How to get through these next hours, these next days.
January 19, 2013 4:56 PM   Subscribe

My partner just ended our relationship, what strategies can I use to get through the night and next few days?

Here I am holed up in the bathroom posting this plea...feeling very silly. I'm required to work tonight and tomorrow night and plan to sleep a lot in between and eat good whole, foods. How I can blunt my emotions at work, I'm trying to stay busy, bit of course the mind wanders. What other strategies, mantras or actions can I use to reinforce the common belief that "this too shall pass?" My head knows it will, but of course my heart isn't buying that line at the moment.
posted by Asherah to Human Relations (33 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Consider writing about it.
posted by shivohum at 5:07 PM on January 19, 2013

Spend as much time with friends, family, loved ones, co-workers. Stay busy, keep your mind engaged. Books, movies, concerts. Avoid being alone.
posted by blueplasticfish at 5:11 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've heard mixed things about writing about a traumatic incident immediately after. If you're still experiencing the trauma it may reinforce the painful memories.

I think the better strategy is to distract yourself as much as possible until you're better equipped to process it.
posted by timsneezed at 5:11 PM on January 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry to hear this.

Deep breaths and kind thoughts about yourself.

Take your day in small increments. You can do anything (even withstand being suddenly single!) for ten minutes.

While you're at work and start getting distracted, remind yourself that you don't HAVE to think about it now, you can 'think about this at X:00'. I visualize little bulldozers clearing my thoughts away until I'm ready for them.
posted by (F)utility at 5:14 PM on January 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

My heart goes out to you. As you said, things will get better over time. When I'm in that space it's best for me to avoid drinking and mood altering experiences in general. The crash is usually not worth the momentary escape. I highly recommend talking to a supportive friend who is willing to listen to many re-hashes of the event. Also, avoid calling the ex if you are really really upset. I like to think of other break ups I've had where I felt really upset at the time but now feel completely neutral--even indifferent--about the break-up; it reminds me that I will be okay in the end, and perhaps relieved.
posted by bluespark25 at 5:16 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Set aside time each day to grieve. It is okay to be sad. It's okay to mourn and feel loss and reflect on what has happened.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:19 PM on January 19, 2013

Best answer: I'm sure I'm gonna get a MeFi pile on for this, but as someone who went through an EXTREMELY traumatic, brutal breakup of a long relationship two years ago, the first week to ten days are impossibly hard. People who haven't lived this, do not understand this — but if you absolutely have to go out in the world and hold yourself together, consider this: try a little denial.

There is a reason that denial is the first stage of the famous grieving process, as laid out by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. When faced with sudden heartbreak, your body, heart and mind literally cannot process the huge shock to your system. Your mental and emotional pathways need a great deal of time to rewire and heal. And you can't always distract yourself from the biggest, hardest thing in your life right now. Denial in the beginning exists to help you not completely shut down and keep moving forward until you're ready to fully accept everything.

I got through that first terrible week by telling myself the breakup wasn't real or permanent, that he would change his mind, etc. When I suspected he had cheated on me and had a new girlfriend already (he did) I lied to myself again and told myself that he was sad and lonely and miserable. I told myself these lies, on purpose, to get through the toughest days — and it worked.

Deep down I knew these things weren't true, but letting my mind dwell on these possibilities helped get me through those excruciating first days and weeks. My brain only let me discover the full truth when my heart was strong enough to hear it. This is why denial can be both important and healthy, as long as you don't get stuck there three months from now. But it is an absolutely crucial tool in grieving right now. Use wisely.

Another tool? Take a piece of paper. Make two columns. On the left, list every scary/hard/sad/depressing feeling or worry you have about the future (space them out down the page). On the right? Write the rational reason (even if your heart can't believe it right now) that things will be okay, for each point you're scared about. When your emotions get the better of you, reread this list, and hear that strong rational voice in your head and believe her. When you look back at that piece of paper a year from now, you'll be astonished at how correct the rational answers are, and how you got through all those scaryhard feelings on the list. It comes, but it takes a very long time.

Take care of yourself! And keep asking for help, from friends, family, AskMeFi — that's the best thing you can do.
posted by amoeba at 5:32 PM on January 19, 2013 [19 favorites]

Best answer: The best thing I ever did after a long-term relationship dissolved was to pick up a new hobby right away that had nothing to do with anything prior, nothing to do with us and nothing to do with him. Something completely random at the local continuing ed center, with a bunch of people who don't know you. I learned how to be a (very amateur) blacksmith. Being able to hit stuff with a hammer didn't hurt, either.
posted by dean winchester at 5:32 PM on January 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

For sleep, you might try using a pillow next to you. It helps me when the bed is empty. There are even larger pillows for the whole body.

