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Did you just break up? Don't turn to destructive "coping mechanisms". Here's how to honor your emotional needs, the healthy way.

Breakups suck. Whether you're still very much "in love" with the person who just broke up with you and wished the relationship wouldn't have ended, or are actually relieved to have broken up with a person you knew wasn't a good match, the end of a relationship is often the beginning of a path of grief. You may well go through all the famous "stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, though not necessary in that order — in order to come out in one piece at the other side. 

Mourning your lost relationship, no matter if it was a healthy relationship or decidedly bad for you, can help you move on. How do you ensure that your approach to grief is healthy rather than (self-)destructive, though?

What Happens To Your Brain When You Break Up?

Having a relationship, research shows, directly alters our sense of self. As we engage in the bonding that's so natural to us, we come to see our partner as an integral part of our very selves, not to mention that couples frequently have shared hobbies and interests, enjoy the same friends, and attend the same activities. They can also, of course, share a marriage certificate and children.

The process of building a relationship involves intertwining your sense of self with your partner's, and when you split up, you have to unravel that connection and find your own place in the world again. 

This is a terribly hard process that can, as you already knew and studies confirm, result in loneliness, severe distress, and a feeling of emptiness and being lost. It can, in some cases, induce clinical depression, or make us feel suicidal and even homicidal. Research indicates that breaking up can, shockingly, activate the same parts of our brain that are associated with drug withdrawal — and we all know that people who are withdrawing from drugs aren't exactly capable of behaving rationally. It's this feature of breaking up, perhaps, that leads some of us to desperately try to win our ex back, even though we should rationally be aware that the relationship is well and truly over.

The Holy Grail Of Post-Relationship No-Nos

So, what shouldn't you do after breaking up? Don't deny that you're in pain. Don't mull the past around in your head thinking about where on Earth you went wrong and what you could have done differently. There is a time and a place for considering your own role in the circumstances that eventually doomed your relationship, but immediately post-breakup isn't it: right now, you need to look after yourself with compassion. 

Don't idealize your ex, thinking that you will never be able to be happy without them, and don't — unless you were in an abusive relationship — demonize them either. Don't send countless messages to your ex, lamenting exactly how unhappy you are right now or what a piece of horror they are. Don't desperately try to get back together after your ex has made it clear that they really want to continue life separately. 

Don't threaten to commit suicide either. Should you genuinely feel suicidal, you do need help, but not from your ex. The ER is a better place to seek assistance if you do have thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

What else shouldn't you do? Getting drunk every night, having one-night stands, and turning to comfort eating may sound appealing right after breaking up, but don't, because these aren't healthy behaviors. Don't seek revenge either, don't stop enjoying the things you previously enjoyed, and don't let go of the daily routine that could play such a huge part in keeping you sane. Finally, don't isolate yourself from your friends and family, people on whom you can count to get you through this rough patch of your life.

That's a lot of "don'ts". What should you do, then?

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