I had dinner recently with a girlfriend whose boyfriend of 2.5 years just dumped her. To her, the decision was completely out of the blue. Now she's wondering if he's already with someone else. (I doubt it.) She wishes he would just tell her why. (He has.) She asks me when she'll stop crying. (No one knows, but likely sooner than she thinks.)
In the early stages of being dumped, the only thing you can do is pour over your feelings.Talk about it to friends. Write about your feelings. Go through the roller coaster. Cry a lot. Express grief, sadness, anger, confusion -- all that stuff. That's normal. That's healthy. But the key word in that string of typical reactions is "grief."
Losing someone you love is like a death, except you know that person is still alive -- and has the potential to be happy with someone besides you. So it's grief with a painful twist. Luckily, there are some proven ways to deal with the grief of a broken heart.
After the initial roiling emotions subside a little, try the following three steps to help you get yourself back together:
1. Take out a sheet of paper and make a good ol' pros and cons list.
Accurately list everything you loved and didn't love so much about the person. Be realistic -- don't make them a demon or an angel. Add to it from day to day, as you think of more things. Do the same for yourself. What were the pros and cons you brought to the relationship? And make a third list for the relationship itself. This process will help you get your head clearer.
2. Every Sunday for the next four Sundays, take time to hand-write a letter to this person.
Make sure to date it, but do not send it -- no matter how tempting it is.
Even if you did lure them back now, would you really want them? Probably not really. It takes a lot of energy to break up with someone -- they probably wouldn't have done it if they weren't serious.
Tell them how you're feeling, exactly what you're feeling and why. End each letter with the simple words, "I release you. I release myself. Good bye." Sign each one. On the fifth Sunday, go back and re-read them in order. You'll be amazed at how much you've healed and how much insight you've gained into the relationship! (Insight you can apply to your next romance.)
3. Invest in something you love.
Remember that old hobby you had? The friends you've neglected? The family you haven't visited in forever? Remember how you used to like to lie in your hammock and read a book or go shoot some hoops in the park?
Have you always wanted to take a watercolor class but there was never enough time? Go ahead. Now's your big chance. Even if you have to stop every two pages of your book to dry your teary eyes, do it anyway.
Life can be rich, full and delightful -- with or without that partner. But you have to put in the effort. You can't just sit home and mope.
Using these simple three steps and giving yourself time to feel and heal is the classic best recipe for recovering from being dumped. And as all your friends will tell you, you will survive this and you will find love again.
A version of this post originally appeared on WendyKeller.com.