How do I find the will to live again?
August 24, 2011 2:19 PM   Subscribe

What is the best advice you've ever received after a painful break-up?

I'm a woman experiencing a very painful breakup after four years with this man.

I'm looking for any advice, positive affirmations, quotes, words of wisdom, movies to watch, books to read, things to do, places to go...basically *anything*...that will help me find the strength to move on with my life and let me know without a doubt that I will survive this because right now, I don't think I will. :(
posted by twinA to Human Relations (84 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
This too shall pass.
posted by lizbunny at 2:21 PM on August 24, 2011 [10 favorites]

It wasn't wasted time, if you learned something from the experience.
posted by peppermind at 2:23 PM on August 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

"It's a learning experience."

Mind you, I wanted to smack the friend who said this to me. But she was right.
posted by rtha at 2:25 PM on August 24, 2011

Pain means you cared. Put that care toward yourself right now and when the right person comes along you'll be ready to invest again.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:27 PM on August 24, 2011 [12 favorites]

I always found Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart to be helpful in these situations.

But time heals all wounds. Seriously. I was with my ex wife for 15 years when I busted her having an affair. Hurt like hell. But now I've got a new fiancee and am much happier! Things work out.

Don't despair.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:28 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

You can take advantage of your time in pain by doing something that would have hurt a LOT before, but pales in comparison to what you're feeling now.

I got in lots of good shape from running.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:28 PM on August 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

It sounds bizarre, but a friend once told me to - in a way - relish the pain and feelings I was having because you so rarely get to feel that spectrum of human emotion in that particular way. It had a way of making me look at my pain in a completely different light - not as something bad or devastating, but as something natural and interesting.

I was also helped tremendously by the Metafilter favorite, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. I can't recommend that book (and her other publications enough.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 2:29 PM on August 24, 2011 [19 favorites]

The best thing to do is get busy, catch up with old friends and hang out with family. Time heals everything, but it does take time, and the more occupied your mind is, the easier it is.

And also pick up some old hobby (or maybe even a vice) that you put aside when you started dating someone.
posted by empath at 2:32 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

things to do, places to go

Anything you like to do that he didn't. Anything you think you'd like to try that you haven't before. Anywhere you haven't been before but want to go, whether it's two towns over or half a world away.

Personally, I really like up and deciding that I want to go to the theater tonight because I found half-price tickets and I have no one I need to schedule with. Or going to see the movie I want to see when I want to see it with no horsetrading about time or "but we went to see your movie last time".
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:34 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Feel the pain now, or feel it later."

Boy, was that prescient advice, from a close friend who saw me doing anything I could to avoid thinking about my first marriage breaking up. I didn't stop nearly long enough to hurt then, so I kept hurting, a little here, a little there, through two more marriages I never should have gotten into.

Get all your crying done in one puddle. Then, and only then, move on.
posted by paulsc at 2:36 PM on August 24, 2011 [13 favorites]

You may never get over him - but you should give it some time and try again.
posted by YukonQuirm at 2:36 PM on August 24, 2011

Just get out and do something so that your house doesn't become 'that place where you sit depressed all day'. If you feel a black cloud in your brain get out and walk it off. Or run it off. Or whatever.

I took up walking for this very reason a few years ago - upwards of 3-4 miles a day at times. The near daily change in scenery, the discovery of my new neighborhood, and the general exercise all did me good in the end. Not only did I get a lot of important thinking done but I also ended up getting into better shape.
posted by nathanfhtagn at 2:38 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

You can take advantage of your time in pain by doing something that would have hurt a LOT before, but pales in comparison to what you're feeling now.

I was in a long distance relationship for a year or two, and there were a lot of goodbyes, and we couldn't afford much phone time, so there was a lot of loneliness and worrying about how to keep the relationship alive. During a particularly mopey period, my roommate said "You know what you could do? Clean the bathroom." I said "that won't make me feel better." She said "It won't make you feel worse, and we'll have a clean bathroom." Whenever it looks bleakest, I clean the bathroom.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:39 PM on August 24, 2011 [87 favorites]

I think it's important to know, as a cold hard fact even if you can't feel it, that you will survive, it will get better, there will be life after this. And if you don't believe that, look around you; nobody is crying their eyes out every single day over a breakup that took place three years ago or whatever. Eventually you just run out of your ability to sustain that kind of anguish, which is a blessing.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:48 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

I've always liked "Living well is the best revenge." I'm not into revenge of course, even after painful breakups. Instead I think of it as pouring effort into making myself more awesome than ever before so that if I were to run into my ex on the street, they'd be blown away by how gorgeous/fit/well-dressed/happy/confident/social/whatever I am now. This triumphal moment of post-breakup wistful-regret-inducing showing off has never actually happened to me, but imagining it helps me get off my butt to start shaping up into my new, awesome, well-I'll-show-you self, and putting it into practice to actually become more awesome can give me confidence after a confidence-shaking breakup.
posted by ootandaboot at 2:50 PM on August 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

nthing the revel in the pain advice.

