Breakups are devastating. The breaking of a bond with a partner feels like a part of you is being ripped apart. That’s why a lot of us are left feeling empty after a breakup. The heartache, the pain, the sense of loss, the mourning — all stem from the void created by the absence of the person you once shared such an intimate connection with.
When someone says, “It feels like I will never get over my breakup,” it’s usually a sign that they’re struggling to understand how to stop feeling numb and empty after a breakup. The process of moving on from this dark place can seem hard, complicated, and often long-drawn. When, in fact, small but consistent steps in the right direction are what it takes to heal and get past the post-breakup loneliness stage.
In this article, psychologist Juhi Pandey (M.A. Psychology), who specializes in dating, premarital, and breakup counseling, shares some actionable advice on how to stop feeling empty after a breakup.
Why Does It Feel “Empty” After A Breakup?
Before we figure out how to stop feeling empty after a breakup, it might do you some good to take a look at why you feel like the joy has been sucked out of you. Of course, the “empty” feeling you get after a relationship ends comes from the realization that life as you know it has drastically changed. No longer do you have a person who you can always rely on, a person you once thought you’d spend your life with. Accepting that all the energy and time you invested will now reap no benefit (in terms of sustaining a stable relationship) isn’t an easy thing to do.
Moreover, experiencing depression after a breakup is a very real thing. Studies find that the “normal” post-breakup emotional state closely resembles the emotional state of a clinically depressed person. Even the fabled “broken heart syndrome” isn’t just something you see in fiction, it’s a very real phenomenon that might trigger cardiac consequences after parting ways with a romantic partner.
Speaking on the subject, Dr. Aman Bhonsle previously told Bonobology that it’s not uncommon to see people suffering from depression after a breakup. He adds, “After a breakup, we start doubting our ability to gel with other human beings, and that can lead to a lot of self-projection. You start questioning your own likeability, which is similar to having an identity crisis. You don’t feel needed, you question if you’re liked and you’re made to feel redundant.
“A lot of people don’t know who they are when they are not in relationships, which is why a breakup can be more challenging. As a result, people may go through dramatic weight loss or dramatic weight gain, excessive drinking, or a general loss of interest in things that usually would’ve perked them up. All these symptoms can point toward depression, social anxiety, or other similar problems,” he says.
Even if you’re not experiencing depression-like symptoms, experiencing the waves of sadness after a breakup can leave a lasting feeling of emptiness. If left unchecked, the behavior can soon be internalized, which leads to a lasting negative outlook toward life. Since that’s no way to go about what can otherwise be such a fulfilling and joyous life, it’s imperative to know how to cope with it and manage it. Let’s get you from “I feel empty without my ex” all the way to “Is there anything better than staying in on a Friday night?”.
How To Cope With Feeling Empty After Breakup – Expert Advice
It might feel really difficult, and it may even seem completely impossible, but recovering from a breakup is possible. You just don’t know how to get there yet. “I feel like I will be single and lonely forever” or “I’m feeling too sad after seeing my ex” thoughts like these might plague your mind, but it’s important to know that things will eventually get better.
However, it’s also important to note that you need to take your time to grieve, if only to nurse that empty space in your chest after a breakup. Even so, if you or someone you know just can’t shake off the “I feel empty inside after my breakup” thoughts, then it may be a cause for concern.
Parting ways with a loved one hurts everybody involved. But to be in a perpetual state of self-pity and despair will end up making your mental health worse by the day. Moving on can be a profound experience, filled with self-discovery and healing. By the end of it, you’ll come out a better person, with a much better understanding of yourself. So how do you cope with the empty feeling in your chest after a breakup? Let’s take a look at the things you need to do:
Related Reading: What To Do After A Breakup: Post Breakup Feelings
1. Give yourself a break
The main reason behind feeling empty after a breakup is that everything around you reminds you of your ex. A part of your life has gone missing, and wherever you turn, there are reminders of that fact. That coffee mug they used to drink coffee from whenever they were at your place. That perfume they used to love on you. That flower vase you bought to keep the flowers they got you, now sitting empty, making you think that life feels empty after a breakup. The list can be endless.
That’s why it’s a good idea to take a break from your routine and get a change of scene. Recovering from the empty and numb feeling after a breakup takes its own time, and falling out of love is a journey that is different for each individual. Don’t assign a time limit to growth or “complete freedom” from feeling empty after a breakup. Instead, focus on improving just a little bit, one day at a time.
