Days 1 and 2
Breathe. All you can do is survive this first and difficult day. Take one day at a time. Give yourself permission to mourn. Call in sick at work, sleep all day, eat too much ice cream, sob.
Congratulate yourself for being human: It is only when you open yourself to love that your heart can break. Develop and repeat a helpful mantra to get you through the initial shock and pain, such as "This too shall pass" or "I will survive."
Reach out to a close friend or family member. It helps to share your thoughts with others. Watch a movie to distract yourself. Choose a comedy that has cheered you up in the past. Or watch a movie that's guaranteed to make you sob--it may surprise you how good that feels.
Week 1: Force yourself to go out even if you are feeling despondent. Take yourself out for a cup of coffee or go on a long walk. Express your emotions in a way that comes naturally. Write in a journal, paint, sculpt or play music. Do daily cardiovascular exercise--the endorphins will give your spirits an immediate lift. Resist the urge to call your ex. Instead, write a letter. Don't mail it. Go out of town for the weekend to distance yourself from the temptation to call your ex. Visit an old friend or go back home to your roots. A change of environment does wonders for the spirit. Put everything that reminds you of your ex in a box and seal it. Throw it away, donate it to charity or ask a friend to hold on to it indefinitely.
Week 2: Surround yourself with friends. This may mean reaching out to people you fell out of touch with during the relationship. Make lists to help you regain your confidence and identity: a list of your friends, of things you like, of what you want to accomplish in the next decade. Spoil yourself: Get a new hairstyle, have a spa day or go shopping. Resist the urge to call your ex.
Week 3: Assess the experience. Have you learned anything about yourself? Does the experience make you more empathetic to others who've suffered a hardship? Begin an activity that will fill your time, distract your mind and rebuild your confidence. Train for a marathon, take up yoga or learn a new language. Resist the urge to call your ex. Volunteer your time at a local homeless shelter, soup kitchen or tutoring center. It will take your mind off your own woes and keep your suffering in perspective.
Week 4: Continue regular socializing and exercising. While socializing, though, make sure you don't depend on alcohol or drugs to dull the pain. Call your ex if you feel it would be helpful. Resist if you merely want to say hurtful things. Consider dating other people, but be wary of rebound relationships. Understand that you will need to experience and process sadness, anger, guilt and fear to fully heal. Burying or ignoring these emotions will thwart the healing process. Write, cry, share the feelings with friends.
Months 3 to 6
Force yourself to go on dates. You'll be surprised to discover that your heart can still flutter over someone. It's part of the healing process.
Consult a psychiatrist if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, such as lack of appetite, insomnia or too much sleeping, low self-esteem, and an inability to concentrate or carry out routine tasks. Ask a friend or physician to recommend one who is experienced in treating depression.
Remember that healing is a process that takes time. Expect waves of sadness, anger, guilt or fear even after you think you are over it. Give your heart time to heal.
One year and beyond
Compartmentalize the experience in your memory: "My heart was broken once. It really hurt and I'm glad it's over."
Reach out to your ex if you want to re-establish a friendship. Do not harbor secret ambitions of winning him or her back. You'll only set yourself up for another heartbreak.