Take an evening (or two, repeat as necessary), and say to yourself "this is the time where I will be one with my misery."

Put on whatever sad sack music you want - Willie Nelson, Muddy Waters, whatever the best misery-loves-company tracks you can get your hands.

Have something to drink (if that's your thing), and just wallow for a few hours.

Repeat as necessary.

One or two evenings of this will have you back on your feet a *lot* quicker than trying to be positive all the time and going on with your life.

We have funerals and socially acceptable mourning periods when people die, but for some reason the expectation seems to be that isn't necessary when a relationship dies, and I think it still is.
posted by colin_l at 2:55 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

In the throes of the worst breakup I've ever had, a friend said to me: Be kind to yourself.

I tried it. It didn't fix everything because nothing could, but it helped more than pretty much anything else had.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:56 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

I’ve always found that a makeover is a really good way to bounce back a little bit after a breakup. A different haircut or color, update your makeup look a little, pick up a few new outfits, whatever you feel like doing and can afford. Even just a little change can brighten your outlook, or go all-out if you feel like it.

It may sound shallow, but it benefits you in a couple of ways. It feels like a fresh start. It gives you a project to think about. And, it helps you feel more confident. Part of the awfulness of a breakup for me is the fear that I’ll be alone forever, that nobody will ever want to go out with me, and getting spiffed up a little made it a little easier to see myself as attractive and potentially dateable.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:57 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When you're feeling at your lowest point, get out the phone and call the people you haven't spoken to in a long, long time and catch up with them for a few hours (or via Skype).

These people loved you before and during and after your relationship, and they know there's more to you than having been a part of his life.

Remind yourself that your identity and happiness don't belong to someone else - and waiting for someone to come along and give those things to you gives others control of your life.

So, for now, mourn as hard as you can; cry, scream, do whatever you need to feel better, physically and emotionally. Once you've released all that stress from your body, the healing can begin - but be wary of trying to suppress or mask your feelings with things like sex, food, drugs or alcohol.

My personal mantra that worked: "My heart is an open door, and I"ll fall in love again - WHEN I AM READY."

Find one that makes you feel good about yourself, and whenever you're stressed out in public or afraid of being alone, repeat it in your head until you feel better.

And finally, listen to Famous Monster's advice: take care of yourself; be kind to yourself. Whatever you'd do to cheer up your best friend in the same situation applies to you, too.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:58 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Oh, honey, I'm sorry. I'm currently going through the same thing (breakup of a 5 year relationship, about a month ago) and the best advice came from my best friend. He said "Take a time out. Go somewhere for a while and get some distance and perspective." He invited me to come stay with him (he lives out of town) and even offered for me to stay with his parents who live by the sea.

I went to spend the weekend at his and even though the weekend was an odd mix of me pouring my grief out to him and lots of social activities with people I hadn't met yet, it was the right thing. It helped me take some distance from the whole thing. In my case, it has helped me realise I was only staying in this metropolis because my other half worked here. I'm now making plans to move to a smaller town for a better quality of life.

Once you have some distance you can see how you can turn this from a disastrous event into a reason to make some changes if there are other things in your life you don't like.

You may not feel like seeing friends right now but it is worth it to talk to someone who will listen and who will make you cups of tea. And if you haven't got a friend like that, perhaps just book a few days away somewhere to give yourself time to think and start healing.
posted by dutchbint at 2:59 PM on August 24, 2011

Go ahead and feel the pain, but not too much or for too long. Feel it and then move on.
posted by John Cohen at 3:01 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Use alcohol sparingly, usually only makes you feel numb for a bit before feeling worse.

Honestly, it'll get better. I promise.
posted by JimmyJames at 3:06 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can only grow by coming to the end of something and starting something new.
posted by auto-correct at 3:15 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can't break up together.

Also (and this one I finally figured out for myself, and it only took me a year and a half):

Feelings change.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:16 PM on August 24, 2011

Well there's this and this and I like this song

But really the best advice I ever got was (1) no contact with ex for a period of time (for me, I needed almost a year in some cases) and (2) keep busy, busy, busy because it's easy to feel sorry for yourself if you're sitting home alone and it's much easier to move on if you are out doing things. So go do new things: travel, volunteer, go to meet ups, exercise, hang out with friends. You get the idea. Just keep busy. It will get better with time.
posted by bananafish at 3:16 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

First, my older and wiser friend sent me a copy of the Derek Walcott poem "Love after Love". It was exactly what I needed to hear. I know that you can find it by Googling.

