The beautiful bouquet and extra-dark chocolates and romantic dinner for two and—yeah, not happening this year. You had high hopes for this day, before your heart was ripped out during an ill-timed breakup. If one isn't the loneliest number, it certainly feels that way on Valentine's Day, when everyone's gushing over candy hearts … except you.
Snap out of it.
Sure, you're not feeling much love for love right now. But "get some perspective" on Valentine's Day, says Caird Urquhart, author of 30 Ways to Better Days: How to Rally After You've Been Dumped. "There are 365 days in the year. It's just a day, just one day out of your life."
Even if you recently called it quits, you can still manage to enjoy Valentine's Day (and the day after, and the one after that). Consider these tips for conquering the breakup blues:
Assemble your A-team. This is a group of friends and family members who will support you through it all. Be prepared: The best time to make friends is before you need them, so ideally, you'll have a team on standby even when you're in coupled-up bliss. That way, you can call on them the second you need them. Aim for at least seven people—one for every day of the week. "When you're grieving, it's on your mind 24/7," Urquhart says. "It's all you want to talk about, but no one wants to hear about it all the time. This way, each person only has to listen once a week."
Grieve. Go ahead and let it all out—wail as loudly as you need to. Those buckets of tears are a critical part of the grieving process. "To move on to the next person, you have to be baggage-free," Urquhart says. "Crying is a great way to purge your emotions, so sit down on the floor and have a big boo-hoo." Afterwards, you'll begin to feel stronger, especially knowing that you survived heartache. And eventually, you'll be ready to seek out bigger and better possibilities.
Get rid of the memories. His shirts are still hanging in your closet? His grin is popping out at you from those perfectly framed photos? Remove all evidence, pronto—if he's gone, his things should be, too. Put his stuff on the curb, take it to Goodwill, or text him to come and get it. If he's going to collect it himself, set it on the porch, and clear out until he's gone. Make sure you have a friend with you when you return, because yes, it's going to sting when your place is a bit emptier than usual. If you can't bear to part with love letters or other sentimental items, store them in a shoe box in a hard-to-reach spot, like the top shelf of your closet, behind the linens.
Don't stay angry. Your fury is justified. He deserves it, and raging feels good. But it's not productive (or healthy) over the long haul. Hanging on to anger is like "carrying a suit of armor around," Urquhart says. It accomplishes nothing—except weighing you down. After one particularly tough breakup, she recalls feeling tempted to throw a brick at her ex. But instead, she launched a chair across her bedroom, purchased an expensive sports car, and vented her remaining frustrations at the gym. There's no need to exact vengeance, she says, because what goes around will indeed come around.
Don't play the victim. Bad things happen to me, not because of me. Sound familiar? Take responsibility for your part in what happened, Urquhart says, because you're not entirely innocent. "You probably knew it was coming, and you're partly responsible," she says. "Sometimes we date people, and right out of the gate, we know they're the wrong person. But then we wonder why it didn't last." Don't waste time playing the victim, because we all need to be the victor in our lives, Urquhart says.
Befriend an ex. Urquhart is friends with 90 percent of the men she's dated. She plays sports with them, seeks career advice from them—and has no interest in reigniting the flame. Those platonic relationships took time to develop, she says, so don't rush into it. Give yourself a year at least, maybe more. The upside is that "you know them intimately, so you know you can trust them," Urquhart says. And sometimes, they can provide helpful perspective on your relationship and why it failed. Still, don't even consider friendship if your ex treated you badly or abused you.
Spend time with your gay best friend. One of Urquhart's closest friends is a gay man who regularly attends events and goes out to dinner with her. He comforts her after breakups, provides a male perspective, and always gives her an honest opinion on her outfit. "It's nice for women to have men in our lives, whether we're dating them or not," Urquhart says. Bonus: There's no awkwardness at the end of the night, when both parties might otherwise be wondering what will happen next.
Stay active. Hit the treadmill or the trails, because exercising is an ideal way to take your mind off your troubles and begin to feel more powerful. Even if you've never been inside a gym, get moving—it'll do wonders for your self-esteem. If you make your body healthy, your mind will catch up, Urquhart says. (And boxing or martial arts can double as a great way to relieve pent-up emotions.)
[See Spice Up Your Exercise Life.]
Change your geography. Shake up that comfortable, familiar routine. On your subway ride to work, consider getting off a couple of stops before your usual exit, and walk the rest of the way to the office. Skip Starbucks for a few days, and try that coffee shop you've been blowing past for years. "Your perspective will immediately change," Urquhart says. "Go to a cool little neighborhood you usually don't go to, and all of a sudden you'll feel like you're in a totally different city."
Meet new people. There's never going to be a better time to take that pottery class or sign up for those Chinese language lessons. Not only will you distract yourself with a new activity, but you'll be spending time with people who don't know that your heart was just shattered into a million pieces. "Your ex's name won't come up, because they don't know who he or she is," Urquhart says. "It forces you out of that 'woe is me' place and into a new conversation."
Plan ahead for Valentine's Day. You know it's coming, so make sure you have something to look forward to. Visit a different city, go skiing or snowboarding, or plan a gathering with your single girlfriends.
Most importantly, no matter where you are in the recovery process, know that it will get better—it just takes time. "As human beings, we're constantly evolving. If you're feeling sad about someone who isn't in your life anymore, start to think of it as the natural evolution of that relationship," Urquhart says. "For every person who's walked out of my life, someone better has walked in. Don't give all your cards to one person and assume that's who you're supposed to be with forever and ever."