Grief is defined as “the anguish experienced after significant loss” and although we often think of loss as the death of a loved one, grief does not discriminate. Grief often follows breakups or the loss of a relationship with a significant other. Breakups have been described by many as one of the most significant losses that they have experienced in their lives. Clients of mine have described the grief from a breakup like waves of the ocean crashing down on them and pulling them out to sea. The experience of grief can shake the ground beneath you and make you feel as though you are not able to get your footing. So what do we do? How do we move forward while we try to navigate these sometimes crashing waves? I have put together five tips on how to navigate breakup grief and hopefully help you to feel less alone in the grief process.

1) Set Boundaries
How much access does your ex still have to you and your daily life? Often when a breakup happens one partner or the other wants to remain in contact. If this contact causes more pain or does not allow space for you to connect with your own experience, work towards creating healthy boundaries with your ex. In the world of social media, a good first step is to not allow them to have access to your social media pages. This will also keep you from checking up on your ex and what they are up to. Depending on your situation with your ex, maybe you can also block his or her phone number. Some of my clients have told me that this boundary feels hard to do because they do not want to seem harsh or mean. The point of blocking them is not to hurt your ex-partner, but instead to allow yourself the space to begin to heal from the loss. If you still need to have contact with your ex-partner, often if children are involved, or they still need to move out of a shared living space, it is best to have an early conversation with them that lays out what contact you are comfortable with moving forward. This will help to avoid you feeling caught off guard by having them “swing by” unannounced. This boundary will give you more of a sense of control moving forward. Boundaries with your ex can help you feel security during a time when your world can feel so unsteady.

2) Phone A Friend.
Who is in your corner? When we are experiencing the loss of a relationship a great way to take care of ourselves is to reach out to our loved ones. As relational beings, it is helpful to be able to share with your people what you are feeling as you begin to pick up the pieces. Allow your friends and family to surround you with support and love. Let your support team know what your needs are as you grieve.

3) Self-Care.
Self-care is an integral part of the grieving process. When we are hurting we may not want to do the small things that normally make us feel better. It is more important than ever to try and get yourself to do some of your self-care strategies. What is self-care for you? Maybe you love to read. Maybe it is running or going for walks outside. Your self-care could be a spa day or throwing a line in the water. Whatever your self-care is, be sure to find ways of doing it. Prioritize self-care. This will aid in the grief process because it will give you some relief from the waves and hopefully help you feel more grounded as you heal.

4) Give Yourself Grace.
When we are going through a relationship loss it is also a time when we can begin to beat ourselves up for how the relationship ended or what transpired during the relationship. Here it is helpful to try to lean into having grace and kindness for yourself. Give yourself some self-love and challenge yourself to have patience as you heal. Going through a breakup takes time. Try to love yourself and understand that you should not beat yourself up for what happened in the relationship. Blame is not helpful here. Can you have empathy for yourself? If your mind wanders towards your ex and you feel like you will fall apart, forgive yourself for those moments. Breakups are not easy and you are doing the best you can.

5) Reconnect With You.
Who are you? What are your interests? What do you want for yourself moving forward? What have you learned from this loss about yourself and what you want, or do not want, in a future partner? These are all questions that I would like you to consider as you look toward your future. When we are grieving there is something to be said about hope for a better tomorrow. Although your grief does not evaporate when you begin to look toward the future, it can help to feel hopeful that you will have new and better experiences. Reconnect to the person that you are. Therapy is a great way to begin to reconnect with yourself!

Breakups are tough. The grief we can feel from the loss of a relationship is significant and can be life-altering. It is helpful to have some guidance on how to take care of yourself during this time in your life. I hope that these tips are a starting point for anyone who is experiencing grief from a breakup. If you or someone you know is going through a breakup and wants someone to help them reconnect to themselves, think about starting therapy. I know that the clinicians at Mathews Counseling would be glad to meet with you on this journey.

Written By Rebecca R. Meyer, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Associate


All through March we are highlighting resources around grief. Our 6-week in-person Moving Through Grief Group starts April 11th, 2023. Registration is now open but space is limited. 


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