Second, I tried to keep this little mantra in mind. It's kind of hokey, but in a comforting way.
Some will
Some won't
So what
Someone's waiting (for you)

posted by easy, lucky, free at 3:19 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

- Every single relationship-- except your absolute, truly final, last-one-before-you-die-- fails.

- Vent if you need to. Putting feelings into words helps clear some of the menacingly depressing muck from your thoughts, and figuring out why you feel exactly how you do may make it easier to deal with (e.g. disappointed vs hurt vs disgusted vs shocked).

- Don't let your devastated perspective be the only one you're reflecting on things with. There's a lot of really sound advice in this post, and it's great you sought it out.

- Distract yourself. Your brain is probably going 500mph, and you need to slow it down. Focusing on anything else (a hobby, volunteering, even a TV show) will help.

- You're hurting only because you very much valued the good times. The pain of the breakup says nothing about how weak/unlikely to survive this you are, only that you're sad to see the good times turn sour. And that is 100% okay.

- Try to imagine someone dear to you in the same situation. What would you tell him/her? Try your hardest to keep this in mind.
posted by desertface at 3:29 PM on August 24, 2011

In the depths of grief, weeping in the shower, I realized that at some point I would have to get out, get dressed and take the trash out. The sudden knowledge that there was something else--something mundane and stupid and necessary--that could exist alongside the sadness led to the insight that I wouldn't always feel flooded by these emotions, and that, conceivably, there would come a time when I could take out the trash or clean the egg tray and just be doing that normal thing, without all these tears.

There is life on the other side of this thing you're in. I wish you luck in getting there.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:33 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Don't talk to him. Remove him from Facebook. Do this until you don't think about him any more. DON'T TALK TO HIM. IT WILL RUIN EVERYTHING.
posted by Anonymous at 3:36 PM on August 24, 2011

Calling old friends to catch up is a very good idea. I would add one caveat: No matter how bad things get, never, EVER call the ex.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 3:36 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

What is the best advice you've ever received after a painful break-up?

"Act like Otto von Bismarck."

I'm not kidding. You are out for yourself now. The part of you that is focusing on him is working on his behalf.

Focus on you.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:38 PM on August 24, 2011 [10 favorites]

It hurts so much and it never really disappears but it becomes like a scar- a pale and faded version of the hurt. Also, I would recommend walking outside. Even (or especially?) Without a destination. It clears the mind.
posted by bquarters at 3:40 PM on August 24, 2011

I agree with everyone that says you should just feel all of the pain in one great big swoop. Put on a smiling face by day, if you need it--but grieve and be kind to yourself at night.

One way that helps you feel the pain and let go of it is writing it all down. Write down everything that comes to mind. Write down everything you wish you could say to them. Write down everything you wish had happened. Write down the best parts. Write down the worst parts. Write down that memory that still makes you burn with humiliation and pain. Write down that memory that makes you smile and feel warm--which then makes the grief all that much greater.

There's something about writing your thoughts down that makes it less necessary to dwell on the past. It lets you move forward and let go. You have a record. You know it happened; you know if your memories start to falter, you can read what you wrote. So you write, and write, and then one day you won't need to write anymore.
posted by millions of peaches at 3:41 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

After a particularly bad breakup of a 6 year relationship, I shared with a friend that I'd started trying to drown my sorrows. He quickly replied in Spanish, something which loosely translated to, "Don't try to drown your sorrows; the sons of bitches can swim." That was good advice.

This is a good time to re-establish connections with people you've spent less time with than you'd have liked, and to do some of those things you haven't gotten around to trying yet. In my case, I learned an awful lot about the quality of my friends and took up two new hobbies.

You're going to survive this. It's just going to take time.
posted by Hylas at 3:45 PM on August 24, 2011 [9 favorites]

Great advice above.
Walk in beautiful places.
Listen to the blues. God, the blues nails it, shares the pain, makes you one with the suffering of the universe.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 4:16 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Think of the happiest people you know. Think about what seems to make them happy. Think of the things that made you happiest, four years ago.

Chances are, none of those things have anything to do with the man you just broke up with.
posted by gurple at 4:30 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

The music by Ólafur Arnalds helped me to start breathing.

The one thing I wish someone had told me, and that I would have believed them: you will still be able to recognize good, loving, caring people in the future.
posted by Jurate at 4:33 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try not to indulge in imaginary rehearsals for some future confrontation where you will salvage your self-esteem. Let it go.

