I just got home from a coffee meet-up with my good friend “Sherry.” She just broke up with her boyfriend last night and she is really struggling. One look at her, and I knew she isn’t sleeping. I know all too well that deep pain. When I broke up with “Tom” (the one who got away), I would cry my way to work, manage to hold it together if I was around other people, step back into my office and tear up again. I was a mess, unable to sleep or eat or concentrate on anything. Even spending time with my daughter was a blur- she’d speak to me and I know I had that blank look in my eyes that meant I had no idea what she was talking about.
“My biggest fear,” she said, “is that I let him go and I’m just alone.”
“But that’s not the worse thing ever,” I corrected her quickly.
Trust me, I get it. When I fled from my now ex-husband, I was on a MISSION to find a new boyfriend, preferably a husband, before I was too sick and old to find anyone. I felt I was on borrowed time, what with being diagnosed with cancer and all. It took me a good solid year before I realized that I was perfectly ok with being single. I was surrounded by love– my children, family, friends… This was far preferable than being married to the wrong guy.
“Think about it,” I said. “If you never marry again, you have your children, some day you’ll have grandchildren and friends and a community of people you love doing things with. That doesn’t sound nearly as awful as being married to this guy who isn’t accepting your children and has you walking on eggshells. You will be fine. You will not be alone or lonely.” As I spoke, I envisioned the cute little old lady group I saw on our recent cruise. They were single, either widowed, divorced or never married, and having a great time dancing, exploring and socializing together. They looked far happier than many of the couples I saw on that ship.
So here was my advice on how to get through the tough days and weeks ahead.
1. “If you’re going through hell, keep going” – Winston Churchill
I love this quote. If you are in a bad relationship, don’t just sit there. Because if you do, it’ll never end. Your hell will remain endless. But if you keep walking, keep going, keep moving, it will eventually end. Memorize this quote. Write it on your bathroom mirror if you must. It will give you strength.
If the only way you can find peaceful slumber- something your body needs!- is with medicated help, get it. I’m not advocating a drug overdose, but a Tylenol PM or a glass of wine may be in order. It’s ok (if you ask me).
3. Eat Right
Now is a fabulous time to renew your commitment to yourself. Eat healthy foods. It’ll help keep you emotionally sane and strong. Limit sugar and processed foods. Loads of nuts, beans, fruits and veggies– you know the drill.
Power walks. Join a gym. Discover a new hiking trail. Join a swim team or softball team. Take up yoga. Your body needs exercise to be healthy and strong. So does your spirit. Plus, since you’ll be re-entering the dating scene at some point in the future, it’s time to start feeling more confident. Exercise is a fabulous way to do that.
My favorite book ever when I suffered a painful breakup was “He’s Just Not That Into You.” It was true, funny, and kept me strong from going back to my ex boyfriend when there really was no point.
6. Make A List Of The Relationship’s Bad Points
It’s hard to remember why the two of you broke up sometimes. We tend to remember only the good, with the bad a fading memory. This is not good! Make a list of all the bad things about him and your relationship. Be brutally honest! When you feel tempted to try and reconcile, re-read that list a million times if that’s what it takes. You deserve better and sticking in a bad relationship will never give you the freedom to find that “better,” even if that means being a happy single person.
7. Change Up You!
Now is the time to change up your hair color, buy an outfit way out of your comfort zone, and even buy a new perfume or pair of shoes. Look different.
8. Do Something FUN
Sometimes it’s easy to sit in bed night after night wallowing in pity, eating raw cookie dough and trying to disappear from the world. Take a few weeks or nights to do just that. And then pitch that mindset and go OUT. Go skydiving or join a book club. Adopt a cat. Do something to remind yourself that there is FUN out there. Try canoeing or white water rafting. Discover a museum you’ve never been to, or an aviary, or the zoo. Laugh. Smile. It works (even if people around you might think you’re a little crazy).
9. Buy New Sheets and New Candles
Sinking into a bed with fresh, crisp sheets in a mood-enhancing color (I love yellow, purple and apple greens best) is an incredible mood booster. Find a scent you love and then light those candles. Aromatherapy is powerful for a reason.
10. Breathe And Know It Gets Better
Yes, you will heal. But you won’t heal if you don’t suffer a little first. Eventually that pain ebbs and life gets better. You get better.
11. Ask For Help
It’s ok to call a friend and ask for advice, support, or help. It’s ok to let others know you’re struggling. If you need help with your kids, or your emotional sanity, or whatever, ask! It’s ok to seek professional help, too. Find a therapist, a life coach, or a good support group.
It’s one day at a time at first. One moment. One week. … But sooner or later, a new life awaits you. It’s not easy but I don’t know a single person out there who hasn’t experienced deep pain from a breakup. But survive you will. And thrive, even.