The end of a relationship can be difficult. The decision to break up with a partner is a hard one to make, and can be even harder if you are the one who is broken up with. Read on for useful information and tips on dealing with and processing break-ups. The information here can be useful for not just romantic relationship break-ups, but other forms of breaking up and grief.

Break-ups are experienced differently by different people. For some, the emotional hurt can be experienced as intense grief that leaves you feeling distraught. For others, break-ups might be experienced more smoothly, or sadness might take some time to set in. It is also normal to feel a sense of relief, perhaps combined with other emotions.

A break-up may feel worse if:

  • You didn't see the break-up coming.
  • You didn't make the decision to break-up.
  • You still see your ex-partner around campus or at your residential hall.
  • The relationship was fundamental to how you feel about yourself.
  • The relationship was your first serious romance.
  • They have moved onto a relationship with someone else.
  • They were your only real friend.

Things you need to know

  • You may experience different emotions during and after a break-up. Shock, denial, anger, grief, sadness, betrayal, loneliness, embarassment, and even relief are all normal things to feel. It is normal to experience these emotions intensely at different or unexpected times. Express these emotions and acknowledge what you're feeling. 
  • A common saying is that 'time is the best medicine'. While intense grief can seem like it will last forever, this feeling will subside with time.
  • There is no set amount of time that it takes to recover from a break-up. People experience this process differently, and recovery is dependent on many different things. You might find that it's a 'two steps forward, one step back process', where you feel ups and downs from each day to the next, but gradually come to feel better over time. Read on for tips that can make this process a bit easier.
  • The relationship that just ended will not just be the only one you will have in your life. Break-ups might be painful, but they also represent a process of personal growth that will leave you feeling stronger in the long run.


The following tips may help you take care of yourself through the break-up. Gradually, you will recover, having learned from the whole experience.


Good things to do

  • Seek emotional support from your friends and family. Talking and relating to close others is a great way to put the break-up in context and get new perspectives, work through difficult feelings, and gain reassurance.
  • You might find it helpful to avoid places or things that remind you too much of the past. It's a good idea to stear clear of their social media presence, too.
  • Distraction can be a healthy coping mechanism at times, as there's no point thinking on it all of the time. Find a new TV series to throw yourself into, listen to your favourite music, or go someplace new. Make a list of comforting things that you like and indulge yourself a bit.
  • Try to establish a daily routine, even if it's just one or two things that can give you some stability and help you to remain grounded. You might like to have an evening shower each night or set aside some time for a walk each day.
  • Eating and sleeping well and getting regular exercise will also contribute to your overall wellbeing, and can aid the healing process significantly. Check out these pages for more info: Eating well, Sleeping well, Getting active
  • While retreat can be healthy and necessary at times, it is important to stay connected with the world, too. Staying busy can be a good way of keeping your mind off things and moving on.
  • You may be having lots of swirling and intense thoughts or feelings. Take the time to write or type it all out  -  even if you immediately discard the record. This is a good way to get your thoughts from your head onto paper and process how you're feeling. 
  • When you are ready, think about what you have learnt, given, and gained from the relationship.


Things to avoid doing

  • Don't isolate yourself and withdraw from those you like and those who care for you. While you might find alone time useful for processing things, try to find a balance.
  • Don't use alcohol or other substances to numb how you feel. Substances might temporarily ease painful feelings, but this form of relief temporary and will bounce back to make you feel worse. Hangovers hurt and can trigger sad memories.
  • Don't say or do vengeful things to the other person. If you're feeling angry or sensitive, it might be best to delay talking to them. Expressing how you feel is important, and can aid in the recovery process, but be sure that you mean what you say.
  • Don't try to be friends again too quickly. It may be helpful to have some time apart to process the break-up fully before forging a friendship.


Need help?

Talking to a counsellor or therapist can help you process a break-up. You should seek professional help if:

  • You are having a particularly difficult time with the break-up, such as if your studies are suffering significantly, or you feel unable to cope with day-to-day life.
  • If you feel that you want to speak things through, but, for whatever reason, your existing support network can't provide this.

Enrolled ANU students are eligible for free, confidential counselling sessions at the ANU Counselling centre. See the Getting help at ANU page for more support options.

ANU Thrive

If you'd like to discuss or explore your options further, you might like to speak to ANU Thrive. ANU Thrive hosts free wellbeing consultations with student peer mentors, who can talk through the options available to you or provide more information about available services and steps to take. These sessions are offered in-person and online on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Further resources

Check out these useful articles and resources:

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Page Owner: Wellbeing