I've always thought Everybody Plays the Fool was great.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:36 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Do you remember what a heinous bitch she was? Stop thinking about her."
posted by J. Wilson at 4:36 PM on August 24, 2011

First, cut off all contact with the ex. This is the hardest thing to do but it's the only way. Then, it won't happen now, it may not happen in two years, but know that one day you will look back and not believe how much emotional energy you wasted being devastated. I'm not saying you shouldn't be devastated, it's a natural part of moving through it. But there will be a day, speaking from experience, you'll be with your new partner/husband, loving life and think back and wonder how you put so much stock in a dead bad relationship, why did you care so much, when you have something so much more amazing waiting for you around the corner. It's there, you just have to believe it. The sooner you move past this, the sooner you can go out and find it.
posted by Jubey at 4:37 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Fuck. That. Guy.

Say that to yourself every time you start to consider his position on anything.

Wondering why he broke up with you? Who cares; fuck that guy.

Thinking there might be something you could have done differently? Doesn't matter; fuck that guy.

Think he might have been the only one who can make you happy? He didn't make you happy, he hurt you. Fuck that guy.

Want to get back together with him? No you don't; fuck that guy.

Catch yourself entering into post-breakup interactions with him with an eye toward how he's going to feel? Stop. Fuck that guy.
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:38 PM on August 24, 2011 [20 favorites]

Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten.
-Natasha Bedingfield
posted by defreckled at 4:53 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

When you get the urge to try getting back together with him, realize it's just a normal part of the grieving process. And don't give in to it.

Also, think of all the guys out there who you'll meet who will think they're the luckiest dudes ever to have found you single.

I know it feels like you could never love anyone else, but you can, and you will. The heart is a resilient thing.
posted by xenophile at 5:48 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Exercise. Lots and lots of exercise. First, the endorphins make you feel better, and second, you can see yourself getting better at something, and third, lots of exercise will make you look hotter, and that's always good. Also, exercising a lot will force you to eat and sleep enough, if you're someone that skips either of those when you're upset.

It will get better. I promise.
posted by min at 5:50 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry. I'm going through the same thing right now. Things are bad, but this is my second serious break-up, so I'm applying what I learned from the first. Here are the things that are helping me most:

1. You will love and be loved again. It will be that good, and probably better, with another person. Over and over you hear stories of it happening to others when they thought it would never happen again. (Self included!) Your heart doesn't feel it, but your brain knows it. Lean on your brain.

2. Become the person that you want to be with. Instead of pining for someone awesome, become someone awesome. Focus on developing yourself and making yourself a better person. Get in shape, take up new hobbies, take classes, etc.

3. Grief isn't linear and it moves at its own pace. You don't want to wallow in your sadness all the time, but if you still sometimes feel sad at, say, three, four, or five months that's okay. Don't beat yourself up for feeling sad "after all this time." Four years is a long time together. These people that are telling you to just get it all out at once aren't necessarily being realistic. (It may work that way for them, but not for everyone.) Also, if it takes you awhile to want to date again, that's okay too. It took me a year to start dating after my first serious break-up, and I suspect it will take me a year after this one. That's okay. Don't compare yourself to others or beat yourself up for it. It's not a race.

4. Explore the threads on breakup music. You are bound to find that artist or song that feels like it was written just for you. That's a good place to get your mantra.

MeMail if you need to talk.
posted by unannihilated at 5:58 PM on August 24, 2011

"This too shall pass" is very good advice. Know that that way you're feeling right now, is not the way you'll feel all the time. Also keep in mind, that it's supposed to hurt. You've been through a lot, it isn't wrong to feel bad, it isn't going to go away easily, but it will surely pass.

I wallowed for a while, longer than I should have but what got me out of it was doing things that I liked. I had to think hard of what they were. But at one time, I enjoyed working out, eating well, listening to music, getting up early. I liked a clean house, I liked shopping for shoes, spending time with good friends and so, I started.

It's been 9 months, I'm okay. Someone just came into my life, and I'm excited.

You will make it through this. Look after yourself.
posted by fiTs at 6:02 PM on August 24, 2011

So much good advice here. I'll add my little .02 as what really helped me: start a new hobby or two. It took me a few tries to find new things I truly loved, but it helped my sense of independent self a lot to start doing something that was not related to hobbies I shared with ex or even had while with him. Give yourself permission to try completely new-to-you things.
Good luck & best wishes to you in this new phase of your life!
posted by pointystick at 6:05 PM on August 24, 2011

Response by poster: I truly cannot tell all of you what your responses have meant to me. They have given me so much to think about. I came home from work, washed my face, poured some wine and started reading them. I really have never felt so ..... *helped*... before. Some responses made me sob because they hit so close to home....but sob in a good way...a sad/hopeful way. After reading all of your responses....I don't feel so alone. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
posted by twinA at 6:33 PM on August 24, 2011 [18 favorites]

Although it wasn't a break-up, when I was younger I had to make a tough decision on that level of severity and (potential) pain.

