A few years ago, I went through one of the most trying experiences of my life. I went through a breakup that devastated me to my core, and left me feeling broken and shattered. It was as if my entire reality and beautiful, magical world I tried so hard to create came crashing down.

Since I had never experienced such a crippling pain, I was very afraid that the depression and negative thoughts would not end. I felt hopeless and helpless. And of course, when you’re in the thick of it, seeing the holistic picture is not where your mind and ego tend to go. But it took experiencing such an extreme low for me to decide that I was going to use the pain to make me stronger, wiser and healthier.

And I did just that. Fast forward to today, I am exercising, feeding my body with healthy, nutritious foods, surrounding myself with like-minded people, thinking positive thoughts and feeling gratitude and love every single day. I did not get here because I am lucky, or because I am built any stronger or more resilient than others going through the same experience. I got here because I made conscious decisions that steered me on the path of healing and forgiveness.

I think we can all relate on this subject because we have all been there. You would think that as you get older and have more relationships, that the heartaches would get easier to handle. But the reality is, the pain doesn’t lessen with each breakup, it’s just different. And while we cannot avoid the pain, we can choose a healthier recovery. The road to healing is very important so that the emotions are dealt with in a positive way and do not come back to haunt you in your future. Here are a few things that I found that helped me:

Eat Healthy
Some people deal with depression by over-eating, some deal with it by not eating. I fall into the latter category. I had no apetite and basically starved my body of the nutrients it needed. When your body is not getting fed properly with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to survive, your mood, energy and hormones are severely impacted. I found that once I started to eat well, not only did my body feel better, but my emotional state and mind felt better too. Our physical health is directly connected to our emotional and spiritual well-being. When one part is out of sorts, the others will be too.

Surround Yourself with People who Love You
Your natural instinct may be to isolate yourself and sulk in private, but this is probably the worst thing you can do. Community increases your feel-good hormones and studies show that talking can have healing effects. A UCLA study reveals that spending time with close friends causes the brain to release natural opioids, which are like the painkillers found in opium. When you lose the familiarity, daily routine and stability of a relationship, it is important that you surround yourself with people who make you feel safe, loved and cared for.

Allow Yourself to Mourn
Studies show that people who go through a breakup can experience cravings for their ex similarly to the way addicts crave a drug they are withdrawing from. This can lead to intense distress and physiological as well as psychological discomfort. The pain can be consuming, and this can feel shameful. I take pride in the fact that I am a strong, solutions-oriented person, and not being able to just “get over” the pain was very uncomfortable for me. But I realized that everything I was feeling was normal and a part of being human, and learned to embrace the emotions. The emotions have to go somewhere and not releasing them results in it all just coming back in some toxic shape or form later on down the road. Allow yourself to mourn. Allow yourself to cry. After all, tears is just pain leaving the body.

Be the Right One
Many people use a rebound, a quick tryst or another relationship as a distraction. If that works for you, then all the more power to you. However, I think that this method is similar to the effects of putting on a band-aid. You do not heal anything, you just cover it up. Take the time to mourn, to heal, to deal with the issues that have been brought forward from the relationship. A breakup is a great way for you to reflect on yourself, your habits and what you want in life and in your next partner. If you yourself are not the right one, how can you expect to attract the right one? Work on loving yourself and finding yourself again, and the rest of the pieces will fall in place when it is supposed to.

Forgive
Your world can feel like it has turned upside down when suddenly the star of your dreams turns into the villain of your nightmares. I thought my biggest challenge would be to learn how to forgive the man who hurt me. Through time, therapy, writing, and doing things to nurture myself, I learned to have compassion for my ex. With this compassion, I was able to forgive. But forgiving him was surprisingly not the hardest part. Forgiving myself was. I realized that I was very hard on myself and lacked compassion towards my own self.

A slow, long process of getting myself back to a healthy state finally gave me the clarity I needed. I saw that everything happened the way it was supposed to. I stopped blaming myself and forgave myself, realizing that my life was going according to plan. Forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself. When you finally let the blame and anger go, and see that everything is perfect just the way it is, you’ll feel a big weight lift off your shoulders.

Appreciate
Gratitude is one of the most powerful feelings that can transform the way in which you view reality. Even when you feel like you’ve lost someone in your life, if you look around you – you’ll notice how much wealth you have. When your mind keeps repeating negative thoughts, you have to put effort into changing that habit of thinking. Try writing down what you’re grateful for every day and you’ll find that suddenly, you start noticing things to be appreciative of that you’d normally take for granted. There is so much beauty and love that surrounds us, we just have to be open to noticing it. Be grateful for your experiences, the lessons learned and the people that come in and out of your life that help you grow stronger. They’re just preparing you for the person you are meant to be with, and the person you are meant to become.

And, if none of these tips work, try to remember one thing: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

Photo credit: Carolyn Emily

ABOUT AMY

Amy is a relationship columnist for the 24 Hours Newspaper and a blogger for The Huffington Post and The Vancouver Sun. She has been featured in FASHION Magazine, The Georgia Straight, Ming Pao Magazine and her essay “The Infinite Chase” was published in a book to support ‘End Sex Trafficking Day’ along with notable authors such as Seth Godin and Danielle LaPorte. Most recently was shortlisted as a nominee for the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards.