Are you drowning in pain because of a holiday breakup?
You never thought it would happen, but suddenly your relationship ends, and it’s a week before the holidays. There’s lots of things worse than being alone during the holidays, but it’s hard to realise this when you’re drowning in pain.
The good news is you can survive a holiday breakup, find a way to move on and even meet a new partner. These tips have come from years of working with people who have been dumped and recovered to face another day.
1. Allow yourself time to grieve and feel sad
Whether your relationship ended with bitter fighting and betrayal, a dealbreaker, or just gradually faded away, grieving the loss is crucial. If you don’t take time to feel your sadness and anger, these feelings will simmer below the surface, sabotaging future efforts at intimacy. If you break your arm, it needs time to heal—the same is true for a broken heart.
You might wake up in the middle of the night and expect your ex to still be there with you, then you realise they’re not and you can’t get back to sleep for the sadness. At some point, if you allow yourself the space to feel sad, scared, and angry, these feelings will lose their potency. Eventually you won’t feel that aching loss, and it can be replaced by feelings of joy for your future.
2. Cease all contact for a period of time so you can start to move on
Although it’s tempting to maintain some contact with your ex, especially if you were together for many years, it’s wise to break off all contact for a while.
Though it’s possible to become friends with your ex eventually, the feelings right after a breakup are too raw to make meaningful communication possible. And moreover, you need time to yourself to grieve—if you’re still in touch with your ex, you might still be holding out hope for reconciliation.
If necessary, take a break from social media and anywhere else you might see messages and images of your ex to avoid being emotionally triggered.
3. Spend time with friends and loved ones who will support you
If your breakup happens around the holidays, reach out to friends and family. Your inclination might be to stay home and indulge in vices to dull the pain, but that’s a temporary fix. Connecting with people you love will take your mind off the breakup, and make some happier holiday memories.
We all need support, and there’s no shame in asking for help—think how honoured you feel when a friend comes to you in a tough time. Reaching out to a friend gives them an opportunity to be kind, and for you to be brave.
4. Don’t stop having fun or enjoying life (even though you don’t feel like going out)
This one is hard for many people because it requires both courage and a new routine. In your old relationship, you probably had a routine, and you always had someone to go out with. Couples develop their own codes and patterns. When you’re newly single all of these baselines are gone, and you might not even remember what it’s like to go out on your own. But humans are adaptable. As long as you give it a go, your mind and body will adapt to new social settings. Even if you don’t feel like going out, accept an invitation from friends or join a new group.
Enjoyment in life can’t be forced, but it can be invited in. Continually saying “no” to people who want to spend time with you, and choosing to stay isolated instead, can become a comfortable little rut. Dressing up, caring for your body, and getting out into the world helps shake off loneliness, especially during the holidays.
5. Seek professional help if you constantly feel sad or depressed
It’s normal to feel down after a breakup, but if you’re feeling sad and depressed all the time, consider seeking professional help. A therapist can help you understand that the best way to finally sever your attachment to a person from your past is to fully grieve the loss. They’ve helped many other people through similar situations, and they can see how you might be getting in way of your grieving process.
Besides helping you understand what happened and why the relationship ended, a therapist helps you fully grieve the loss, with a variety of well-tested methods. A good therapist looks at your relationship strengths and weaknesses, and helps you turn to the future.
It’s not possible to live the in the past, or in the future, but you can learn to live more fully every day, surrounded by supportive family and friends. The more you come to value these other relationships, and the small pleasures of everyday experiences, the less you’ll miss your past partner. And you’ll be all the more ready for the next one.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.