Relationship breakups are often messy, baffling, and just plain hard. Whether you’ve been together for a few years or a few months, you may be feeling sad, angry, confused, rejected, or betrayed. With myriad emotions swirling in your heart and head, it’s important to know that how you deal with endings—don’t—will determine your heart healing and your future love relationships.
Some mistakenly believe that “time heals all wounds” or you just have to “get over it.” Others ignore the pain thinking it will just go away. Maybe you’ve tried to soothe the sorrow and fill the void in unhealthy ways: with excessive eating, drinking, shopping, or partying. But you end up stuffed, sloshed, broke, and tired—and you still have a broken heart. When the party’s over, or when the ice cream carton is empty, how do you get past the pain?
If you’re stuck in your story, and you can’t seem to let go, maybe it’s time for a heart healing journey—from sadness to joy, and from your darkest night to your brightest days.
Psalm says, “My God turns my darkness into light.” When you embark on a night into day journey to deal with your heartbreak pain you’re on your way to a bright new beginning.
Remember, you are never alone and you will not stay in this painful place forever—God is with you and you’re just passing through.
When you deal with your breakup pain—instead of avoiding or ignoring it—you can find new hope, courage and joy, and be better prepared to find the healthy and lasting love you truly desire. Often a period of adjustment is needed to go from being a couple to a single again, from being a “we” to a “me.” But you can get through it!
Here are 12 essential things you can do to heal your heart and change your life:
- Have heart boundaries. First, stabilize the situation. Just like a physical injury, your heart needs care and recovery time. A broken arm is set in a cast, and “heart boundaries” allow you to separate from the source of pain and protect you from further injury. For instance, you may need to be away from the other person, at least for a time, so you can heal. Don’t keep having post-breakup talks. Don’t call, email or text him just to see how he is, and don’t drive by his house or workplace; it’s hands off. It can be extremely difficult, like withdrawal from a drug. It feels awful and lonely and different, but that’s part of the process—the kind of hurt that heals.
- Put his stuff away. Get rid of photos or things that remind you of him. Or, box up and store it if you’re not ready to deal with things yet.
- Get the comfort and support you need. Let yourself cry. Spend time in prayer and pour out your heart to God in a journal or notebook. Talk with trusted friends or family members who will listen and be supportive. Find a good Christian counselor if you need to. Nurture your senses: go for a walk and see the beauty of nature, enjoy the smell of fresh cut flowers, the taste of your favorite comfort foods (in moderation), the sound of relaxing music, or the comforting touch of a hug from a really good friend.
- Learn from it. Ask God what He wants you to learn from this breakup. What are the “treasures in darkness” and “riches stored in secret places” (Isaiah 45:3) God has for you at this time, this season, of your life?
- Process emotional pain – It may feel like the hour, but even in our darkest times, God provides night lights. With the light Christ provides we can be encouraged, equipped and empowered to journey through the heart healing process and find restoration and transformation.
- Deal and feel. In order to heal you have to deal with your emotions. As you feel your feelings, grieve your losses and surrender to God this relationship that didn’t work out you will find release.
- Grieving losses is key. You may have incurred loss of love, the loss of affection, and the death of your hopes and dreams with this person. You can “drain the pain” by acknowledging your loss, asking God and others for help, letting yourself be sad, and recognizing not only what you’ve lost but also what remains.
- Forgiveness is a major way to release breakup pain—forgiving others and yourself. It’s helpful to remember that forgiveness is not forgetting. It’s not condoning what happened. It’s taking them off your hook, and putting them on God’s hook for justice. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge...” because God will avenge and repay. Forgiveness is not a one-time event, and you may not feel differently right away. An act of your will, forgiving the other person releases you, and leads to freedom and peace.
- Choose to let go. Often it feels like we cling tightly to the past just like the brown crunchy leaves that cling to barren tree limbs in winter. Their season has passed, yet they still don’t let go. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to blow a fresh breeze into our lives and enable us to do what we can not do. As you release your grip on what you are holding to so tightly, and replace it with Jesus’ unchanging truth), He will restore your weary, wayward or willful heart.
- Align your thinking with God’s truth. Sometimes your thought life can get hijacked on the Highway of Hope. Rein in your wandering mind and find the power you need to do hard things with God’s truth. The Bible, the Word of God, is a guard rail to keep you safe and on the right path. 2 Corinthians 2:5 reminds us that “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Keep reminding yourself of the truth, because truth combats lies like light overcomes darkness.
- Awaken Hope – The first light of day helps you to see better with your eyes, and the light of God’s truth lets you “see” with your heart. You gain insight and understanding about your situation, about God, and about yourself. It’s a turning point in your healing journey.
- Experiencing God’s love. After a breakup a few years ago I learned that: God is all-wise, and I can trust Him even when I do not understand (Proverbs 3:5, 6). He is not withholding something good; He is protecting and saving me for His best (Proverbs 16:9, NASB). We were created for His purposes, not the other way around. But the best news is that God is near, and loves you more than you will ever know. He is at work healing your broken heart. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
- Rebuild your self esteem. After being rejected (or rejecting someone else), the landscape of your heart can get worn away. Like erosion of soil after a rainstorm, erosion in our emotions can come from another’s constant criticism or negative words. To overcome emotional erosion, plant seeds of truth in your life. When the roots grow and go deep into God you will be more stable, strong, and built up in your true identity. Instead of putting yourself down, build yourself up with truth; watch your negative self talk. Remember, losing at love does not make you a “loser.” You are worth being loved well.
- Move forward – The darkness and pain of the past eventually fades and you begin to move forward into a brand new day. You wake up to the rest of your life and learn to make healthier choices next time. (for more about all of these points, see my book, “When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty” by Jackie M. Johnson)
There is life after loss, joy after sorrow, and peace after pain. There is hope. One day it really will be okay. One Day. Until then, live in the light. And keep on walking. When love ends, healing can begin.
The rest of your life is waiting—and the best days are ahead.