Mending a Broken Heart

What you can do to be happy again

Everyone's been there. You're so in love with someone one week, and the next week your relationship is over. You've been hit by an emotional Hurricane Andrew, you're never getting back that Beastie Boys CD you left at your ex's house, and you can't even get out of bed. All you want to know is how long it's going to take before you're able to live your life like a normal person again.

The conservative answer is that it takes up to six months to heal from a breakup. For those of you that don't like the sound of that, though, follow some simple steps. They should bring you closer to getting past this old relationship and prevent you from making the same mistakes in the future.

Cry Me a River In the end, a breakup is a change, and big changes are difficult in almost any regard. Your ex knew you inside and out and it makes sense that breaking up with him or her could be overwhelming. Ending a relationship may also be the first time you experience a significant loss. Be patient -- people go through all the stages of grieving in a breakup: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This is not the end of the world, though. Just don't hold it all inside or your feelings will get worse. Cry if you feel like it. Allowing yourself to feel sad will prove to be an important part of the total therapeutic process.

If after six weeks, though, you are still having severe depressive symptoms, and/or engaging in behaviors that are potentially harmful to you that you cannot control (like abusing alcohol and drugs or self-abuse), it's time to seek professional help. A good therapist can help you get over this hurdle in your life and lead you to find ways not to repeat this kind of relationship again.

Break Out the Vinyl A little Cure, Sinead or Alanis never hurt anyone. You have the right to feel some self-pity and music can put you in the mood to do some melancholy reflection on your life.

School Yourself on Yourself Being alone is good for you. Now that you're single again, you have the chance to regain a sense of yourself as a separate and stronger person. You can focus on the basic things you need to feel whole and fulfilled. Look realistically at your ex and see what you can learn from that relationship. Most people, unfortunately, idealize the previous relationship and look for somebody very similar only to end up making many of the same mistakes. If you don't want to go through this again, be as realistic as you can about the type of person you want to be with and what you are looking for in a relationship.

Get Busy Start some new hobbies, work harder in school, or just get back out on the dance floor. Get involved in some physical sport: baseball, soccer, softball, basketball, you name it, you'll look and feel better for doing it. Not only is this your chance to meet new people, but you'll be amazed at how each baseball or softball starts to resemble your ex. Basically, do everything you never made time to do because you were so head over heels in love with this moron who's now your ex. Everyone needs time to feel sorry for themselves, but don't let that time drag on. Get back in the swing of life again.

Trash Your Ex Take everything he or she gave you and either trash it or box it and tape it up well. Get all those photos, jewelry, and other momentos out of your sight, or you'll spend all your waking moments pining over it. (If you have a safe place to do this, burning any flammable objects can be a good release.)

Exercise, Eat Right and Get Enough Sleep Although they're simple things, these are the backbone to your happiness. Let these things go and it will be much harder to get yourself back together. Exercise, especially will make you look and feel better. If anything, get yourself to the gym. Henry Rollins once said, "The 'iron' is the best antidepressant I have ever found."

Circle Your Friends Now's a good time to call on your friends, even the ones you kind of let slip when you were in a relationship. Make sure you surround yourself with people who empathize with you and will listen to you. Take them out to dinner, a funny movie or a comedy club to help get your mind on other things.

Bounce Back: Don't Just Rebound Don't push yourself too soon to get into another relationship. Rebounds almost never work and make the breakup process harder because you're just clinging to something that will eventually fall apart. Do you want a relationship or a sinking life preserver? When you do feel ready, move slowly. You'll know it's been enough time when you don't feel the need to talk about your ex on the first date.

There Is More Than One Right Person for Everyone Yes, so you won't meet the exact same person again, but the next person you meet (and there will be a next person) can bring even more into your life: new tastes in music, books, new ideas, laughs and more memories. If you don't believe that, think about how much you've changed in the last few years. People are always changing and as you get older, the kind of person you want to be with will change as well. You let people out of your life to let new people in. Think of this as a time for you and your tastes to grow.