How to Accept a Breakup You Didn’t Want and Move On (+ Expert Insights)

When someone you love decides they don’t want to be with you anymore, it can feel like your world is crumbling down.

You might find yourself struggling to understand what went wrong and wondering if there’s anything you could have done differently. It’s a painful and confusing time, and it’s okay to acknowledge that.

But as much as it hurts right now, I want you to know that this breakup is not the end of your story! That’s where this article comes in. I’ll walk you through the steps you can take to start the healing process, one step at a time.

Are you ready to take the first step?

Allow Yourself to Grieve the Loss of the Relationship

When a relationship comes to an unexpected end, it’s okay to feel like you’re riding an emotional rollercoaster. You’ve lost a big part of your world, and it’s natural to mourn that loss. Give yourself permission to feel all the feelings – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I mean, you wouldn’t tell a friend to “just get over it,” right? So, don’t say it to yourself.

If you seem to be fine one minute, and the next, you’re weeping into your cereal — that’s okay. Grieving can involve crying, a lot of ice cream, or even angry music sessions. Let those emotions flow because bottling them up won’t do you any favors.

"The problem is that most of us have been taught to pretend we are okay even when we aren’t so we don’t allow ourselves to process the emotions that go with this loss. And that impacts our ability to have healthy relationships moving forward because we start to carry "relationship baggage."Anne-Marie Lockmyer
 | Grief Recovery Specialist, Founder, Grief & Trauma Healing Network | Author, When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to Truly Helping Anyone in Grief

Accept the Reality of the Situation

I know how hard it can be to come to grips with a breakup, especially when it’s not what you wanted. But here’s the thing: accepting what’s happened doesn’t mean you’re okay with it. It just means you acknowledge the situation as it is. That’s a giant leap towards healing.

Denial? It’s like hitting the pause button on your life, and you deserve the play button, my friend.

"Don't bargain, don't wish it had played out differently. Keep from rehashing the "if only's" and the "should haves" and let yourself begin to accept the enormity of what happened. 

Practice these affirmations "Things are different now. I am willing to accept this."Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR | Psychotherapist | Owner, Create Your Life Studio

Focus on Self-Care

After a breakup, your first job is to take care of you. Focusing on self-care means treating yourself with the same kindness and patience you would offer a best friend in distress. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, either.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Get enough sleep – because those zzz’s are golden for your mental health.
  • Eat foods that make you feel good both physically and emotionally.
  • Move your body, even if it’s just a walk around the block to clear your head.

Also, it’s not all bubble baths and face masks – self-care also means setting healthy boundaries, like saying “no” to social events if you’re not up to it, or limiting contact with your ex.

Be Honest with Yourself

It’s incredibly tempting to tell yourself little white lies after a breakup, like “I’m fine” or “It was all their fault.” But deep down, we both know that true healing starts with honesty.

So, ask yourself what you truly feel about the breakup. Are you angry? Scared? Relieved? It’s all valid.

The truth often comes with its own set of challenges, though. You might realize that some changes need to happen, or that you’ve been ignoring red flags for a while. And that’s okay. It means you’re moving forward.

"Feel what you feel, not what you think you are "supposed" to feel. Let yourself feel all of your feelings and express your real emotions. 

If you are being radically honest, you probably feel some relief, as well as anger, hurt, confusion, and fear. Let yourself feel all of it. This is your experience, you are entitled to all of your feelings."

— Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR | Psychotherapist | Owner, Create Your Life Studio

Embrace the Opportunity for Personal Growth

Look, I get it. “Growth” might feel like the last thing you want to hear about after a heartbreak. But hang in there with me. This breakup can actually be a way to discovering a whole lot more about yourself.

Now’s your chance to focus on what makes you tick, your passions, and where you want to be in life. It’s like a door has opened and behind it are the dreams and goals you’ve put on the back burner.

Work on Your Relationship with Yourself

If breakups teach us anything, it’s that the relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one we’ll ever have – and now is the perfect time to really work on it.

  • When’s the last time you checked in with yourself, just to see how you’re doing?
  • What about acknowledging your needs and desires?
  • Have you been setting boundaries for your own well-being?

Here’s a little something to try: Every morning, take a few minutes to affirm one positive thing about yourself. Something like, “I am strong enough to get through today,” or “I bring kindness to the world.”

These affirmations are reminders of your worth and a way to reinforce the love you should be giving yourself.

Learn from the Experience

Every breakup, as painful as it is, comes with valuable lessons. Let’s face it, it’s tempting to close our eyes and just wish the hurt away, but there’s a lot to gain from looking back with an analytical eye.