An aunt listened to me weigh both options and said "you know, there are no good or bad choices in life, only choices."

Her point was that we need to not dwell on what might have been, what we might lose but instead, simply make the decision to the best of our ability and move forward.

I've used that advice in numerous situations since then and always find it reassuring.
posted by Jaybo at 6:49 PM on August 24, 2011 [9 favorites]

It's a little thing, but find something that can divert all (or most of) your attention temporarily. For me, since I'm a word nerd, it's usually something like a crossword puzzle or a game of Scrabble with a sympathetic friend. Won't be a permanent solution, but can get your mind running despite your emotion. And, as others have said, taking a walk is really helpful. I recommend doing so while listening to music.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:13 PM on August 24, 2011

I like to think forward to my hypothetical wedding day, where 'that guy' is the furtherest thing from my mind. It might not make sense now, but one day looking back, it will.

Also, crying in the shower is great. Amongst all that water, my tears don't seem quite so torrential.
posted by peppermintfreddo at 7:42 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do not be friends with the ex after the breakup. Practice Dead To Me. For at least a year. You can't be "friends" with him until you feel just as neutrally about him as you do any other random friend.

Also, making a list of everything that you didn't like about the ex and referring to it frequently is a good idea.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:42 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I found reading Nora Ephron's HEARTBURN very helpful. Along the lines of jenfullmoon's advice: make a list of all the shitty things about the ex and stick it on your refrigerator.
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:50 PM on August 24, 2011

Someone above said be kind to yourself, and I have to second this immensely. After my first long relationship ended with some nasty dishonesty, I realized that I'm the only person who I can count on to be there my entire life. It sounds sad, but I found it so freeing. If I'm all I've got, why wouldn't I treat myself well and love myself? It's really helped me cut back some negative self-consciousness.

Go to the mirror. Look yourself in the eye. Say "I love you."
posted by yellowbinder at 7:55 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

As far as the feelings of regret that may surface now or in the future, here's a way to help you not beat yourself up so much.

Tell yourself: I made the best decisions I could with the information I had.

Remind yourself that as you got more information, your decisions changed. This is true of others around you.

We are all making the best decisions we can with the information we have.

This one sentence acknowledges that we all have different skills and capacities, and that nobody ever has all the information. So nobody gets to be perfect. Nobody gets to be a mind reader.

But. The more we practice making decisions, and the more information we collect, the better we get at making decisions.

So, say it with me now! I made the best decisions I could with the information I had. (Louder!)
posted by bilabial at 8:13 PM on August 24, 2011 [9 favorites]

1) Be around people.
2) Take social-type classes, like yoga or dance or boxing. If you already did, then double down on them. NOTHING FIXES DEPRESSION LIKE FITNESS.
3) Try new creative-type things, like painting or photography.
4) Get a dog.
5) Do not ever, EVER, talk to him. Block his emails. Don't answer when he calls. Delete his voicemails without listening.
6) Throw away, burn, or donate to charity anything that might be his.
7) Paint your place or redecorate (with a friend!)
8) Stick to watching comedies (of the non-romantic type). Netflix has full seasons of 30-Rock, The Office, Arrested Development, South Park, Weeds, Futurama, Family Guy. By the time you finish these, you'll be over it.
posted by coolguymichael at 8:16 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Nothing gets you over the last one like the next one."

/this isn't advice to rush into anything, but rather an acknowledgement that one day you will look back on this from a much happier relationship than the one you are ending.
posted by hamandcheese at 8:29 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

nthing coolguymichael. This is great advice. I love the idea of repainting and redecorating. Reclaim your space!

I would add: travel somewhere alone for a weekend or a whole week if you can swing it. Somewhere beautiful or interesting, where you can totally get out of your head and life for a while. YOu'll come back feeling reset, refreshed. Paris for a week on your own? You can do it! Yellowstone for a weekend in the backcountry? Just tell someone where you're going first. Go to Burning Man.

Change your bedding so it feels like YOUR bed, not a shared bed. Sheets, blankets, comfortors, the whole nine yards. Donate the old stuff to Goodwill. Ditto towels.

