Ashley Marino

How to Overcome Loneliness After a Breakup – 5 First Steps

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.

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:

1. Why breakups hurt and makes 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

The truth is that 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-kindness 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.

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 extremely 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.

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 play dates 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 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 positive 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?

References:

  1. Field, T. (2011). Romantic Breakups, Heartbreak and Bereavement—Romantic Breakups. Psychology, 02(04), 382-387. doi:10.4236/psych.2011.24060
  2. Mahajani, V., & Suratkal, V. (2016). Broken Heart Syndrome. Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, 64, 60-63. Retrieved from http://japi.org/june_2016/08_ra_broken_heart_syndrome.pdf
  3. Beetz, A., Uvnäs-Moberg, K., Julius, H., & Kotrschal, K. (2012). Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin. Frontiers in Psychology, 3. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00234

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Comments (26)

  1. Glenn

    My girlfriend of three years ended things. We were honestly the perfect couple apart from one aspect of our relationship: sex, which has been a problem since the very start. We have had so many different problems in bed that our confidence and desire eventually went, until it became too much. It has been more of a problem for my girlfriend because I (stupidly) push things like that to the back of my mind…
    But I am honestly heartbroken now. As I said, we were such an affectionate, loving couple and we were best friends who spent so much time together. I don’t know what to do…I have no friends, and I have to study for my upcoming postgraduate exams. We both want to still be in each other’s lives. However, I feel as if I want this more and I feel helpless. My family keep telling me that “time will heal”, “I will find another girl”, etc. But I just want her. How am I supposed to get over her when we invested so much in each other and we broke up over something we could have fixed by talking to a professional or something…I love her so much and thought she was the one.

    • Michaela

      Oh I feel for you. Being rejected by the person you love is the hardest thing imaginable. Especially if you have spent this time together. It’s easy to slip into the panic mode when we are losing something/someone so precious to us.

      Taking time to reflect on what you would have actually done differently if you had a chance may help you to see the situation from another perspective. Time and good communication is a paramount thing in any relationship.

      It seems people often do not talk to each other about those seemingly little but essentially crucial things that matter the most and only realise when it’s “too late”.

      If you are still on talking terms, I would think very carefully about what changes you think you could make and what changes you could actually make if you had another chance.
      Sit down together and tell her how you feel, without any distraction, but be constructive.
      Make sure it all does not sound like a promise, but that you are actually committed to making changes in your life. (After all, what is there to loose?) If there is still hope, she will appreciate this and hopefully re-evaluate the situation.

      Try to be kind to yourself, whatever you do.
      I really hope it works out.

  2. Jen

    Broke up with my boyfriend of 3 years. I love him but I know he’s not good for me. Before him i was married for 10 years. I don’t know how to be single. Im going a little crazy, zipping through hobbies just trying to keep busy, adopted a dog (nothing to do with your article, did that bit of crazy on my own lol), but Im finding myself bored and lonely still and constantly thinking about him.

    • Viktor Sander

      Thanks for sharing Jen <3

      Have you tried focusing your time and energy on building new relationships instead of keeping yourself occupied? Meeting new friends through hobbies, spending more time with existing friends, maybe even dating.

      Or do something that feels more meaningful to you than just a "hobby to keep busy". He was a big part of your identity for 3 years, so it's gonna take time. Wish you all the best!

  3. Vick

    I just broke up with my partner.after 4year relationship. Week after he found a another woman and start dating her. It’s make my heart break more. I have done so much to him.when he is in depression I done everything and stand beside him.
    Do men feel the breakup..
    I really don’t want a another person after him..
    Can men move on that quickly.

    • Nick

      Vick, I am sorry to hear that it is true that some people don’t feel the break up. That is not just men I was in a 3 year relationship with my fiancee when she ended it and 2 weeks later she found someone else and I am still left picking up the pieces. Don’t give up hope that you won’t find someone you deserve.

  4. Jess

    My partner dumped me. We’d been together for 3.5 years but really we were about 6 years in; we discussed marriage and kids and everything. We were ready to commit. We’d had a great realtionship but he always treated me like shit. I let him do inappropiate things with me and other people because I loved him so much. When I stopped letting it be okay, I got distressed every day for six months. I was depressed anyway and tried to committ suicide. I started dying, he didn’t care. He knew but didn’t even call an ambulance or anything. It was very serious (and not just because of him). Then he dumped me because ‘it was too stressful’. Our mutural friends abused me for no reason, my friends were great at the start and then got over my distress pretty quick. Which left me with one person. They’ve just gotten in a relationship and have no time for me. I am not close with my family at all and any people I know, we’re not that close or they don’t care. I’m seeing a counsellor now but I don’t really have any friends. The loneliness is killing me.