Think about what worked in the relationship and what didn’t, and I mean really think about it. This isn’t about pointing fingers; it’s about understanding, growing, and recognizing patterns that you might want to avoid in future relationships.

"It’s healing to identify what your hopes, dreams, and expectations were for the broken relationship. 

What do you wish was different, better or more? 
What do you need to apologize for and what do you need to forgive? 
What are the things you would want that person to know? 
What are the emotions you are experiencing? 

Let’s look at the good and the bad of the relationship."

— Anne-Marie Lockmyer | Grief Recovery Specialist, Founder, Grief & Trauma Healing Network | Author, When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to Truly Helping Anyone in Grief

Set New Goals for Yourself

Think about what you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time, opportunity, or courage to try. It could be picking up a new hobby or traveling somewhere new.

Here’s what this could look like:

  1. Setting a small, achievable goal for each week.
  2. A larger goal each month that challenges you a bit more.
  3. Perhaps a ‘dream big’ goal for the next six months or year.

The point is to challenge yourself and find enjoyment in the pursuit of these goals. They’re also reminders that your happiness doesn’t depend on anyone else.

Lean on Your Support System

Friends and family can be just the lifeline you need when you’re feeling lost at sea after a breakup. They’re the ones who listen to your 2 a.m. rants, bring you your favorite snacks, and throw in a distraction when you need it most.

Remember: leaning on others doesn’t mean you’re weak; it means you’re human.

We all need that shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with, and a bit of reassurance that everything’s going to be alright. Just make sure you’re there for them too when the tables turn. It’s all about give and take.

"Use your support system. This is what friends and family are for, tell your story and they will compassionately be there for you."

— Dr. Tricia Wolanin, Psy.D. | Clinical Psychologist

Engage in Activities You Enjoy

Post-breakup blues can make the couch and your PJs seem like the only option, but let’s try to resist that urge. It’s incredibly important to reconnect with the things that make your heart happy.

Love painting? Time to get those brushes out. Been wanting to try out the new café in town? Call some friends and make a day out of it. These activities are not just distractions; they’re a big part of reclaiming your joy.

Do What You Can to Lift Your Mood

Simple things can do wonders for lifting your spirits. Sometimes it’s a cup of coffee in your favorite mug, other times it could be a playlist filled with songs that make you want to dance around the living room.

Even on tough days:

  • Remember to find at least one thing that can make you smile.
  • Treat yourself to something small that feels like a hug for your soul.

Sure, these aren’t cure-alls, but they’re steps toward feeling a little lighter each day.

Take It One Day at a Time

Facing an unwanted breakup can really make the future seem daunting. But here’s a gentle reminder: You just have to get through today. It seems cliché, I know, but taking it one day at a time is important.

Today, you might just manage to get out of bed and that’s okay. Tomorrow, maybe you’ll tackle one more task.

Each day, you’ll gain more strength, and those days will add up to a future where you can look back and see just how far you’ve come.

Be Patient with the Healing Process

Healing isn’t a race. There’s no finish line where you suddenly feel ‘all better.’ That’s why patience is key after a breakup.

Healing comes in waves — some days, you’ll feel like you’re making tons of progress, and other times, it feels like you’re back at square one. That’s normal, and it’s okay.

Instead of getting frustrated with yourself when you’re having a rough day, try acknowledging how far you’ve come.

"You need to understand that you will crave the intimacy and familiarity of your ex for a period of time. 

The first weekend, after one month and after 3 months are common triggers. Also, anything traditionally romantic, family-oriented and all the things you normally do together will remind you of your partner. 

This is the brain making basic associations and you can't stop it. It takes time to experience those day-to-day happenings newly but eventually you won't have that automatic association anymore and it will get much easier."

— Michelle Baxo | International Love Coach and Dating Expert

Give Yourself Time to Reset

Breakups can really leave you feeling drained and scattered. That’s your cue to hit the reset button. Here’s a simple approach to start resetting your life:

  • Use a weekend for a mini-retreat at home, where you create a calm space to reflect on your needs and desires.
  • Make a list of things that bring you peace and try to incorporate a little of that into each day.

The goal? Regain a sense of balance and peace.

Rebuild Your Self-Identity

During a relationship, it’s easy for our sense of self to become intertwined with being part of a duo. After a breakup, you might find yourself wondering, Who am I, on my own?

Now that’s a powerful question — it’s the start of rebuilding your self-identity.

The process of rediscovering who you are is more about uncovering than starting from scratch. Think about the parts of yourself that you may have neglected. It’s about returning to your essence and perhaps, crafting a new narrative for your life.

"Relationships can water down your commitment to your values and what’s important to you. This is part of why women can feel so lost after a break-up. 

