I Had My Heart Broken During The Pandemic — Here Are 12 Tools I Used To Heal
A decade ago, I fumbled my way through a shattering heartbreak. Excruciating as it was at the time, it completely changed my life—and me—for the better.
Ten years later, I find myself nursing a broken heart once again—only this time, I know exactly what I need to do to heal and grow. These are the 12 tools I recommend personally and professionally to help navigate breakup pain and become better because of it:
Go zero-contact with your ex for a while.
Love acts on the brain similar to a drug. When the source of the "drug" is cut off during a breakup, some people actually experience withdrawal symptoms similar to that of substance withdrawal. Not only does this cause distress, but it also clouds the decision-making process if an ex comes back into the picture.
In other words: If you're hankering for a "fix" of love and you're still in contact with your ex, you're more vulnerable to getting back into an unhealthy dynamic. (Here: why the "no-contact" rule is the best way to get over a relationship.)
Tend to your hurting inner child.
If you have an abandonment wound from childhood, it will get activated when you experience a loss later in life. This can cause you to emotionally regress to the age you were when you first experienced the trauma.
When this happens, it's especially important to practice self-care and tend to your scared inner child. There are many ways to do this: One thing I did was buy myself a soft and plush stuffed animal to help me get used to sleeping alone.
It's also important to ensure you're not ignoring your basic needs. Try to eat every few hours (even if you're not feeling hungry), prioritize sleep, and don't be afraid to ask your doctor for extra help if you need it—some people may be prescribed a temporary antidepressant, sleep, or anti-anxiety medication at this time.
Hear other people's stories to remember you're not alone.
Heartbreak is such a lonely experience. We go from being deeply connected to someone to feeling completely untethered and alone. But the truth is, there are millions of other heartbroken people out there going through this alongside you (and billions who've gone through it before them!).
So in a way, the loneliness of heartbreak can actually be a deeply connecting experience. Listen to the lyrics of heartbreak songs, check the Reddit thread on breakups, or listen to my podcast Better Because of It, where I interview formerly heartbroken folks about their breakups and journeys to healing.
Get to know your attachment style.
Understanding how your attachment style played a role in your previous relationship can make it much easier to heal from the breakup—or at least make sense of why it happened. It can also help us home in on which parts of ourselves we could benefit from healing, which can lead to a healthier and more secure attachment.
Process your grief while allowing room for distraction.
When we're grieving, we need to be able to compartmentalize or distract ourselves. No one can grieve 24/7—it's too painful. So don't judge yourself for throwing yourself into work, a Netflix binge, a bottle of wine, or the arms of a rebound.
Just know that eventually, you will have to feel in order to heal. You can just see it as productive "work" that's necessary to get to the other side. I recommend journaling, listening to music, creating art, speaking to a therapist, and getting into your body as that's where grief is held: Yoga, dance, walking, acupuncture, and massage are a few modalities that have been really helpful for me during this time.
Support yourself like you would a friend or loved one.
We tend to be much more understanding and patient with friends and loved ones than we are with ourselves. This self-criticism and self-abandonment when we're in pain actually compound our suffering. Rather than judging yourself and creating unnecessary shame and anxiety, recognize this is a time for self-compassion.
Validate your temporary emotional experience, offer yourself words of encouragement, and set realistic expectations for your mood, performance, and productivity. Perhaps most importantly, remember that healing is messy and nonlinear.
Find opportunities for cultivating resilience.
While perfectionism (and social media) lies to us by suggesting we can get to a point where we no longer feel pain, the truth is: As long as we're alive, we're vulnerable to difficult emotions. By catapulting us into an unavoidable period of discomfort, heartbreak provides ample opportunity for learning to tolerate difficult emotions and showing up for ourselves during challenging times. And ultimately, that's what leads to resilience.
Surround yourself with people who love and support you.
Surround yourself with people who you feel safe falling apart around—people who aren't going to tell you to be positive or that it's been two months; you should be over it by now! In the midst of heartbreak, you need empathy and genuine connection.
Even if your tendency is to isolate, try to push yourself to reach out to friends and family whom you don't have to be "on" around. Ideally, they will support you and remind you of how worthy you are.
Plan things to look forward to.
Hopelessness is a very common symptom of heartbreak. So, be intentional about creating things to look forward to or work toward: Propose a group trip, go visit a friend, sign up for a course, or do a meditation challenge.
Just don't expect these things will be fun or evoke joy right away. If they do, that's great! But know that grief mimics depression, and it can be very difficult to find joy in anything for a while—what matters is that you're trying.
Push yourself to create new routines, habits, and memories.
A huge part of healing from heartbreak is rebuilding your life without your ex. Rearrange your space, join a team, start going to a new coffee shop—make an effort to (re)build a beautiful life without them.
Get a glow-up.
Heartbreak can leave us feeling discarded, unwanted, undesirable, unattractive, and worthless. Obviously, your worth extends far beyond your appearance, but feeling more confident externally can help with feeling more confident internally (especially when you're ready to get back out there!).
Treat it like a bumpy journey en route to somewhere incredible.
I used to be terribly afraid of flying until I finally had to surrender control and hope for a smooth journey. Uncomfortable as it was, it was always worth it to get where I was going. Heartbreak is similar: We can't transport ourselves to a "healed" destination. We have to take the journey—bumpy as it may be.
As long as we keep reminding ourselves to surrender and trust that we're on our way to somewhere incredible, it makes the journey far less agonizing.
Megan Bruneau, M.A., is a therapist, executive coach, and wellness writer based in New York City. She received her bachelor of arts in psychology and family studies from the University of British Columbia and a masters of arts in counselling psychology from Simon Fraser University. She is a registered clinical counselor (RCC) in British Columbia, but now works with clients in New York and globally via remote work. Drawing inspiration from her own experiences, Bruneau has contributed to The Huffington Post, Forbes, and Thrillist and has appears on Good Morning America and New York 1 Morning News. She is also the host of the podcast Better Because of It.