Mending a Broken Heart

As a therapist in private practice, I often receive an increase in calls from the newly-separated once the New Year rolls around.

This might be partly due to the fact that many individuals “keep it together” over the holidays for the sake of their family. Once they welcome in the New Year, however, many declare that they will not remain in an unhappy relationship any longer.

It’s important to add that in my twenty years of practice, I’ve rarely met anyone who did not agonize over this decision prior to leaving.

Here is a brief guide to surviving a break-up:

1.  First and foremost, watch the tendency to beat yourself up mentally with negative and catastrophic self-talk; don’t get stuck replaying the “if only’s” and the “could-would-should haves.”

Create a designated “worry time,” where you do nothing but focus on your fears and concerns about being single.  When the time is up, force yourself to do something else.

2.  Be kind to yourself, pamper yourself, and be prepared for change–some pleasant (for example, more serenity and less arguing) and some dreaded.

3.  Enlist the support of a confidante and set up boundaries around how much you’ll discuss the relationship.  Ask your friends to watch out for you and to keep on calling you, even if you want to be left alone.

4.  Strive to balance solitary versus social time.  Don’t isolate.

5.  Prepare, if possible, for those high risk times like Saturday nights, or your anniversary. Accept or extend invitations, even if you fear being a “drag.” Find safe, creative ways to discharge emotions.

6. If you’re walking around with a lump in your throat rent a sad movie and let it out. If you feel like you’re going to explode with rage wring a towel instead, or write an uncensored letter to the ex and then rip it up. If all else fails, call your confidant before doing anything that you will regret in a month.

7.  Monitor any increase in bad habits or decrease in self-care, such as increased alcohol use or a decrease in the frequency of going to the gym.

8. When ready, fantasize about something you’ve always wanted to do!

9.  I’d also highly recommend the classic Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends by Dr. B. Fisher. At the end of each chapter is a checklist entitled ‘How am I doing?’ that presents some wonderful guidelines to healing.

10.  I also like Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by S. Jeffers. There are great charts on pages 138  & 139.

Remember that the end of a relationship is a major loss; it is the death of dreams and hopes. Recovery, unfortunately, is not linear; grief comes in waves. You might feel you’ve taken a few steps forward and then you might be back to feeling like the break-up happened yesterday.  This is normal.

Good Luck!

Mary Ann Rolfe, B.Sc., M.Ed, is a Registered Clinical Counsellor. In addition to having an extensive background in mental health and addiction issues, Mary Ann is an experienced trauma debriefer.


Types of Counselling
  • Couples Counselling
  • Individual
  • Family
Issues Addressed
  • Mental Health
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Trauma
  • Relationship
    • Communication
    • Conflict
    • Intimacy
  • Addiction
  • Grief & Loss
Benefits of Counselling
  • Confidential, individualized approach
  • Provides a sense of relief and hope
  • Opportunity to be heard and supported
  • Free of judgement or criticism
  • Provides direction, empowerment
Counselling Techniques
  • Client Centered & Solution Focused Therapy
  • CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Re-processing)
  • Clinical Hypnotherapy