A great way to fill that gap is to remember the things that are important to you and design your life around that. You can also try new things and learn about the person you are growing into!"

— Michelle Baxo | International Love Coach and Dating Expert

Practice Self-Validation

Your worth isn’t determined by your relationship status. Repeat that to yourself because it’s true! Practice affirming your worth and believing in your value.

Self-validation is crucial because:

  • It fosters a sense of independence.
  • It enhances your mental and emotional resilience.
"When you shift your mindset to 'this breakup is not completely about me' it creates space for you to move on and remember that just because this relationship ended, it doesn’t mean you aren’t desirable and loveable."

— Corrin Voeller | Couples Counselor | Owner, Prosper Therapy

Learn to Feel at Peace Again

After a tumultuous event like a breakup, peace might seem like a foreign concept. But it’s in there, somewhere below the chaos and the noise.

To find it, you might need to try new coping mechanisms: Pick up meditation or mindfulness. Perhaps take long walks.

The key is to find small pockets of tranquility in your day-to-day life. It’s in those moments that peace gradually starts to surface.

Invest in Your Other Relationships

A breakup can sometimes overshadow other meaningful relationships in your life. It’s a sad reality, but it’s true. So, once you’ve navigated through the initial storm of big emotions, consider re-igniting your ties with friends and family.

Because these connections can:

  • Provide a sense of belonging and comfort.
  • Offer different perspectives and support as you heal.

Remember, these people want to see you happy. Give them the chance to be there for you.

Rediscover Old Hobbies or Start a New One

There’s something about diving into a hobby that makes the rest of the world fade away for a while. Whether it’s an old pastime you’ve neglected or a new interest you’ve been itching to explore, now’s the perfect time.

Hobbies are more than just time-fillers; they’re windows to joy. Painting, hiking, or cooking — these activities have a way of reminding you what it feels like to be passionate about something.

Enjoy Being Single

Embracing your single status is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and enjoy freedom on your terms. So, what does enjoying being single look like?

  • Having full control over your schedule and your Netflix queue.
  • Learning to love making decisions just for you.
  • Relishing the chance to spread out in bed without sharing covers.

The beauty of being single is that you get to do you. Discover the pleasures of your own company and savor them.

Don’t Resist the Feeling of Longing (but Don’t Feed Into It Either)

It’s human to miss what once was — after all, your relationship was a significant part of your life. When waves of longing hit, let them wash over you without judgement.

Yet, here’s the key: don’t let those feelings drag you under.

Acknowledge the longing, give it a moment, then gently steer your thoughts towards what lies ahead.

"Those feelings of longing have nothing to do with the person, but rather with the human condition (the way humans automatically and inherently feel). 

You've created a gap in your day-to-day life and that will feel uncomfortable for a while until you create a new routine and fill that gap."

— Michelle Baxo | International Love Coach and Dating Expert

Avoid Dwelling on the Past

Focusing too much on what was can really put the brakes on your healing. It’s like replaying an old movie that you know by heart; you’re not going to find a new ending.

Instead, try to shift your focus to the present — the here and now — and how you can shape your future.

Talk to a Therapist

Sometimes the thoughts and feelings piling up inside need an outlet more than friends or family can provide. That’s where a therapist comes in. They’re like guides in the wilderness of your emotions.

Having a conversation with a professional can offer you new perspectives and strategies for coping that you might not have thought of on your own. It’s a space where you can speak freely without fear of judgment.

Try Journaling

Putting pen to paper is a powerful way to process emotions. It’s just you, your thoughts, and the blank page.

Journaling allows you to:

  • Clear your mind by organizing your thoughts.
  • Track your healing progress and identify patterns.
  • Vent in a safe, private way.

Keeping a journal doesn’t have to be a daily activity; you can write whenever you feel the need. Consider it a personal tool that helps bring clarity to the complexity of your feelings.

"You might want to practice writing about how you feel in a private journal. Do not worry about grammar or spelling, just free write for twenty minutes, never taking your pen off of the page. Write to the center of what hurts, write it all down. Then, put it away."

— Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR | Psychotherapist | Owner, Create Your Life Studio

Take a Break from the Internet

Our digital lives can be overwhelming, especially when you’re bombarded with everyone’s seemingly perfect stories. If your online world feels like too much after a breakup, consider taking a short break from the internet. You might be surprised at how liberating it feels.

During this digital detox:

  • Reconnect with the offline world.
  • Spend quality time with people face-to-face.
  • Rediscover the joys of not being constantly available.

You don’t have to go off-grid for long; even a temporary break can reset your perspective and give you much-needed peace.

Don’t Keep Your Ex’s Things

Holding onto physical items from a past relationship can often prolong the pain. It’s hard, I know, but creating a tangible space free of those memories paves the way for emotional freedom.