Dogs are such awesome companions (and good social lubricants). Taking the time to train and bond with one will absorb a lot of your emotional supply, and that's good. Take the pup to the dog park and meet other dog parents. It may not become a deep friendship, but still.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:32 PM on August 24, 2011

Oh, and one piece of wisdom I once heard from someone on Metafilter (and I credit whoever that person is, whose name I forget): You're in the middle of a swamp right now, and the only way out is through. You just have to slog for a while. But keep slogging. The slogging is not easy, but you do eventally reach a place where it gets easier. That place does exist. You'll probably find it sometime in the spring of next year, when the snow melts and the leaves start to come out on the trees. Just hang in there and slog forward, forward, forward, until you get there. Good luck! You are worthy of love, and you will find it again.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:35 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

1. When my last major relationship broke up, one of my best friends took the train up to Seattle to see me. We spent the weekend doing ordinary stuff, but knowing that he would take the train for 8 hours just to hang out made a difference. And he got my friend in NZ to call me too. That meant everything. Cherish those little gestures of kindness and get as lost in them as you can.

2. Showers. Nothing is THAT bad when you're in the shower.

3. I listened to two albums on repeat: Guster's Lost and Gone Forever and Dave Matthews' Some Devil. Memail me and I'll send them to you.

4. Watch this. Seriously - on repeat if necessary.

5. It's almost always impossible in the moment, but try and see the suffering as your character being tested and refined. I know it's a cliche, but every painful experience will show you the strength and depth of your character. The way you deal with this will literally change your brain. Every time you allow yourself to feel the pain but then use that pain to spread love and kindness to others, your brain is remapping itself to build that into your character and personality. This time of emotional upheaval is your chance to become what you want to be.

6. It does get better. It really does. But not for a long time, and it may never be completely gone. It's like having a cup for a heart - all the places that were filled before are now empty, and that emptiness can't be filled with anything for a while. Even when it's filled in, part of the hole remains, maybe just under the surface...waiting. Eventually, the fault lines appear and you feel it again.

I've been there. Memail me if you want someone to talk to. I'll keep you in thoughts/prayers.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:56 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Completely redecorate your bedroom. Change the color of the walls, buy new bed linens and throw pillows, a new lamp--just change as much as you can. I followed a friend's advice and did this after ending a three and a half year relationship and it gave me a tremendous sense of closure and of reclaiming my life. It might sound shallow, but it felt really great.
posted by mudlark at 9:15 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and also, I am not a generally a crafty person but I took up knitting and that got me through my divorce in a lot of ways. It's a creative outlet and gives you something to focus on. It's also really nice to make beautiful things for yourself after something shitty has happened to you.
posted by mudlark at 9:24 PM on August 24, 2011

Feeling bad is inevitable -- but feeling bad about feeling bad is entirely optional.

Take it easy -- and if you can't take it easy, take it as easy as you can.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:11 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the worst moments of a breakup, I would go out walking and tell myself that literally, every breath I took meant thousands of new oxygen molecules in my body, and if I kept breathing, eventually all the cells in my body would be new and no part of it would hurt from the pain of missing him any more. I told myself that every new view I took in was a new memory that helped the old ones fade until no longer would everything remind me of him.

And while it was all so sharp and awful, I tried to relish how stunned and in the moment I was. You don't often get that kind of clarity. (I think that's what Dar Williams' song The Blessings is about.)
posted by salvia at 12:51 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Whatever you feel, that's how you feel. Don't beat yourself up over missing him, or hating him, or still being upset after X amount of time; you just need to breathe through it. Think of this as a storm passing over you, and while there's going to be thunder and rain and it'll seem like the whole world's breaking apart, know that one day you're going to be on the other side with blue skies and sunshine.

Realize that because this will not last forever, there's only a finite amount of tears you're going to cry over it. Every time you have a really bad day, or a sobbing fit, tell yourself "That's one more down."

You will get through it, and you will survive it. I know this seems like useless advice because it truly feels like you won't and how's anybody supposed to know your future better than you do, etc - been there, done that - but people feel confident saying it all the same, because so many of us have been where you are now and come out the other side, happier and a bit more fearless and thinking "wow, I am tough." Breakup music is a good way to remind yourself that enough other people have experienced this to create a whole sub-industry of supply and demand for music that puts it into words. They got through it. You will, too.
posted by Catseye at 1:37 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's no quick and easy fix for a broken heart. Just takes time.
posted by samsara at 2:24 AM on August 25, 2011

I found this previous question enlightening: How do you let go of love?

The advice that has most helped me when dealing with a failed relationship came, strangely enough, from advice on purging book clutter:
De-cluttering involves recognizing that regret is part of life, and being OK with that. Yes, I've given away books that I now often wish I still owned. But I've also screwed up relationships, made iffy career choices, etc. … If you try to cling to every single thing (material, spiritual, or emotional) that you might need one day in the totally hypothetical future, you're going to end up bogged down in a lot of stuff.
posted by fakelvis at 4:03 AM on August 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

Much recent experience on this, and all the advice above is excellent, especially the #1 Classic, block all contact, reminders, physical manifestations of his presence.

However, if there comes a time when you are still yearning, missing, wallowing and on top of that feeling bad because you know you are supposed to be feeling at least a little bit better, and people are urging you to move on and you can't ...