Also, try to be especially kind to yourself.
posted by annsunny at 5:32 PM on January 19, 2013

How I can blunt my emotions at work

My best tricks for this are (1) splash cold water on your face, (2) pull yourself out of an emotional space by making yourself do something mental: try to list out all 50 states, alphabetize the names of your coworkers, etc., and (3) yoga breathing.
posted by salvia at 5:58 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

While you're at work and start getting distracted, remind yourself that you don't HAVE to think about it now, you can 'think about this at X:00'.

Oh yeah, for me this one is like: "but luckily, I'm here at work, busy, with all these people I like, so I don't have to think about this painful thing."
posted by salvia at 6:01 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love the idea of denial, and also of the 30 day breakup challenge. (I read about this somewhere.) It's like dean winchester's comment above: Pick something crazy and interesting to do for 30 days. Mountain biking, blacksmithing, something. And do it. At the end of your suffering, you will at least be able to say that something awesome came out of it.
posted by 3491again at 7:11 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is not to depress you, but it took me a solid 8 months to get over the dark cloud of breaking up. I say that because I want you to know that it's perfectly okay to grieve for however long you need to, and it probably won't be neatly contained in a few days or weeks.

I'll be honest, the first four months were absolute and utter shit. I had to learn to live life all over again. I sat at home a lot. I smoked some weed. I wrote a ton. Then gradually I started to piece it all together. Now, 9 months out, I AM SO GLAD I AM SINGLE. Seriously, honestly, I swear. I NEVER thought I would feel that way.

Unfriend on Facebook. NOWNOWNOWNOW NOW. Hide everything that reminds you of the person, then make awesome plans to hang out with friends even though you will disgustingly miserable. Do it anyway. If you need to cry, excuse yourself to the bathroom or your car and let it out. Bring eye drops.

It will get better, I promise.
posted by thank you silence at 7:28 PM on January 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

When you're alone and have a bit of time - maybe a few minutes before you're heading out the door - focus on a trigger, something that you know will make you incredibly sad about losing your ex. Wallow for a bit, then go do something else. Each memory like that that you focus on will be incredibly painful the first time you think of it but will immediately lose most of its ability to knock you for a loop if you think of it again.

Keep busy, like those above have said, and taste the world a bit before settling down again. Freedom has advantages.
posted by Blue Meanie at 7:48 PM on January 19, 2013

Get this book: Getting Past Your Breakup.

There's also an online forum.

Don't drink alcohol.

Put on your favorite sitcom on Netflix and let it run.

Also, is your partner sharing your place still? Or are you all by yourself?
posted by discopolo at 8:22 PM on January 19, 2013

Best answer: And don't forget---there are people in the world who love you very much, people you already know and people you haven't met yet.

Don't be scared to cry and cry and cry. It's okay. Treat yourself like you would treat someone you love who is going thought the same thing. Be super nice to yourself and patient.
posted by discopolo at 8:35 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

When bad things were happening to me, my strategy at work was to promise myself a ten minutes sadness period by myself in the stall of the bathroom every couple of hours of work. When sad thoughts would come into my mind I would tell myself "Not now, but in a little while". The first four hours of work are the toughest, but it will be a little easier during the next four.

Give yourself sadness time, of course, but decide on the amount of time you will be sad in 24 hours and stick to it, by distracting yourself when you have used all your wallowing time for the day. Tomorrow will come.
posted by francesca too at 8:37 PM on January 19, 2013

Also nthing unfriending and blocking ex from Facebook. Feel free to hate them for being an asshole.
posted by discopolo at 8:39 PM on January 19, 2013

Response by poster: Also, is your partner sharing your place still? Or are you all by yourself?

We share our apartment as of now, nothing has been decided yet, this news is just over six hours old. He will be going out of town in less than two weeks (we actually had a planned vacation), and after that, I don't think we're certain. I don't hate him, he's not an asshole, on the contrary, he's one of the kindest people I've ever met. But, I am angry at how things transpired. Complicating things, we adopted two cats just over three months ago, and now I'm not sure about how that situation will pan out. If I keep them (which he is urging me to do at this time) they will for at least some time, be a reminder of our relationship. If I do not and he takes them, there will be another loss (albeit, a smaller one) to heal from.

Thank you for all of your kind words, thoughts and sincere advice.
posted by Asherah at 9:04 PM on January 19, 2013

Nth-ing 'be very very kind to yourself' and 'no alcohol'.

