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9 Ways to Survive (and Thrive) Through a Breakup

02/20/2015 04:30 pm ET | Updated Apr 22, 2015
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It's something that few people make it through life without experiencing, but the experience itself often feels barely survivable. I'm talking about: The Almighty Breakup. Personally, I've experienced this heart-shattering occurrence from 3,000 miles away while my beloved and I lived on opposite coasts, and I've also experienced it face-to-face where I've gasped for air through ugly cries at an Italian restaurant. It doesn't matter the distance, time of day, or circumstance; breakups screech one's heart to a stop until, like an awkward slow clap, it finds the strength to start beating again.

I'm not promising that I can spare you from this experience (I can't) but I have had to revive my own heart enough times to have picked up a few lessons along the way. They won't prevent you from the agony of a love lost, but they will hopefully make the road to recovery quicker, smoother, and devoid of the pitfalls that keep you up late at night, 72 weeks deep into your ex's Facebook photos. Here are nine surefire tricks to survive (and thrive) through even the hardest of breakups:

1. Treat Yourself

Regular mornings, I opt for a nonfat, low-cal latte. It's not what I really want, but it's health and slimming and... Breakups are not the time for that. Post-breakup mornings, I go for whatever on the menu my heart desires. A chai tea latte doesn't seem like much, but it's a little gesture of generosity toward myself that communicates, "Hey, I can see you're hurting. Let's go easy today, huh?" If chai tea lattes aren't your thing, other little nods of affection could include a bubble bath, long walk, glass of wine, or episode of a favorite TV show. It doesn't have to be lavish to feel like something special.

2. Rely on Your Circle

You may have lost your one true love, but there are still a dozen other people in your life who think you're sunshine on a Seattle day. Don't be shy asking them to show a little extra love right now. Really. Ask. Tell them what's going on. How much it means when they check in every few hours. Cry to them until you're red and puffy and all out of tears. Those in your corner will rally when you need them. And they'll likely offer perspective that only comes from talking it all out, over and over again if needed.

3. ... But Follow Your Own Heart

Those friends who love you, who you're now commiserating with as often as needed? They're also unique and different people. Remember that. They'll offer advice that fits what they would do, but don't feel like you have to take it unless it's also what you would do. In my own breakups, each one of my friends usually has a different opinion of how to handle the situation, which just goes to show that there's no one right way to do things. At the end of the day, all you have to answer to are the decisions that you make for the reasons that you believe in.

4. Stay Active

Look, the mind is a beautiful thing. But when you're freshly heartbroken, it's a crazy, vigorous, deafening thing. It's enough to drive a person mad with what-ifs, and should-I's, and who-now's... Let that go. Get moving, get out, and get distracted. You'll have plenty of time to analyze the breakup as you heal. But for now, it's not helping to sit at home alone with your thoughts. Accept offers from friends, do activities you love, join a class at the gym, and put a few feel-good endorphins to work.

5. Do What You Need to Do

50 years ago, ex-lovers weren't force-fed photos of each other's new partners and post-breakup bliss. Then Facebook was born. These days, we have no shortage of networks to stay apprised of our former flames. But don't fall into the trap of wanting to appear like the stronger person at the detriment of your own healing. Unfriend, unfollow and untag if you need to. (And you probably do, at least for a little while.) Do whatever it takes to get you focusing less on them, and more on you.

6. Give Yourself a Grieving Period

There comes a point in every breakup where, regardless of whose fault it was or how you feel about how things went down, you just want to move on. When you reach that point, assign a grieving period. I had one long, drawn-out breakup that shook me endlessly, until I resolved to cry about it one final night, then wake up the next day and not give it another thought. Obviously it wasn't as easy as that, but giving myself permission to sob until I was exhausted of crying, helped me wake up with renewed hope knowing that I was just as exhausted of being stuck.

7. Train Your Thoughts

Eventually, no matter how busy you keep yourself post-heartbreak, you'll have quiet moments where those creepy, crawly breakup thoughts will FIND you. There's no escaping this. The only thing you can do is to retrain your brain to focus on other things, and it's a lot like building a muscle. At first, it feels impossible not to think about the breakup. But for each thought that pops up, try switching it to something positive. Your friends. Your goals. Things that are genuinely more exciting to you than old what's-his-face. Eventually, you'll find that muscle gets stronger, until you couldn't waste two more seconds thinking about his bad snoring habits if you tried.

8. Start Hoping for Better

Sure, your ex knows all your favorite songs and that one time you caught him snuggling your French bulldog to sleep on the couch was probably the most Instagram-worthy thing you've ever seen. But there are also some things that probably drove you nuts about him. In breakapocalypse, now is the time to realize that you have a fresh shot at getting everything you want. Make a list of the qualities that you're looking for. You may have settled in the past, but thanks to recent events, you don't have to do that anymore.

9. Above All, Forgive Yourself

Oftentimes, breakups make you feel like no matter what you do, you're doing it wrong. Said too much. Said too little. Shouldn't have called. Should've called sooner. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, right? Listen, your heart is fragile right now. Your emotions are frayed. You're doing the very best you can, under the very worst conditions. So give yourself a break, ok? So what if you didn't make it to the gym today, or told him off in one voicemail, then left a dozen more groveling profusely? At the end of the day, forgive yourself. No matter what. Do your best tomorrow, then forgive yourself again. You're going to get through this. But you're only going to do it with a healthy dose of self-love and self-compassion. In the words of author Veronica Chambers:

It's O.K. to show up at a guy's house with a dozen roses and declare your undying affection. It's O.K. to have too much to drink and call your ex 20 times and then to be mortally embarrassed when you realize your number must have shown up on his caller ID. It's O.K., because... making a fool of yourself for love is ultimately about you, how much you have to give and the distances you will travel to keep your heart wide open when everything around you makes you feel like slamming it shut and soldering it closed.

It's going to take a little while, but eventually, your heart is going to start beating again. And when it does, it's going to be a stronger, healthier, bigger version of itself. You're going to realize why love hasn't worked in the past - and you'll be open to a love that matches this new heart of yours. It does take a little time. But for a heart like the one you have to offer, it's worth it. And so are you.