Make a slam list of all the things about this person you did not like. I keep mine on the notepad on my phone for constant reference. You might have to think about this, because they are probably things that bubbled up inside and you tamped down for years because you were "nice" and accepting and making it work. But now, let 'er rip. Make a list! Do not whitewash any of it. Include physical traits, habits, clothing, and events or circumstances that just turned you off or ticked you off or fell short of your expectations or lacked integrity or manners or style or whatever. Be merciless and mean, it's just for you. Read it every single time you start to feel mushy or nostalgic or needy. When your thoughts wander to a love memory, when you hear a song that makes you think of the good times, when you pass the cafe ... take out that list. Stop right there in front of the cafe and read through the list.

I promise this works.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:58 AM on August 25, 2011

Life feels really bad right now. I get it. But one of the biggest saving graces about life is your inability to predict how it will go. In 90 days from now, you have no idea what will happen. You could, for instance, get laid off from your job and be on a new track to finding a life path. You could get promoted from your job. Someone you know could die. Someone could win the lottery. You could win the lottery.

My point is that the potential for truly life-altering circumstances to arise is always there, and we never know when they're going to hit us. Think about the last life-changing thing that happened to you. Chances are it happened in an moment, an hour or a day. Life was one way beforehand and a different way afterwards.

When I go through dark times, this line of thinking gives me a lot of hope and strength to carry on. Sure, life could be even worse in 90 days from now. Or it could be way better. One thing for certain is that it is unlikely to be exactly the same. There is just no way to predict these things.
posted by corn_bread at 5:40 AM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Recently, I was in a similar position. I am sorry for you.

I volunteer at a homeless shelter. It's *very* healing. I can't suggest this enough.

Good luck to you. It will get better!
posted by kiwi-epitome at 6:26 AM on August 25, 2011

After giving yourself enough time to cry and grieve ... clean (like seriously clean) your house and re-arrange your furniture. Buy new sheets and pillows. Go buy some new clothes and get a haircut. Enjoy the feeling of life just being different than it was.

Also: This too shall pass is my favorite line, because it always does.
posted by LZel at 8:31 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You broke up for a reason. If you got back together, things would be the same as they were before. Don't do it.
posted by heatvision at 9:14 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

bilabial's advice -- i made the best decision i could with the information i had -- helped me immensely through a very difficult break-up.

the other thing that really, really helped:
the only way out is through.
posted by oh really at 9:42 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you can possibly afford it, I would like to second thinkingwoman's suggestion to travel. Take a weekend at least--and preferably a week--and go somewhere interesting and fun. But here's the important part: make sure it's a place you never went with your ex and that you don't associate with him (i.e. make sure it wasn't a place he used to talk about or had visited or wanted to visit). Start building new memories *right now*of things not connected to him.

For similar reasons, I'm nthing the suggestions to redecorate, buy some new clothes, and maybe even have a makeover if you like. These will all help you look at the world a little differently and help you to move forward.

If you don't already have a dog or a cat or some small animal to love that will love you back with its whole heart, I recommend that too (assuming you're an animal person and can make the commitment to care for it throughout its life).

Best wishes--it will get better.
posted by Amy NM at 11:38 AM on August 25, 2011

This Churchill quote, repeated many times, got me through my last break-up:

"If you are going through hell, keep going."
posted by omegar at 11:49 AM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Tim Kreider's essay on heartbreak and happiness was really helpful to me during a similar time: Averted Vision.
posted by zem at 11:57 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

What helps most for me is being around loved ones. Usually I appreciate alone time but on these occasions I like company. Constant company. Maybe you have roommates (I've been lucky enough) who will eat and watch TV with you. The best thing, for me, is to take time off or just for the weekend, go home to my parents. Or stay with my sister. Just mope and lay on the couch and they will love you and bring you soup and hug you. Maybe don't talk about him. Maybe just be sad there around people who don't expect anything from you.

You are strong and deserving and you will be happy again!
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 12:07 PM on August 25, 2011

Time heals all wounds, and time wounds all heels.
posted by Decani at 12:37 PM on August 25, 2011

Throw away or give away everything that you have that was his. You can replace those appliances.

Cut off contact. Don't be facebook friends, twitter friends, or whatever.

Be around people. I moved in with a close friend during a similar period of time and she kept me honest and now drowned in alcohol.

Immerse yourself in good books.

Be self-indulgent. You need to take care of you right now. My mantra for when I'm having the most trouble remembering to take care of myself is from Rabbi Hillel: "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?"

And when that doesn't work, I put daily routines on autopilot. I need to eat breakfast to keep this body running. I need to shower to keep this body running. I need to sleep to keep this body running. I need to see my friends to keep this heart running.

