Loneliness after a break-up: What to do?

August 16, 2023

The loss of your committed relationship can affect many areas of your life. It can quickly happen that you feel overwhelmed and don't know how things can ever get better again.

Likeminded Editorial Team

Table of Content

If you are going through or have just gone through a breakup, you may be wondering how you are supposed to manage it all. Everything around you suddenly changes, and suddenly an important person who was previously an integral part of your life is missing. And with him/her, you may lose a way of life, a home, a common daily routine, or common friends. In addition, you may feel lonely because you suddenly feel completely alone.

Why do I feel lonely after a breakup?

This is hardly surprising because the person with whom you previously shared so much of your life inevitably leaves a big void. All of a sudden, you're spending a lot more time on your own again, and this transition can be quite difficult. In this article, we want to help you overcome your loneliness after a breakup.

Loneliness in the first time after the breakup

Immediately after a breakup, we experience many things as very exhausting. Motivating yourself in the first days of the breakup is often difficult. Many people are stuck in a state of shock and suffer from lack of sleep and appetite. It is okay to allow yourself to grieve and feel sad during this time. Psychologically, an intense period of mourning is perfectly normal and harmless. Don't put extra pressure on yourself by demanding that everything continue as normal. After the initial challenging days or weeks, it is important to focus on strengthening yourself! You can do this through new routines and by treating yourself lovingly. By doing this, you'll master the breakup phase in a healthy way and learn to be respectful of your feelings.

Symptoms of the pain of separation

Heartbreak can cause a variety of symptoms. The following symptoms are normal in separation phases:

  • Physical complaints such as stomach problems or insomnia
  • Mental problems such as ruminating and overthinking or concentration difficulties
  • Decreased joy of life and pessimism
  • Changed social behavior, e.g. the desire to be alone for the time being.

What are the stages of coping with a breakup?

Coping with a breakup is often divided into phases that describe emotional reactions and adjustment processes. These stages are not the same for everyone and may be experienced in different order or intensity. One theory that is often cited is that of psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, which was originally developed for grief processes but can also be applied to separations. The phases are

  • Denial: In this first stage, the person cannot accept the reality of the separation. There is a strong sense of disbelief that the relationship is really over.
  • Anger: As the reality of the breakup begins to set in, feelings of anger, resentment, or injustice may arise. The anger may be directed at the ex-partner, at oneself, or at the circumstances.
  • Negotiation: In this stage, the person may try to reverse the breakup or find solutions to save the relationship. This often involves attempts to "negotiate" with oneself or one's ex-partner.
  • Depression: This is a phase of deep sadness in which the full extent of the loss is realized. Feelings of hopelessness, despondency, and withdrawal from social contacts may occur.
  • Acceptance: In this final stage, the person begins to accept the reality of the separation. A new understanding of one's life without the former partner develops, and the person finds ways to look forward and move on.

It is important to note that this process is very individual and people take different amounts of time to move through these stages.

What should I do if I feel lonely after a breakup?

Take your time

It is important that you take time now to become more comfortable with your new situation and yourself. Jumping right back into a new relationship or working a lot may feel good temporarily and may distract you from the pain of loss. But if you take time now to properly process the breakup, you'll feel freer and happier in the long run – whether you have a partner right now or not.

This can be tough at first, especially if you're feeling very lonely right now. And it's perfectly understandable that you'd like to get rid of this state – it's not without reason that heartbreak is often compared to cold withdrawal. But in order to succeed, it is important that you first accept the breakup and your feelings and accept the difficult situation you are in now. Even if it is difficult, if you can do this, you will be able to overcome the separation and let it go. By the way, accepting the situation does not mean that you have to torture yourself with your feelings all the time. On the contrary, now is the time to focus on yourself and take good care of yourself.

Understand the separation as an opportunity

Even if it doesn't feel like it right now, a breakup is a great opportunity. You now have the opportunity to get to know yourself better and to shape your life in a way that makes you happy. Before, part of your identity might have been more connected to your partner or the relationship. And it is absolutely understandable if the feeling of shock prevails right now because some of it has broken away. But where something disappears, space for something new is created. And you can now gradually fill this space with yourself.

Ask yourself who you really are, what you enjoy doing, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Maybe you've always wanted to go on an adventure vacation that your partner didn't want to go on? Or you love cats and couldn't get one because your partner was allergic to cat hair?

These are rather simple examples that can also be applied to larger questions, e.g.

  • your social environment
  • your place of residence
  • or your profession

Develop an inner compass for what you want and what you don't want. It will help you make new plans and live in harmony with yourself.

Many people feel very insecure and unloved after a breakup and think about what they need to change about themselves now so that they can find a partner again. However, these thoughts will not really help you in the long run. You don't have to change yourself to be loved by others! The most important thing is that you learn to accept and love yourself. And you can do that best if you know yourself well. Understanding a breakup as an opportunity doesn't mean that you have to become perfect now, but that you can start to be yourself. The more you find yourself, treat yourself lovingly and appreciatively, the better you will soon feel!

Learn to be alone

Due to the separation, you suddenly spend much more time alone. Maybe you feel lonely and wish very much that someone else would be there now. That's perfectly understandable, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Because being alone doesn't necessarily mean loneliness. While it may seem like the absence of other people is the reason for our loneliness, it's often more our own beliefs and feelings about ourselves that plague us.