Go to the gym, or exercise outdoors, preferably both. Get a massage. Get your nails done and have a facial. Buy yourself a beautiful scented candle. Throw a bit of money at it for a while, basically, if it helps.

I'm embarrassed typing this, but something I used to do when I was really struggling at work is go into the bathroom, lock myself in a stall, hug myself, close my eyes and repeat a few times in my head 'It's's's okay'.


I don't hate him, he's not an asshole, on the contrary, he's one of the kindest people I've ever met.

...proves that you are A Good Person. Hold that thought close.

Hope you're doing okay.
posted by Salamander at 9:25 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, get a pile of comedies, best most absurd stuff you can find and sit down and watch them. It's hard to feel miserable and laugh at the same time. You may even get over this somewhat in the process.
posted by diode at 9:44 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Comedy is your best friend right now. You can listen to standup comedy on Pandora and it's awesome.
posted by blazingunicorn at 10:45 PM on January 19, 2013

Best answer: I'm really sorry you're going through such a tough time... Hopefully within a few months you'll be okay (: *Hugs*

This is what helped me:

1) Carry a bottle of water with you. When you feel like you're about to cry and you've nowhere to run, drink from it. I don't know why, but it seems to work for me.

2) At work to blunt your emotions: You could try deactivating Facebook, arranging a songlist of stuff you liked to listen to before you met him. You are utterly cool, and this is reflected in those songs. (Even if it's stuff like Britney Spears haha) No breakup or sad songs! This super duper cool self of yours -- remind yourself that he will miss out on someone as cool and suave as yourself!

3) Distract yourself -- plan loads and loads of activity, tire yourself out. Take up dancing, music, rock-climbing, or train for long-distance cycling maybe?

4) End of the day -- get early sleep. I drank warm milk to help me. For me, the hurt and wondering and rumination started to happen from evening to nighttime. Switch off your cellphone and get to bed early.

5) Expose yourself to lots of sunshine!

6) Nthing comedy. I had a very very heavy dose of The Daily Show and America's Funniest Home Videos for AGES.

YOU CAN DO IT! We are all behind you!
posted by rozaine at 12:49 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yo, I know it is not MeFi Approved, are you even supposed to survive this fuckery with no alcohol? If you feel like getting completely destroyed on scotch, drink away. You're not going to turn into an alcoholic (unless you already are one) because you get drunk a couple times while going through a breakup. Just don't do anything stupid, like drive, while you're blitzed.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:50 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

FWIW, drinking makes depression worse. However, there is no shame in antidepressants during hard times, in my opinion. You're not a martyr, and suffering is not necessarily noble. It will be very hard either way, but if you feel yourself sinking into a hole, it's something to consider. I recognize that's not going to help in the next few hours, unfortunately. 30 rock helped me through the immediacy of a breakup earlier this year!
posted by namesarehard at 12:58 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another thing that helps is yoga for grief and concentrating on breathing especially when you feel anxious or sad or any roller coaster emotion. Focus on your breath. Use a hypnosis app if you have an iPhone. Take could care of your body by eating healthy and drinking water. Redirect the love you had for him by caring for other people.

And while most MeFites might find this ridiculous, I kept a copy of this Vanity Fair profile of Jennifer Aniston post-breakup on my phone and re-read it a million times (I like her and Angelina Jolie very much, but the way Brad Pitt handled breaking up with Aniston was so bad that it was absurd). It inspired me to take care of myself and helped me stop obsessing about questions I had and identify that I didn't want or care to have answers to them. It helped me go no contact and take care of/defend myself against his pushey-pulley emotional abuse.

Also, go stay with a friend instead of being near him right now. You need space and time away from him because even the kindest guys can take advantage of you and mess with you when you're emotionally vulnerable.

Feel free to MeMail me.
posted by discopolo at 1:12 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

If your news is 6 hours old, your feelings will probably get worse over the next 3-4 days. You might be feeling decent now but in 3 days you might be a mess. If so, consider taking a day or two off work. Then things will settle down in 1 week to 2 weeks. If the breakup is really permanent, you need to get the person out of your apt (or vice versa).

I'm 3.5 or 4 months out of a breakup, and for the first couple of weeks, I just went home and slept, and woke up just to go to work. So ~16 hours of sleep per day. There wasn't really a great way to keep myself composed at work. Really just the adrenaline of, "I have to get this done or will be fired." Coffee was helpful-ish but it made me a bit bipolar. Emotions oscillate after a breakup, and coffee can make those oscillations more pronounced. YMMV. Sometimes I went outside in the middle of the workday to take a walk, and typed my thoughts/feelings into a Google Docs file when they came up and felt overwhelming.