And I got a kitten.
posted by faethverity at 1:26 PM on August 25, 2011

I agree that the best revenge is to be fabulous! After a break up like that, I like to do everything I can that reminds me I am fabulous and worth loving! It is acceptable to "milk the cow of sadness" for a little while but don't let it be tooooo long! You can make yourself feel better.

I do the following.

1-Appearance- I like to kick the desire to live in sweats and cry by upping the ante! I give myself mud masks, get pedicures, new haircut, new HOT outfit, go to the gym to a new fun class and try new make up or anything that is a fun new change. I get rid of old clothes that don't look good on me and anything that the boy gave me.

2-Not wallowing-I drag myself out to fun stuff, sort of like taking myself out on dates! Go to art openings, farmers markets, new restaurants, travel, fun events, picnics on the beach, movies alone! I really enjoy doing that stuff alone actually. Can't bear to drag yourself out of the house or even comb your hair? Load up playlist of songs you can't help but dance to and force yourself to have at least 15 minutes a day of dancing like a complete fool in your bedroom. This really works. Look in the mirror and laugh at yourself while you invent some amazing new moves.

3-Treating myself-Do something for yourself like learning how to cook something new and making yourself a nice dinner or knocking something off of your bucket list! The last time I was depressed, I bought a ukulele (under $100) and started learning songs off of youtube tutorials.

Listen to "I'm Lonely" by the Future Bible Heroes!

Girl, you can do it! Good luck!
posted by dottiechang at 8:09 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been waiting to pass on this advice. It sounds nuts, but:

Put a bunch of pictures of him/her somewhere you have to pass often. The bathroom sink is good. Having these pictures constantly in your face, however unbearable and however much it breaks your heart, will force you to complete your grieving. Look at the pictures, cry, scream at the person in your head and then tell them how much you still love them... Do this as often as you need to. It will prevent that devastating, electric shock of pain that we all feel months (months!) down the road just because they played 'that song', or because for the third time that week you saw someone from behind that looked just like them. I promise.
posted by kitcat at 8:13 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Everyone else gave great advice, but here's a little side project for you: the next time you find yourself sobbing, sit down in front of a camera and videotape it. We so seldom see or experience real grief, it's a great chance to study yourself, learn something about what real grief looks like, and transform your suffering into a kind of art. Some of the still photos you can get out of this will be absolutely incredible. Cathartic, to say the least.

It's not much, but it certainly helped me through a difficult time.
posted by aquafortis at 12:49 AM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm late to this party, and I'm a dude, but I've been in your shoes. I have only 2 things to add:

1) My dad pointed out to me that my enduring grief was really just a focus on myself and my own misery now that the other person wasn't around to focus on. He suggested I find other people to focus on. I started volunteering with a youth group - not only did it keep me busy and move my focus off my grief, it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

2) Wisdom from the movie Swingers:

Rob: You don't look at the things that you have, you only look at the stuff that you don't have. Those guys are right about you - you're money.

Mike: Then why won't she call?

Rob: She won't call because you left. she's got her own life to deal with, man, and that's in New York... alright? And she's a sweet girl, and I love her to pieces, but fuck her, man. You gotta get on with your life. You gotta let go of the past. And Mikey, when you do, I'm telling you: the future is beautiful, alright? Look out the window. It's sunny every day here. It's like manifest destiny. Don't tell me we didn't make it. We made it! We are here. And everything that is past is prologued to this. All of the shit that didn't kill us is only - you know, all that shit. You're gonna get over it.

Mike: How did you get over it? I mean, how long did it take?

Rob: Sometimes it still hurts. You know how it is, man. It's like, you wake up every day and it hurts a little bit less, and then you wake up one day and it doesn't hurt at all. And the funny thing is, is that, this is kinda wierd, but it's like, it's like you almost miss that pain.

Mike: You miss the pain?

Rob: Yeah, for the same reason that you missed her... because you lived with it for so long.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:03 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

sorry. it's really painful, what you're going through. i was together with a guy for 3 years, then we broke up last year. A year later, today i feel much better and more happy to be independent. i do whatever i want: join a church, take dance lessons, volunteer, see my friends, plan a yearlong trip around the world. sure it hurts when I think about him or miss him, but life goes on and i can't resurrect the past. at least, I can say that I know what love tastes like. I started going to a really nice therapist weekly and hashing out my feelings with her. You'll meet someone better for you eventually. why would you want to stick around with a guy who willingly breaks your heart? You're still the awesome you. Try reading The Case For Falling In Love by Mari Ruti. most of all, let him go from your life totally, 100%..... power to ya, sister.
posted by dracomarca at 12:11 PM on August 31, 2011

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