Going on a vacation helps immensely. If you live away from home and are feeling homesick, pay the folks a visit. Besides, this break can help you separate your life before and after the split, helping you prepare to turn a new leaf. When the breakup is fresh, keep the following things in mind:
- Allow yourself time to experience the empty and numb feeling after a breakup
- Give your brain and heart time to accept the breakup itself. It isn’t easy to immediately start the process of moving on
- Try to avoid any negative feelings toward yourself if you don’t recover as quickly as you expected to
- Before forcing yourself to grow, it’s important to allow yourself some time to grieve
2. Work on your routine
Trying to take your mind off the breakup is easier said than done, especially if you continue to wallow and be consumed by inaction. Of course, you need to take the time to feel empty and numb after a breakup, and grieve your loss, but it is also equally important to stop and plan ahead. So, shake off the inertia and try channelizing your energy elsewhere. Build a new routine, with adequate room for exercising. Losing appetite after a breakup is also common, and being up and about will help you on that front too.
If you’re struggling with negative or pensive thoughts, try yoga and meditation. Instead of focusing outside, yoga and meditation help you focus within and connect with yourself. Moreover, studies suggest that as little as 10 minutes of exercise can affect your dopamine levels and make you feel good. Now that you have more free time on your hands, it’s vital you fill it with productive things, not harmful coping mechanisms.
If you feel dead after a breakup, do things that make you feel alive. Grieving for a while is okay, but after a while, it gets extremely damaging to both your mental health and confidence. Occupy your time with positive activities to do after a breakup that give you joy and take your mind off the loss. Meet friends, practice mindfulness, and start taking care of yourself. By the end of it, you won’t have any space left in your routine to replay all those grieving thoughts.
- According to Northwestern Medicine, setting and following a routine can help you manage stress more effectively, get better sleep, and improve your health in various ways
- Activities as small as incorporating a good sleep schedule and getting ample sunlight in the morning can boost dopamine levels
- Multiple studies suggest that exercise significantly helps manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Moreover, making a routine and getting busy at work can help take your mind off stressful life events and keep you grounded in the present moment
Related Reading: 9 Expert Tips To Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself After Breakup
3. Connect with people around you
More than a year after her breakup, Amy, a reader from Minnesota, was still grappling with a sense of emptiness in her life. Even though she was trying to get on with her life, her moments alone were consumed with feeling regret. “How do I get rid of emptiness after a breakup? I feel like I will be single and lonely forever,” she confessed to her best friend over lunch. Her friend, Maria, had no idea Amy had been feeling this way all along.
She made it a point to reach out and check in more often. Amy started to open up, little by little. Vocalizing all that she had been holding inside felt cathartic, and Amy took her first step toward breaking free from feeling empty after a breakup.
Studies have shown that having someone to talk to helps a person deal with stress and can make coping with feelings of loneliness comparatively easier. Even if you don’t have an extremely close friend like Maria, the people around who are willing to help you won’t have a problem listening to you about how hard the breakup is. If you have more than one person you can talk to, embrace it and cultivate the relationships. No, this doesn’t mean you should get romantically involved with someone else.
The empty feeling in your chest after a breakup can be dealt with if you’re willing to share what you’re going through with your friends. Do not shy away from leaning on your close ones for support and sharing your state of mind with them. They can help you move forward from self-esteem issues and low mood.
4. Spend time with pets and children
Pets and children can be great stress-busters. To get rid of the empty feeling after a breakup, hang out with the children around you – nephews, nieces, or friends’ kids. You can set up playdates for yourself, or if you’re feeling up for it, offer to babysit for a couple of hours over the weekend.
Likewise, if you’re an animal lover, consider getting a pet. In case your lifestyle doesn’t allow for it, offer to pet sit for friends, family, or coworkers. You could even consider volunteering at an animal shelter. Your mental health after a breakup will not be too great, but once a blissfully happy dog comes running to you, you’ll forget all about what was making you feel lonely.
The pure and unconditional love of children and animals can be a real balm for your broken heart. The sense of gratification from showering them with all your love definitely helps.
5. Develop a new hobby or cultivate an old one
This may sound clichéd but it is an effective way to counter feeling empty after a breakup. Engaging in something that you love and are passionate about can become a source of joy and fulfillment. It can give you a renewed sense of purpose in life.
If you have a hobby, then try dedicating more time to cultivating it further. If you don’t, explore and see what it is you love to do. It could be anything that gives you happiness – from cooking to making some reels for social media, video games, sports, and outdoor adventures. If you’re moving on without closure and struggling with thoughts like “I feel empty inside after a breakup,” developing hobbies can help. Just make sure it’s something that’s healthy for you; drinking wine is not a hobby.
6. Be up and about
Just like pursuing a new hobby, being up and about can actually help fill that void after a breakup. Fill that empty space in your heart by going out with friends. This can instantly elevate your mood. If you want to stop feeling numb and empty after a breakup, taking your mind off that reality is important. Indulging in some fun, light-hearted moments allows for that to happen.
