A Simple, Actionable Guide To Moving On After Heartbreak

Because just "getting over it" is easier said than done.
Martin Dimitrov Via Getty Images

It's inevitable: At some point after divorce, a well-meaning friend or family member will suggest that it's time to "just move on" from the split. The advice is meant to be constructive but it's totally unhelpful; getting over the end of a marriage is easier said than done.

With that in mind, we reached out to divorce coaches and therapists to share small pointers on getting through the hardest, most emotional days post-divorce. See what they had to say below.

1. Grieve the end of your relationship.

Don't let anyone rush you through the grieving process: When you give yourself permission to feel everything, you're setting the stage for moving on in a healthy, productive way, said Leslie Petruk, a marriage and family therapist based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"Our culture doesn’t give permission to grieve but it’s important to ride the wave and allow yourself to feel the emotions and work through them -- otherwise you will get stuck in them," she said. "Many divorcées get stuck in anger, resentment or victimization. It is through moving through [your emotions] that you are able to heal."

2. Surround yourself with good people and distance yourself from those who aren't supportive.

Rally the troops after divorce: Let your bestie regale you with her very detailed list of why your ex was wrong for you. Take your mom up on her offer for dinner this weekend. You need a support system right now. By that same token, distance yourself from people who only bring negativity into your life.

"If friends or family are being intrusive and it doesn’t feel supportive, it’s OK to let them know you aren’t in a place to discuss it with them and you just need their support," Petruk said.

3. Do something for yourself that you've been putting off.

What's the one thing you always wanted to do during your marriage but never actually addressed? Whether it's going bold with a pixie cut or finally going after that promotion at work, get it done post-split, said Deb Besinger, a life and relationship coach based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

"Knock something off your bucket list," she said. "These sorts of markers in our life are physical representations of the next chapter and remind us that we are moving forward."

4. Don't dwell on the could haves, should haves, and would haves.

Instead of replaying the mistakes you made in your relationship over and over again, show yourself some compassion and focus on what you did right, said Besinger.

"Give yourself a lot of grace and think of the ways you showed up as your authentic self in the relationship, the things you enjoyed about the other person and your time together." she said. "Also, take a minute to reflect on anything you would like to do differently when its time to date again. Dating and relationships are a practice and ideally, we grow with each experience."

5. Write a letter to your ex.

This may sound a little weird but it can be really helpful: Write down all that was left unsaid in your marriage in a letter to your ex, said divorce recovery and life coach Julie Morey. (This isn't something you're actually going to send to your ex so if the letter starts to take a "You Oughta Know"-turn, don't sweat it.)

"Express all your hurt, frustration, guilt, anger, sadness and memories. Let it all out -- write until you have nothing left," she said. "Then write at the end: 'I forgive you and I let you go.' Then read it over and find a way to symbolically destroy it."

6. Don't go to sleep in an empty bed.

No, this isn't the point in the list where we tell you "the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else." This is where we suggest you buy a new set of pillows and brand new comforter to make the bed feel a little less empty.

"One of the most difficult parts of being suddenly single is the loneliness – especially at night," said Karen Finn, a divorce coach and author of On the Road from Heartbreak to Happiness. "Pillows will fill up your bed and make it feel more cozy. You can even snuggle with them; a body pillow was my sleeping companion for months after my divorce."

7. Rediscover an old passion -- or find a new one.

Divorce takes up lot of time and energy. Don't forget to give yourself a breather every once in a while, said Morey. Explore new and old hobbies and interests -- and sign up for Meetup.com to find people interested in them, too.

"Find your passion," she said. "For me it was travel. For one of my clients, it was improv. It could be yoga teacher training, gardening, decorating your new place, but figure it out and start doing it."

8. Analyze the part you played in the breakdown of the relationship.

No one comes out of a failed relationship entirely guilt-free. While it is important to handle yourself with care during the months following a split, at some point, it's worth assessing the part you played in the relationship's breakdown, Petruk said.

"It’s hard to look within but doing so will help you avoid recreating the same dynamic in your next relationship," she said. "Taking responsibility for your part will help you heal and move forward with more intention and self-awareness."

9. Put a limit on your sadness.

The watch-sad-movies-on-Netflix-and-cry-in-the-fetal-position phase can't go on forever, reminded Besinger. At some point, you need to close the door on grief.

"When my clients go through a breakup, I like to suggest putting a time limit on the initial grieving," she said. "This allows you to really feel your feelings, sit in the discomfort but not get too comfortable or stuck there."

Besinger recommends starting slowly and setting feasible goal posts for yourself: "Try something like 48 hours of really wallowing and then when you get waves of sadness that are triggered unexpectedly, maybe you indulge it until dinner or for the next hour."

10. Get excited about the future.

A year from now, where do you want to be? More importantly, who do you want to be? Asking yourself open-ended questions like these will help you map out a happier and healthier future for yourself -- and your kids, if you have them, said Honorée Corder, a life coach and the author of The Divorced Phoenix: Rising From the Ashes of a Broken Marriage.

"Let go of the old vision and in it's place, craft a new vision for your life, including doing what you've always wanted to do but didn't because you were married," she said. "It could include travel, learning languages, even going back to school or trying a totally different vocation. It's all up to you."

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