Whether it’s returning items, donating them, or responsibly disposing of them, find a way to let go that respects the significance they once held but also acknowledges the need to move forward.

Don’t Ask Your Friends to Check Your Ex

Resist the urge to gather intel on your ex. It might seem tempting to get snippets of your ex’s life post-breakup, but remember the goal is to move on.

Roping your friends into being your spies just keeps you tethered to a past that you’re trying to put behind you.

Staying clear of all that drama means you’re focusing on the person that matters most – you. Keep the conversations with your friends about fun, uplifting topics instead!

Don’t Beg for a Second Chance

As hard as it may be to accept, pleading for a second chance can leave you feeling small and powerless. What’s more, it usually doesn’t work.

Recognize that walking away with dignity will not only preserve your self-respect but will also help your heart heal.

You are worthy of a relationship where you don’t have to beg to be loved, and that’s something to strive for as you move forward.

"...What they currently want and need in their life is not you. Why chase or even long for someone who doesn’t want or need you?"

— Tammy Shaklee | LGBTQ Relationship Expert | Founder, H4M Matchmaking

Date but Don’t Rush to Get Intimate or Commit

When you start to feel ready to go into the dating world again, keep it light and simple. There’s no rush to go into something serious right off the bat.

Take your time to:

  • Understand what you’re looking for.
  • Enjoy getting to know new people.
  • Set the pace that works for you.

Dating should be fun, not a race to the altar or the bedroom. Let connections develop naturally without pressure.

"It’s a good idea to go on a bunch of dates, not to find your next partner, but to experience enjoying the company of various people. This is like a social cleansing of the palette. It can be hard to embrace the possibility of ever loving someone other than your ex, so for now, just embrace the company of someone other than your ex."

— Michelle Baxo | International Love Coach and Dating Expert

More Insights From the Experts

“Your time is better spent, first taking stock, with what you loved about being with that person. How it made you feel, and what qualities and values of that person and that relationship that were satisfying and fulfilling for you?

Secondly, what did not work, or was really not compatible in the end? Make a list, literally.”

Tammy Shaklee | LGBTQ Relationship Expert | Founder, H4M Matchmaking

“…As we process these areas, we wrap up the relationship and free you from the hold it has on you and your heart. Then you can move on – in an emotionally healthy way and be ready for when the next relationship comes along. Let’s dump the baggage and make room for love.”

Anne-Marie Lockmyer | Grief Recovery Specialist, Founder, Grief & Trauma Healing Network | Author, When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to Truly Helping Anyone in Grief

“This is hard.”

Place your hand over your heart, comfort yourself. This hurts. Anyone going through this situation would likely feel really bad! Anyone going through an unexpected break-up would feel bad. If this exact situation happened to a beloved friend, what would you say to your friend?

Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR | Psychotherapist | Owner, Create Your Life Studio

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to move on after a breakup?

The time it takes to move on from a breakup varies greatly from person to person. It depends on many factors, including the length and intensity of the relationship, your coping style, and your life circumstances. There is no standard timeline, so be gentle with yourself and allow your healing process to unfold naturally.

Is it okay to still love my ex?

It’s natural to still have feelings for your ex after a breakup. Love doesn’t instantly disappear, even when the relationship ends. Give yourself permission to feel your emotions without judgment, and remember that it’s part of the process as you work towards letting go.

How do I handle mutual friends after a breakup?

Navigating mutual friendships can be tricky. It’s best to be open with your friends about your feelings and boundaries. Avoid putting friends in the middle, and work towards establishing new norms for these friendships post-breakup.

Final Thoughts

Moving on from a breakup you didn’t want is a process, and it’s not always a linear one. There will be good days and bad days, moments of clarity and moments of confusion. But through it all, remember to be kind and patient with yourself.

Healing takes time, and there’s no set timeline for when you’ll feel “over it.”

The most important thing is to keep moving forward, even when it feels hard. Surround yourself with supportive people, engage in activities that bring you joy, and don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it. Remember, this breakup is not a reflection of your worth as a person.

You are strong, capable, and deserving of love – from others and from yourself.

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Leah is a creative soul with a passion for telling stories that matter. As an editor and writer at UpJourney, she channels her natural curiosity and imagination into thought-provoking articles and inspiring content. She is also a registered nurse dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact.

In her free time, she indulges her artistic side as a hobbyist photographer, capturing the world's beauty one shot at a time. You can also find her in a poor-lit room playing her favorite video games or in a corner somewhere, reading and immersing herself in the rich worlds of fantasy and dark academia.

At home, Leah is surrounded by love and laughter, living peacefully with her partner and their three adorable shih tzus.