do you need to make it clear that you can’t ever speak to that person again?
These can be pretty intense questions to answer, especially since the answers may be different for each person in the relationship, but they’re worth thinking through.
4. RE-IMAGINE YOUR FUTURE:
Often the most exciting part of a relationship is making plans together. And the most hurtful part of a relationship ending is feeling like your future plans have been ripped out of your hands. The future plans that used to fill you with anticipation are now just a source of pain. So how do you rebuild that feeling of hope and excitement for what’s coming next? Answering these questions can help:
- What have I always wanted to do that I haven’t yet and can do this year? (For example: horseback riding lessons, starting a blog, painting, learning guitar, writing a book, taking a trip)
- What friendships / relationships can I dedicate more time to now that this relationship has ended?
- Who do I feel passionate about helping or serving? (for example: do you love the idea of spending time with the elderly at nursing homes, or volunteering at an animal shelter or helping out at a soup kitchen?)
In life we can’t always plan what happens to us, or control the choices that other people make, but what we can choose is the way we react and grow from the experiences we’re given. I hope these ideas have given you hope and direction so that you can move forward as an even more awesome version of yourself.
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