The more sensitive you are, the more you feel dead after a breakup, especially in those early days after the split. This is why, going out for a couple of hours without thinking about your ex or the breakup, or feeling that constant knot in your stomach, can be a giant relief. To get over a breakup, try the following activities:
- Try not to spend all your time indoors, accept invitations and distract yourself
- If you find it too difficult to accept any social invitations, try to not isolate yourself and take the help of friends who are willing to talk to you
- To cope with the waves of sadness after a breakup, do not jump into a new relationship to try and get over the previous one
- Take a look at the activities in your daily life, is there something you do regularly that’s halting your growth or healing? Try to curb that behavior little by little
7. Work on self-improvement
“I feel like a loser after the breakup, and the empty space in my chest feels like it’s sucking the joy out of me,” shares Andy, a 25-year-old university student. Because they were both in the same university, he’d often see his ex and the symptoms of his depression would come back all at once. “I start feeling sad after seeing my ex, it’s affecting my grades and my motivation,” he adds.
What Andy is going through is unfortunately common. After a split, the motivation to do better all but dwindles. All you want to do is curl up in your bed and sleep the day away. However, that just makes things worse. It’s important to understand that creating a new version of yourself and your life is the best remedy to move on and find happiness again.
That’s why the post-breakup and post-grieving phase is the right time to enroll in new courses or take exams that help you advance toward your professional goals. Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and try your hand at everything you’ve been meaning to do. When working on self-improvement, keep the following things in mind:
- Don’t pressure yourself to become the perfect version of yourself. Take it step by step, day by day. Improvement is the goal, not perfection
- Start with the things you can handle. Be it a small course, focusing more on work, or even taking your hobbies seriously
- If you feel like a loser after the breakup, the only way to feel better about yourself is to work on yourself
- However, don’t be upset at yourself if you don’t improve at the pace you anticipated. Healing is not linear
Related Reading: You Don’t Miss Your Ex, You Just Miss Being In Love
8. Embrace your loneliness
When you’re fresh out of a relationship, loneliness can seem all-consuming. From losing appetite after a breakup to not wanting to get out of bed, spending sleepless nights pining for your ex, crying yourself to sleep every night, or even feeling “homesick,” – these are all the outcomes of the loneliness you’re reeling under.
To cope, you need to change your perspective. Instead of fighting your loneliness or wishing it away, embrace it. Sometimes what appears to be our enemy, turns out to be our best ally. Be real, and try to appreciate all this me-time that you can now use to do whatever your heart desires. Coming to terms with your loneliness is also important to steer clear of rebound relationships just for the sake of filling the void created by the absence of a partner.
9. Seek professional help
Thoughts like “I feel empty without my ex” can easily overwhelm and paralyze. You yearn for the good times to come back, and the pain of knowing that they can’t often gets too much to bear. Grief takes over, and there’s no space left for healing. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re unable to answer your pleas of “How do I get rid of emptiness after a breakup?”
That’s where professional help comes in. Here at Bonobology, we believe that reaching out to a professional when things get too overwhelming is essential to be able to cope and improve. Not only does it feel like you’ve found yourself some support, but you also get actionable advice to improve your mental health, little by little, every day. When it feels like you can’t figure out how to move on and the world around you seems to be collapsing, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists can help you get through this difficult time.
- Feeling empty after a breakup is extremely normal
- Allow yourself some time to grieve and accept the breakup. Only after acceptance can healing begin
- Focus on self-improvement. Don’t attach hard-and-fast expectations on improvement, the goal is to do a bit better whenever you can
- Seeking professional help after a breakup can immensely help while moving on
Speaking from experience, I can say that you will get over feeling empty after a breakup if you allow yourself to. In fact, sometime down the line, you may look back at this phase and wonder why it was so difficult for you to get over something that seems pretty inconsequential now. Hearing “this too shall pass” may be the last thing you want when you’re feeling numb and empty after a breakup but that’s the reality of life. Taking proactive steps to recover from this phase will help make the transition quicker, smoother, and less painful.
This article was updated in Feb 2023.
Yes, it is normal to feel an empty space in your heart after a breakup. Studies suggest that people often experience depression-like symptoms after a romantic split, and feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, and excessive grief are common.
According to WebMD, feelings of depression and an empty space in your chest can last up to two weeks. However, there’s really no timeline as to how long such feelings last. If you’re not working on accepting the breakup kindly or learn the lessons from it, such feelings can last longer.
According to online polls, it takes around 3.5 months to feel better after a breakup, and around 1.5 years after a divorce. But since everyone’s situation is different, ‘healing’ is a journey that takes everyone a vastly different amount of time. The important thing to remember is that you can’t speed it up or enforce it.