So much of breakup advice is what NOT to do: don’t contact your ex-, don’t stalk your ex- on-line (and definitely not in person), try not to obsess about your ex-, etc. But besides maintaining your health, what exactly are you supposed to do then??
After a breakup, everyone experiences a massive void. It’s not just an emotional void, a hole in your heart… it’s also literally a hole in your schedule: you have a huge amount of extra free time.
It’s so tempting to fill that time with moping and crying and talking about your ex- and the relationship.
Everyone’s going to do that, but little by little you have to push yourself to really live for YOU. It’s YOUR life now, 100% yours, and you should focus completely on YOU.
It’s cliché, but it’s very true: no one will ever care for you more than yourself.
Now is the time to love yourself, pamper yourself, follow YOUR interests, work on YOURSELF, make YOURSELF a better person, and live YOUR life.
So concretely, what to do? It obviously depends on you and your interests, but here are lots of ideas:
Most importantly, take care that your “real life" doesn’t get destroyedWork, school, or whatever your main life activity is… don’t let it fall apart.
It’s very, very easy to adopt an attitude of “it doesn’t matter anyway, nothing matters" following a breakup, and then you just let the important things in your life fall apart.
Fight that reflex.
It’s going to be really hard, but you have to keep yourself focused on your work/school and not let your life get destroyed by the breakup.
Stay busy with existing hobbies, start new ones Spending time with friends is obvious, but after an initial period of sadness and moping with them, try to do things with them that are fun for you: sports, travel, shopping, whatever floats your boat.
You can do lots of activities on your own as well: play music, learn a new instrument, take classes, do sports, learn new skills, join a club, travel, arts and crafts.
Focus on your religious and spiritual side in whatever ways are right for you.
Make a list of things in life you’ve always wanted to do, and decide which you can start doing now. (If they're things you couldn’t do because you were with your ex-, then so much the better… you’re free now and living for YOU!).
I know from personal experience that it’s very hard at first to put any energy into anything you’re doing, but force yourself and little by little your focus on the activities will sharpen and the pain of breakup will ease.
Help othersIn the immediate aftermath of the breakup, you won’t be able to think of anything other than your ex- and the relationship. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, the breakup will always be on your mind.
So it might seem crazy to even think of helping others at a time like this. But it’s a great way to help yourself.
Do whatever works for you. Volunteer locally – community center, church, hospital, orphanage, shelter. Or look at national/international groups like Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Doctors without Borders.
Help out with kids’ groups. Teach a class. Mentor youth at risk. Improve a local park. Work at an animal shelter. Help your own family members in need. Blood banks, museums, libraries, environmental issues, Special Olympics, disaster relief, Children’s Wish Foundation… the list is endless.
Caring for others is very therapeutic. It focuses your attention on what other people need, makes you see that other people are suffering, and – very often – can really put your own pain into perspective.
It makes you feel needed and appreciated by others, which is very important following a breakup.
You work with other volunteers, which is very helpful because people who want to help others are exactly the types of people you want to surround yourself with when you’re depressed.
And in many (all?) situations where you’re caring for others, your own breakup pain will seem pretty small in the big picture of life... which is good, because little by little you’ll realize that this really is the case.
Pay it forwardIt’s a corollary to the previous idea of “Help Others", but helping out people on the internet forums with their own breakup issues will also help you.
It’s really hard – impossible, actually – to see your own situation clearly after a breakup, but I found that analyzing others’ situations was much easier… and it made me start to realize that my own situation wasn’t so unique or complex after all.