I took Ambien to get to sleep when I couldn't sleep and needed to be refreshed for work. I probably needed to take Ambien about 8-10 times total.

Agreed with amoeba that denial is important. In my experience it happens in fits and starts. There were definitely moments when I had to pretend the person was still around, in various ways. I knew it was borrowed time and I'd have to pay the piper later when I realized it wasn't true, but I also needed it to get by.

At 3.5/4 months I'd say I'm 50% better. Yes, cut off facebook and go no contact, etc. The less contact, the better. I aimed for that but couldn't really maintain it. I ended up with some occasional contact and look at Facebook/instagram/whatever for a little while. In some ways it helped the reality sink in. Now I look once every two weeks. Contact-wise, I tried to very strictly follow the rule to not send any ultra-negative or crazy contacts to anyone. Period. Full stop. I don't regret that at all. Looking back, I'm glad that I didn't send any of the you-are-the-spawn-of-satan emails.

I'm really looking forward to being 100% done with this grief crap, because it's tiring and boring and I can't get a lot done. Hopefully by 8 months or so it'll all be over, if not sooner. If your experience is anything like mine and other people's, and the relationship was something you cared a lot about and/or the breakup was traumatic, it might take you more than a few weeks to get over it.
posted by kellybird at 2:45 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Depending where you live, you might be interested in taking up bouldering.

Since the very nature of bouldering in an indoor climbing gym is to set goals for yourself on an independent level, it's possible to spend hours laying back on the mat giving yourself time to process both the route in front of you, and stuff in your personal life. If the latter gets to be too painful, you can always get back up on the route and distract yourself with physical goals! Sure, it's exercise, but it also really isn't exercise because I'd say you spend half your time cooling down from climbing.

Plus, people in climbing gyms are super friendly so you'll meet a lot of interesting new people and have a lot of opportunities for road trips to outdoor bouldering places. It'll quickly become a demanding hobby that will take over your personal life.
posted by _superconductor at 5:52 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

First off, I’m so sorry. I went through a bad break up in April of this year and we lived together. I wasn’t able to move out until the end of May. I took up running and it really seemed to help. When I felt like I was going to cry in his presence, I would just go lock myself in the bathroom, or the spare bedroom that had become my room, and quietly cry. If I wanted to really cry, I would get in the car and drive down the road and sit in a parking lot and cry until I felt better.
He, too, is a great person, not an asshole at all. He even helped me pack and move. That last load was the hardest, and I cried all the way to my new place. I think he knew, but he never said anything.
For me, I started dating again right away. It took my mind off of the pain. I realize that strategy isn’t for everyone, but it worked for me. I got on and let the dating ensue like crazy. If I was off from work, I was going out with someone different. The attention was very nice as well. I wasn’t looking for any kind of LTR, just fun.
In the midst of this, back in October, I ran into a very dear, old friend. We have known each other for 19 years and were best friends for 4 years back in the 90’s. We worked the same days, same shift from 93 to 97 and became very close. We were both married at the time, so friendship is all we ever had. We have kept up with each other over the years, and much to my surprise, this time when we ran into each other, we were both divorced. We went out for a few beers to ‘catch up’, a first for us…we had never actually been anywhere together, other than work. Well, the catching up turned into this amazing relationship that neither one of us were looking for. The fact that we were friends first, for a long time, has been unreal. He loves me. He knows the real me…the good and the bad…and he still loves me. For the first time in my life, I am in love. Real, true, honest to goodness love.
My point is, keep your chin up. It sucks right now, and will continue to suck for sometime…but it just might be a blessing in disguise, and you just might stumble and find something amazing…even if you aren’t looking for it. :)
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 8:34 AM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I vote that you keep the cats. They will probably be nice to have around. They won't always be a reminder of him. They're little warm creatures of their very own.
posted by salvia at 2:23 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

what strategies can I use to get through the night and next few days

1. Walk, run, do karate, play tennis- whatever your thing is. If you don't have a thing then walk. We are talking a couple of miles every day- a little past that point when you think you cannot go on, but then you can. Exercise is therapeutic, and it gets you through those first few days/weeks brilliantly.

2. Become obsessed with healthy eating and sleeping well. #1 will take care of the latter to a big extent.

After a little time has gone by some of these may help.
posted by xm at 7:40 PM on January 21, 2013

Oh, and definitely, cry your brains out. Talk, time and therapy- can't remember if those were for breakups or grief!
posted by xm at 7:42 PM on January 21, 2013

(That should have been talk, tears and time.)
posted by xm at 2:18 PM on January 25, 2013

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