So if you want to be less lonely, you can learn to enjoy being alone with yourself more. Try to see yourself the way you see a good friend, loving and appreciative! Give yourself nice moments and small pleasures. Maybe you need a real massage again? Or a little road trip over the weekend to get away from it all for a bit? Maybe you even dare to take your first short vacation alone and finally visit the place you've always wanted to travel to. It may be unusual at first to do these things without other people. But the more you try, the sooner you'll realize that spending time alone with you is rewarding and fun!

Recognize the value of friendships

Maybe you don't feel like socializing just yet. You don't have to. You may even prefer to be alone to process what has happened. It may also be that it helps to cry and be comforted by good friends. In addition, when you're ready to participate in activities again, it can get your mind off things.

But regardless of whether and how your friends can help you through your breakup now, the breakup can show you how valuable friendships are. Sometimes it happens that at the beginning of a love relationship, we mainly want to spend time with our new partner. But while love relationships sometimes sadly fail, the connection that develops in deep friendships can often provide us with stable and long-term support. Even if your friends can't replace your current loss, they will help you find more of yourself again.

Because friends are usually chosen automatically to be a good fit for you. Through them, we form our identity and can strengthen each other in it. After all, as friends, we are usually enthusiastic about the same things, have similar views of the world, and maintain a comparable lifestyle. Friends help you to be yourself and to feel good about yourself. If you take good care of your friendships, they make you more independent of love relationships and can give you a lot of support and direction in life.

Realize your full potential

Think about your goals. Where would you like to go in your life? Perhaps you have sometimes even adapted or subordinated your own plans to the relationship and can now revive them. This can concern all kinds of areas of your life, e.g. your place of residence, your apartment, your professional development, your social network, your vacation destinations, or your hobbies. But before you throw yourself into a lot of work or only do sports to distract yourself from your heartbreak, give yourself time to develop a sense of your true desires.

You now have the chance to determine where you want to go with a lot of peace and quiet. Start with small steps and ask yourself first what your next days or weeks could look like. Make plans and gradually try to become more active again. Rearrange your furniture, finally try that one hairstyle you've always wanted, or learn a new skill by taking a class at the community college. Look for new tasks and projects, because a small sense of accomplishment can help your self-confidence grow again. Over time, you will realize what fulfills you and makes you happy, so you will be able to live your life better and better. The exchange with people who understand you can be a great help.

Helpful approaches from psychology

  1. Say goodbye and let go: Allow yourself enough time to do this and put everything associated with that person on a large sheet of paper. You can do this task over several days. When you feel your collection is complete and you are ready for an internal goodbye, choose a place to say goodbye to your records. You can tear them up or burn them - your choice.
  2. Allow and process feelings: Mindfulness exercises can help you to perceive, classify and regulate emotions. This means, for example, that you can recognize exactly which memories can evoke particularly painful feelings in you.
  3. Self-care: To counteract the symptoms mentioned and to find new drive, moments of happiness and joy in life are important. New clothes, a massage, fresh flowers for the apartment - such things actually support us to detach from the past and increase our well-being. Discovering a new hobby can also lead to new, beautiful experiences. Try something you've always wanted to try!

How long should I stay alone after a break-up?

There is no one answer to this question. According to experts, everyone has their own pace before a new love can come into question - it can be weeks, months or sometimes even years.

And yes, you can be happy without a partner. Studies show that personal satisfaction and fulfilling social relationships are crucial to well-being.  

  • For example, one study found that people who pursue their own goals and have strong social ties experience similar levels of life satisfaction as people who are in a relationship (Girme et al., 2016).
  • Close friendships and good relationships with family and friends also play an important role in happiness without a romantic partnership (Demir, 2010).

Happiness without a partner is possible and often depends on personal satisfaction, the quality of social relationships, and individual goals. Fulfilling friendships, personal growth, and self-acceptance are important factors in the well-being of single people.

Separation in old age - a new start at the age of 50 / 60

Making a new start after a separation in old age can be a particularly challenging, but also enriching experience. People in their 50s and 60s are often faced with the task of rethinking and adjusting their lifestyles and plans. It's a time when many take the opportunity to rediscover themselves and do things they may have put on hold in their younger years. Such a fresh start can be liberating, opening up opportunities for new friendships, hobbies, and even travel.

At the same time, it is important that older people take time to process grief and loss before making new commitments. At this stage of life, a fresh start may also mean redesigning one's home or living environment, whether by moving to a new city, buying a home, or simply changing the decor to symbolize a new stage in life. By actively choosing to redesign one's life, a sense of empowerment and joie de vivre can be regained, which is essential to well-being as we age.

Loneliness FAQs

Why do people feel lonely after a breakup?

Feeling lonely after a breakup is natural, because suddenly the person with whom you shared much of your life is gone and you are spending a lot of time alone. This adjustment can be difficult.

How do you get over heartbreak?

Here are some effective steps for overcoming heartbreak:

  1. Accept your feelings: It's normal to feel sad and angry. Give yourself permission to have these feelings.
  2. Seek support: Talk to friends or family to help you feel less isolated.
  3. Stick to your routine: Try to continue your daily life as normal to maintain stability.
  4. Avoid contact with your ex: At least for now, it may be helpful to keep your distance to allow the emotional wounds to heal.
  5. Take time for yourself: Use this time to learn more about yourself and what you really want.
  6. Everyone deals with heartbreak differently, and there is no set time frame for healing. Give yourself the time and permission you need.

How can you see the loneliness of a breakup as an opportunity?

During the relationship, part of your identity is often tied to your partner. Breaking up can create space to get to know yourself better, to be clear about what you want and don't want, and to create a life that makes you happy.

How long should you be alone after a breakup?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Everyone has their own pace of getting over a breakup, and it can take weeks, months, or even years before a new relationship comes into question.

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