Starting Over: How To Heal And Move On After A Breakup

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In long-term relationships, we often find ourselves focusing on building our lives with our partners.  If a long-term relationship ends, then, it can often feel like we have lost our sense of purpose in life, but this is not the case. The end of a relationship gives us a chance to re-adjust our focus and find a new purpose. 

For most people, readjusting your focus can look like delving into your career, developing a talent, working towards health or fitness goals, getting more involved in your community, embracing your creativity, and much more. Research has shown that even a healthy diet can help one move on from an old relationship.

This process will likely take time. After a breakup, you may feel as if you need to re-discover yourself entirely. This is perfectly normal. In these cases, it may be helpful to revisit your favorite music, movies, people, places, and things.

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You don’t have to start over alone

How to move on from a relationship

The end of a relationship can often feel overwhelming. When we settle into partnerships, the idea of having to relearn how to be on our own can feel unimaginable. 

While experiencing the hurt, pain, and other negative emotions that follow a breakup is undoubtedly challenging, it often creates the opportunity to start over. The healing that happens after relationships end is often essential to building and maintaining our own identity and self-worth. 

Oftentimes, the end of a relationship can signify our readiness for a fresh start. In this article, we will explore ways to heal and move on after a breakup. 

Give yourself time to grieve

After a breakup, many of us may feel pressure to move on quickly. That pressure may come from within your own head or from outside influences. It can be helpful to remember that the loss of a relationship does qualify as a loss and, like any loss, a breakup comes with challenging grief, and it isn’t wrong to feel sad, no matter the circumstances. All of us process grief differently, so it can be very important to give yourself the time to do so and preserve your well-being. You may not be sure what your grief process looks like. 

So, it may also be helpful to familiarize yourself with the most common symptoms and effects of it, including the popular model of the five stages of grief: anger, denial, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance.  These stages have no definitive timeline or order and often come in waves. These “five stages” are also not the only realistic model and are not the only ways that grief can be expressed, but they can help us visualize the symptoms we experience.

After a breakup, it can be important to learn to cope with grief healthily. This may look like spending more time with friends, family, or other members of your support system, allowing yourself extra time to rest, allowing yourself to cry, etc. It can also help to remember that, while the feelings you’re experiencing are valid, they will pass.

Give yourself space

Communicating with an ex-partner after your initial breakup can create stress and tension and often leads to making the situation and moving forward more difficult. If you and your partner live together, it may be best to prioritize finding a new place to live. 

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Since moving takes time, you may want to separate yourself from your partner as often as you can in the interim. This could look like staying with friends or relatives, spending additional time at work, or working in a nearby coffee shop or restaurant if you typically work from home.

Spending too much time with an ex while emotions are running high can create an uncomfortable environment and may even inspire guilt, shame, resentment, or some other unpleasant emotional response. It is possible that even a few days apart after a breakup will allow both of you time to calm down and process the situation.

Additionally, creating space between yourself and your ex immediately after a breakup can be crucial to maintaining any form of relationship in the future. If you have responsibilities such as pets or children, it is likely a certain level of communication will be necessary. Maintaining the ability to communicate with an ex after a breakup not only can be useful but can also help you to realize your capacity for strength and maturity. You might consider a family therapist to help you navigate communication after a breakup.

If your relationship was characterized by toxicity, unhealthy behavior, or abuse, it is likely best to cease contact entirely as soon as you are in a safe place to do so. If communication is necessary, you may want to reach out to a legal or mental health professional for help and guidance navigating the end of an abusive or toxic relationship.

If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence or abuse, there is help available. Reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or visit their website

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You don’t have to start over alone

Learn to navigate and explore your feelings

Learning to navigate and explore your feelings can take time, patience, and mental fortitude.  The choice to explore your feelings could be made shortly after your breakup, or later down the road. The process of exploring and navigating feelings tends to take on many forms. This could look like meditation, re-decorating, in-depth conversations with friends, journaling, or seeking help from a therapist.

If you are in the early stages of learning to navigate your feelings, journaling is often a great place to start. Utilizing writing prompts such as making a pros and cons list or asking yourself “How is this the best thing that has ever happened to me?” can provoke thought and help get you started. 

Accepting the reality of a breakup and moving on can be especially challenging to do on your own, so you might seek professional help in order to do so. If you are having trouble overcoming feelings for an ex or having difficulty knowing how to move on a therapist or mental health professional can provide healthy guidance in a judgment-free zone. 

Every relationship is unique, as is every breakup. The emotional effects of a breakup tend to differ greatly based on the length of the relationship, mutual responsibilities, common living space, and the overall circumstances of the breakup.  For example, if your past relationship ended on amicable terms, your grieving process will likely look different from that of someone who was cheated on or left suddenly.

Online mental health therapy after a breakup

Regardless of circumstance, you may feel intense sadness and anger following a breakup or in relation to past relationships. While these emotions are entirely valid, it is typically most helpful to discuss them with an unbiased party who is qualified to provide healthy guidance to help you deal with these overwhelming emotions. Through consulting a therapist or mental health professional, you can explain your unique situation and receive individualized help and guidance.

Though many of us are aware of the positive effects of talk therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) on mental health conditions*, post-breakup stress can make the thought of seeking out a therapist feel incredibly overwhelming. Due to a recent uptick in digital mental health intervention, online therapy offers a more convenient alternative to in-person therapy, allowing participants to navigate their unique situations with a therapist from anywhere with an internet connection. 

* Please note that the term “mental health issues” is outdated and no longer used in the DSM-5.

Recent studies have shown that virtual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is equally as effective as its in-person counterparts. Since CBT aims to reframe negative thought processes, it is likely to be helpful and the matters of moving on from a breakup.

Takeaway

Starting over after a breakup does not have to be done alone. Along with therapy, seeking support from friends, family and other trusted sources is certainly advisable. Though what you are experiencing can feel incredibly hard in the moment, it can be important to remember that your grief will pass and it is never too late for a fresh start.

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