  5. Todd

    Just got dumped for good yesterday. I feel so empty and alone. This is the first time in my life I have not had a real loved one. My mom passed three years ago. At age 50 it has become clear that there seems to be no sense of permanence in anything. Relationships all dissolve; people leave; die. Even in ongoing relationships there is always the nagging thought “I wonder how all this will end…” I have a birthday next weekend. It will be my first ever alone. I’m thankful for all the nice times in relationships in the past–family, friends, girlfriends, a wife. I feel so broken and confident that I am not good enough for anything or anybody.

    • David Morin

      Hi Todd. So sorry to hear that. I just wanted to say that you are good enough as you are even if everything feels like shit right now. It will get better.

    • Evangelon

      I am so sorry to hear all of this, I can’t imagine what you are going through. But just know that you ARE good enough. Someone told me a good quote yesterday that goes something like “you could be the juiciest, sweetest peach but some people just don’t like peaches”. This is something that I have been trying to remind myself as well. But please do not let someone leaving you make you feel less than. And it is true, all of this is temporal, here and then gone like a vapor, but that just gives you all the more reason to soak it up while you can and embrace the relationships that you come across because you don’t want to look back at all you missed out on due to the fear of inevitably loosing someone.

  6. Louise

    My worry is how old is too old to meet someone else after a break up. I live in a village that has lots of single older women, which break up will be my last? It’s been 9 weeks and despite our relationship having been awful still miss my ex.

  7. Maria

    After three and a half years my boyfriend and I broke up because he couldn’t move forward with our relationship. It destroyed me when it initially happened. It’s been a year and a half and he’s seeing someone now but I still miss him. I feel it worse at night. All of the things in your article have helped me over the past year. I’ve made close friends with a lot of co workers and attended a bunch of parties at work. I’ve reconnected with some old friends in new ways. I’ve spent a lot more time with my dog and family. I’ve found things to fill my time and peak my interest like traveling all over the world. Nights are still hard though and I can’t help wishing he were here with me. It still breaks my heart to think about him and what we had so I try to avoid those thoughts. I gave him everything and I couldn’t have done more for him but it wasn’t enough in th end and that kills me. When we were still talking, he constantly said I am the best person he knows and all he wants is my happiness but the sad fact of it all, is that without him I don’t have true happiness. He took that from me in a way I haven’t been able to find again with anyone else. Maybe I will. I’m hopeful I will find someone to love again and who can love me the way I deserve.

    • Viktor Sander

      So sorry to hear that Maria, it sounds really tough. I know you will eventually find someone else because you sound like a lovely human being with lots of love to give. And don’t forget to give yourself some of that love too.

  8. L

    I just went through a breakup with someone that I was with for 2 and a half years. I am only 26, and I currently going through a quarter-life crisis realizing and asking the questions of “Who am I?” and “Is this the right direction for me?” and “Am I happy?” I couldn’t answer any of those clearly when I was with him, and I knew that was something was wrong. I know that I still love him as a person, but I realized that this direction with him was not the right one because everything was manufactured, and I had a hard time being myself. Once you haven’t been yourself for a while, your true self eventually comes out. I had such a hard time with the breakup on my side as well, and I have had a lot of self-doubt, but I cannot stress enough that the gut is always right. I am on a strenuous road of figuring out who I am, and what I want. I know it is hard out there because I feel weird doing things on my own already. I am thinking of all the people that are on the same boat as me, and I am trying my hardest to figure out who I am. Wishing everyone that is in the same boat my best wishes!

    • Viktor Sander

      You have my best wishes too! Keep exploring!

