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Sex + Relationships

Surviving Heartbreak: Steps to Help Mend a Broken Heart

If you have not yet experienced the kind of heartbreak that leaves you feeling like a lost puppy dog who can’t remember life before its owner, then read with caution, as this might deter you from dating for the foreseeable future. But to put all jokes aside, heartbreak is a truly painful, confusing and frustrating ordeal, even if what you experienced was in fact only puppy love. Whether your heart is broken due to a breakup or unrequited love, dealing with a loss or absence of any kind is undeniably difficult, and the subsequent emotional rollercoaster can sometimes feel never-ending. 

Whilst it is important not to rush your healing process after experiencing heartbreak, there are definitely some pointers which will kickstart your journey to a more healthy recovery (one that doesn’t involve drunk calling your ex at ungodly hours of the morning and persuading yourself that this really is what your ‘best life’ looks like).

  1. Allow yourself to grieve

The best breakup advice I’ve received was the wisdom imparted by my Mum after the end of my first relationship, one I was convinced was going to end with marriage and children. Skirting over my 16-year old self’s heartbroken delusions, she told me that a breakup is the experience of loss, and so I needed to let myself grieve that person’s absence. As much as we would all prefer to deny that this person mattered to us in a bid to escape the hurt we feel having lost them, this will not serve us well in the long run. In fact, it only postpones the chick flick movie induced breakdown scheduled for when these feelings inevitably resurface at a later date. 

Unfortunately, the reality of heartbreak is that everything will remind you of that person to begin with, and there will be various day-to-day triggers which hit a nerve and temporarily transform you into a blubbering mess. However, believe it or not, this is a completely natural response, and you will benefit more from allowing yourself to release these emotions than you will from investing your valuable energy into controlling and suppressing them.

  1. Wave goodbye to the cliches

When trying to move on from heartbreak, I’m sure many of us have been met with the suggestion that the easiest way forward is to distract yourself with someone else. What could possibly go wrong? Well, disastrous episodes of oversharing and disappointing dates that result in the dreaded ‘I miss you’ text being sent to a certain person are just a few of the possible adverse outcomes. But in all seriousness, forcing yourself to move on before you are emotionally prepared can sometimes cause your heartbreak to feel more fresh. Whilst it is natural to want to mask the pain of your heartbreak by dating someone new, it is unlikely they will compare to the previous partner you’ve had on a pedestal for so long.

It is equally tempting to cave in and restart the conversation with your ex to fulfil your emotional needs, often under the guise of being ‘just friends’. Arguably, it is almost impossible to immediately be friends with someone you are heartbroken over, and being able to speak civilly with them on a regular basis is not testament to your maturity, it merely reopens old wounds. You don’t need to prove your worth using the cliche standards of dealing with heartbreak – these expectations of moving on first, achieving a ‘revenge body’, or staying friends with your previous partner do more harm than good. So if you need to block them on social media, please know that you are not petty or melodramatic; cutting contact is an act of self-love which will help you recover from heartbreak in a more healthy way than any stereotypical ‘quick fix’ promises to.

  1. Invest time in yourself

It is difficult to relearn how to perceive yourself as an ‘I’ rather than a ‘we’ when a relationship ends, but this transition is one of the most empowering aspects of a breakup. There may be certain interests or hobbies you subconsciously neglected, which is common when preoccupied with an exciting and all-consuming relationship. However, by engaging in an old pastime (or discovering a new one), you create a positive outlet for the pain of heartbreak – whether it be through a medium of art, journaling or physical activity. 

Reclaiming these essential parts of yourself allows you to build an identity that is independent from the relationship and the heartbreak that followed. Refusing to be defined by heartbreak is a liberating experience, and its pain provides an opportunity to nurture yourself in ways you forget are possible when you are accustomed to dividing your attention between yourself and a partner.

  1. Remove the rose tinted glasses

In the midst of heartbreak, it is not uncommon to find yourself romanticising the past relationship for all of its positive qualities. However, whilst we are busy pining for the intimacy, affection, romantic dates and thoughtful birthday presents the relationship provided, we somehow forget the typical elements of bickering, frustration or self-doubt that likely contributed to its downfall – i.e. unnecessary baggage that we are now free from! 

Admittedly, it is difficult to harness this practical perspective when working through the initial pain of heartbreak. However, once the worst of the storm has passed and you feel ready to reflect on the relationship in a practical way, heartbreak can create a sense of gratitude for what you do have in your life: friends, family, and most importantly yourself. Although the end seems out of sight, you will come out of the other side of heartbreak as your own best friend, having learnt more about how to comfort and support yourself without relying on your partner to do so. 

Ultimately, heartbreak teaches the invaluable lessons of how to become more empathetic and emotionally intelligent, both in future relationships and in your relationship with yourself. Nearly everyone will experience heartbreak at some point; it is far from pleasant, but it is intensely character building. It might feel like your world has come to a standstill at first, but please remember: not only can you survive heartbreak, you will in fact become stronger as a result of it.

Izzy Lepone

Bristol '23

Hi I'm Izzy, a third year English student at the University of Bristol.