How to Overcome Loneliness After a Breakup – 5 First Steps

Scientifically reviewed by Viktor Sander B.Sc., B.A.

Breakups suck. Let’s get that out of the way first.

When you’re in a relationship with someone, you open up and literally share your life with another person. You’re vulnerable, which makes things that much more difficult when things eventually end.

Some breakups are mutual. Some breakups are one-sided. Some breakups are necessary. Some breakups happen over time.

Long story short, breakups are never easy and you will most likely feel many intense emotions following them. These feelings can make you feel isolated as you wonder why others are happy together while your relationship came to an end. Even if you’re the one doing the breaking up, it’s totally normal to not feel totally normal when all is said and done.

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Just two days before starting this article, I went through a breakup. (You can imagine how I felt after seeing this was my next assignment.) Truthfully, these tips will help me over the next few weeks just as much as they will help you. If you feel like you’re the only one going through this, know that I’m literally right there with you. More on how I’ve been doing the last few days in just a bit.

After a breakup, you’ll need to indulge in some self-care to make things feel as normal as possible while you work through your feelings. If you feel lonely, remember that’s a typical side effect of a breakup; this is especially true if your relationship was a long one and you still share many aspects of your life together.

Here are some tips to help you connect with others and learn to heal after a heartbreak:

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1. Why breakups hurt and make us feel so lonely

If we want to understand why loneliness seems to loom over our heads after a breakup, we need to look at what love and heartbreak do to the body to figure it out. We all know that love is one of the strongest emotions out there, but what you may not know is how much a broken heart can affect you physically as well as mentally.(1)

Breakups hurt because they’re an altering of your life and you’re forced to adjust to a new way of being without that other person always around. If the person you spend the most time with is now suddenly not a part of your life, you need to be ready to adapt to changes, which can take a toll on your brain. Loneliness happens because your go-to person is no longer there. Reaching out to others (which we’ll go over later) is a great way to help mend that part of your life.

The average person will never experience anything this extreme after a heartbreak, but following a divorce or especially painful split, your health can actually deteriorate because of the stress from a breakup. A broken heart can change your body’s biology to make you more susceptible to illnesses. In the worst-case scenario, the Broken Heart Syndrome can kick in.

The Broken Heart Syndrome is also known as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy (TC). It’s a temporary heart condition that is caused by acute emotional stress in one’s life.(2) That’s right, enough stress and emotional trauma can actually cause your heart to stop working properly. When experiencing TC, your heart will act as if it was having a heart attack without any of the long-term physical damage to the heart. I’m not saying that all breakups will stop your heart, but there have been documented cases where divorces with extremely high tensions have caused this condition to occur.

If you’re not feeling like yourself after a breakup, that’s expected and totally normal. Keep in mind that because of the breakup, you may be experiencing mental and physical changes to your body, even if that’s as simple as feeling more tired than normal. Be sure to listen to your body and give it what it needs so you can focus on growing from your breakup.

2. Don’t beat yourself up

We all make mistakes during a relationship. Even Brad and Angelina’s seemingly perfect celebrity marriage couldn’t stand the test of time.

When you and your partner split, you’ll probably go through the highlight reel of mistakes you made in the relationship and things you wish you did differently. These thoughts are valid and real and should be felt in a healthy way. While it’s healthy to grieve after the end of a relationship and to learn from your past mistakes, beating yourself up over and over mentally isn’t the best way to grow.

One thing you can do to counteract negative thinking is to be kind to yourself. If you wouldn’t say what you’re telling yourself to another person, you shouldn’t be saying that to yourself. We tend to be our own worst critics. Practicing self-compassion is important to remind ourselves that we’re only human and we can’t hold ourselves to super-human standards.

Lastly, be patient. Try to remember what you did well during the relationship and make peace with the breakup. This process may take some time, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re still feeling bummed after a few weeks or a few months. You can’t rush healing.

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3. Understanding loneliness helps you deal with being lonely

Being alone is different from being lonely. Being alone in itself isn’t a bad thing, it can even offer a nice change of pace if you’ve been tied to another person for a long period of time. Loneliness strikes when being alone begins to feel unbearable and uncomfortable. Being alone is not a negative but being lonely can be.

At times, loneliness happens when we unintentionally isolate ourselves from others. If you think you’re the only one that’s felt this certain kind of heartbreak, reaching out to others can feel impossible. I know the last thing that you want to do is to describe intimate details of a breakup as soon as it happens; it’s just simpler to keep your emotions to yourself.

When deciding whether or not to share your breakup and relationship details with others, remember that everyone has experienced those same emotions you’re feeling of loneliness, happiness, and love. Others have gotten through it. You will, too.