    • Louise

      Thank you for your wonderful inspiration and the truth of how it feels

  9. Evan

    The period after a breakup can seem quite lonely, although see it as a blank slate, a new start. After a long marriage then two hasty relationships, I’e realized I have jumped from relationship to relationship for the last 2 decades. Now it’s time to get to know myself? What do I like, what do I want to do. This has been impossible with the influence of a mate and getting stuck in patterns that just aren’t healthy. I think it goes back to looking for outside stuff (people, things, etc) to make me happy on the inside… So it’s a slow process I suppose to find ones self. To really sit in the discomfort of not knowing what to do, what makes me happy, what is my passion. So here I sit, waiting for answers. The one thing I am sure of is it’s better to be in my own, then to be in an unhappy relationship day-after-day, week -after-week, month after month. I have no answers except that any emotional relationship now would be repeating unhealthy patterns that have continued to plague me. So I take it one day at a time until some answers come. I must resist contacting old girlfriends or even playing the FB game of back and forth, only really looking for attention from someone else. The price is too high! The unhappiness is not worth the “company” of a partner or spouse, just because it’s confortable and fills your days/nights. So I keep striving every day to enjoy my life, without having a relationship to comfort me.

    • Richard

      Evan
      Sounds like you know yourself pretty well and the words you speak ring loud and clear as a viable path I should take with my recent divorce and rebound relationship of 6 years that was so one-sided and unhealthy . It sounds that you and I both have been thru similar experiences . Although I do miss her company, I have to somehow let go . And I’m hoping the things I learn through David will gain me the tools I need to meet a worthy partner in the near future, with an emphasis on ‘near’ since my age of 56 is playing a bit of a mental hurdle as well !. Thanks for sharing

      • Richard

        And good luck to you also Evan !

  10. Rox

    I had my long distance relationship for almost 4 years now, Our relationship was okay and good, but for some reasons I couldn’t understand My ex boyfriend broke up with me for almost 2years, and it made me sad, frustrated, devastated having mix emotions to face the reality that he doesn’t want to work it out anymore.

  11. Anonymous

    Alot of advice seems alittle unrealistic, you can’t just find friends who will be genuine so fast, especially if they dont know you well, another point is yes talking about it constantly to people who you socialise with might help you be distracted, but unless your heart stops loving that person, no matter what social event or meeting you have is going to help you move on and maybe reconnect with someone else, break ups are horrible, espcially when its mutual, and both parties didnt do anything wrong, your left confused and shaken, you feel torn and alone, you have lost a connection with someone who genuinely cared and loved you,.

    • Steve Johnstone

      That’s exactly what happened to me, my ex called it a day with no reason?? We never fell out and I was always supportive to her ( maybe that’s where I went wrong?) I’m still heart broken with constant memories in my head of her, her beauty her fun loving personality. She has met someone else now and that has only increased my heartache and longing for her. Ive read so many tips and advice on the net but if I’m honest nothing has helped so far. It may just be that time will heal my broken heart or maybe it won’t, who knows, all I know is at the moment it’s a case worse than physical pain and there’s no cure.

      • Richard

        Steve
        I feel for you becoz I know that feeling all too well of being shut out of a relationship unexpectedly without reason . As if the shock alone isn’t ban enough , we then find ourselves paralyzed as to how or why this could have happened . The measure of pain from this can be unbearable . My break up nearly sent me over the edge becoz I needed answers and I couldn’t move on not knowing how things turned so quickly … I needed to know what I had missed or what I must have done so badly to deserve such stab in my heart . As humans we naturally strive for answers so we can better ourselves and I think it should be an unspoken law that as humans , especially those of us experiencing a loving relationship, we should have the respect and descentcy to give us closure or something in the way of a farewell then to just pack up and leave without warning , do u agree?
        GL Steve and thanks so much for sharing

    • K

      Anonymous – This sounds soooo true!
      I have been trying to keep busy:
      work, work outside work, bought a guitar and learned how to play it, gym, babysitting my nieces and nephews, trying to keep busy with friends, writing a diary to keep myself sane, but…
      The pain is just unbearable and I feel like I am making everyone around me miserable, just don’t know how to go on any more. There is only so many rejections one can take, there is only so many times you can pick yourself up and make light-hearted jokes out of bad situations. I am so exhausted by everything right now. I am exhausted having to explain myself to people all the time too. It’s all so very painful.
      Truly, I don’t know what to do with myself and how to “be” any more.

  12. Louise

    This is great advice, thanks so much for sharing. So many people struggle after a break up. They need to reconnect with themselves, don’t you think? I think that is the key. Cheers, Louise

    • Dave

      Connect with yourself, not a very rich environment