The next time you think “I won’t talk to him because he wouldn’t understand,” challenge yourself to confide in them. Others may have insight that can help you deal with feeling lonely and give you a different perspective on the situation at hand.

Personally, when I’m lonely, I find my best friend; he’s always around when I need support… it just so happens that he has four legs and a furry body. Animals can help substantially reduce feelings of loneliness. In one study, it was shown that animals can help lower fear, lower anxiety, and improve mental health.(3) Even if you’re technically alone, adopting a pet in need can be beneficial for you if you’re ready to take on that kind of commitment.

4. Make a connection

Though animals are fantastic and can reduce loneliness, the best way to feel less lonely is to make a connection with another person. If your relationship was a serious one, much of your time may have been spent with your significant other. If you found that you gradually spent less and less time with your other friends, don’t worry; that’s something that commonly happens in many relationships.

If you didn’t spend much time with your friends before the breakup, you may feel that you’re too distant from your friends to reach out to them for support. If this happens, your first step is to make a genuine attempt to reconnect with them. Many times, a simple phone call or Facebook message can re-open the door to a close friendship with them.

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If you have to start fresh and make some new friends, your first step is to find other people similar to you to make a connection with. Here are a few ideas on how to do just that:

  1. Attend a club you’re interested in
    • You’ll be excited to go to meetings because you love the subject, and you’ll be with others that share a similar passion. When speaking to other members, just be yourself and ask questions to get to know them better. Remember, you shouldn’t be afraid to open up to them. (You’re here to make lasting friendships, after all.) Your genuine answers will give them a glimpse into your life, allowing for a deeper connection to blossom.
  2. Go to work parties
    • If you’ve declined invitations from coworkers for baby showers or happy hour drinks in the past because you were busy with your partner, now is the time to start going to those events. You’ll get to know the people that you see daily much better, which will improve your work-life at the least. If you’re lucky, you may realize you and a coworker have the potential to become good friends.
  3. Use your pets and children (in a good way)
    • If you’re looking for another reason to adopt a dog, going to the dog park is a great way to meet other animal lovers. Instead of reading a book while your dog plays, strike up a conversation with some of the other owners. Pet parents are just like regular parents in that they always want an excuse to talk about how great their pet is, so this is an easy way to make a connection.
    • Similarly, if you have children, bring them to group playdates and talk to the other parents there. You already have a huge commonality in that you have children the same age, so start the conversation there and use that as a platform to make a deeper connection.
  4. Network
    • If you’re the kind of person that dives into their work after a breakup (guilty), you’ll be relieved to find that you’ll have no trouble finding networking opportunities in your city. Be sure to check out events that are in your industry so you already have a shared foundation to build from. When doing this, you may find a group of people that will not only support you professionally but personally, too.

Potential friendships are all around you if you know where to look. Be intentional about making connections and you’re sure to find a few people to support you and help you thrive after heartbreak.

If you have no friends currently, here’s our full guide on how to make new ones. That guide is made to work specifically for those of us who are more introverted, anxious or shy.

5. What to do now

Like I mentioned earlier, breakups suck. That fact still hasn’t changed.

What has changed is that we now know why they hurt so much and what we can do to make them suck just a little less. In the past couple of days as part of my own healing process, I’ve reached out to a few old friends, I started planning a road trip to Arizona to visit gorgeous national parks on my bucket list, and I made an appointment to get that haircut I’ve been wanting to get for months. (Cliche, I know.)

Finding happiness in a breakup may be difficult at first, but with patience, the loneliness will subside. Trying to keep a self-compassionate attitude through it all and being intentional about finding and creating your own happiness is key.

Here are the things you can do now to help kick-start the healing process and overcome your loneliness:

  1. Allow yourself to think about the relationship, but don’t only focus on the negative. Give yourself credit for the things you did right to generate positivity from this negative situation.
  2. Be kind to yourself and be patient as you go through the grieving process.
  3. Reach out to old friends and rekindle connections with them.
  4. Meet new friends through clubs, work, networking, or parenting meetups. (Optional: adopt a dog.)
  5. Comment below letting us know how you’re feeling and what you’ve done to work through your breakup and overcome your loneliness. Reach out to others that need support.

As the wise Neil Sadaka once sang, “breakin’ up is hard to do”.

Ain’t that the truth?

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I'm a Phi Beta Kappa initiate graduated from Baylor University's honors college; while there, my concentrations were psychology and ASL interpreting. I hold a Master of Science degree in Environmental Design from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in University Scholars the Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

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