1. Cry, Holler and Yell
After a bad breakup, you may feel like an emotional punching bag that's been worked over hard. This sucks, but it is normal. Take the time to acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to go through the grieving process. Crying is okay. If you find you are lapsing into a depression, enlist the help of friends and family to support you. Holler and yell if you're angry (preferably where it won't bother your neighbors!). Work out your rage by channeling it into other physical activities. Slamming a racquetball into a wall repeatedly can be a really therapeutic. Just don't push down your feelings and try to pretend your breakup didn't affect you. Bottling up your emotions is never a good idea.
2. Don't Make That Call
Wanting to call or email your ex after you've broken up is a natural inclination, but before you pick up the phone, pick up a pen. The best thing you can do to avoid initiating a potentially painful conversation is to write a letter. Write it by hand on a sheet (or two) of lined paper. Get your guts out on the page. Really let him have it, or tell him how much you really love him. No matter what your feelings are, writing them down can take a lot of the steam out of your anger. Writing on paper instead of drafting an email takes away the urge to hit the "send" button. Write as many letters as it takes to get your anger or hurt out of your system and then put the letters away where you don't have to look at them. Whatever you do, don't call or email your ex; you will only end up feeling foolish or giving them an opening to hurt you more.
3. Get Healthier for Yourself
Often, breaking up can be a real blow to your self-esteem. Your first tendency may be to want to "show him what he's missing" by dieting, exercising or both. Losing weight and getting in shape is never a bad idea, but make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If your ex left you because he thought you needed some improvement of your looks, then being dumped was the best thing that could have happened to you. Wanting to look your best is something you should do for yourself, not to impress some shallow chump. Eat healthy; don't starve yourself or binge on comfort foods. Exercise! Nothing lifts depression like some good old endorphins running through your system. Whatever you do to make yourself look and feel better, you'll be happier knowing you're doing it for yourself and not anyone else.
4. Get Together with Friends
No, not his friends. Yours. If the two of you shared most of your friends, stick with the ones that are exclusively yours, or meet some new friends to support you after your breakup. Hang out with the girls until your heart has healed, and you are ready to date again. No matter what, never, ever date on of your ex-boyfriend's friends. You may think you're pulling one over on him, but no real relationship can be built when you date for spite. You also don't need another reason why the two of you might run into each other. When you do decide to date, take it slow and avoid "rebound" relationships that set you and your new beau up for making another notch on your breakup belt.
5. Clear Out His Things
If your ex-boyfriend has left some of his personal effects at your home, gather them together and place them in a box outside. Have a friend call him and let him know he can come pick up his things when you're not there. You'll also have photos of the two of you, items that he gave you and souvenirs of places you went together. Your first inclination will be to shred them to pieces or burn them in the back yard, but slow down and reconsider. While you may have horrible feelings for your ex brought on by a bad breakup, there's no reason to go on a purging spree right away. Gather together all of the things that remind you of him and put them in a closed box in the garage or high in a closet. After a while, these things won't cause such a sting, and you'll be able to evaluate what to keep, what to toss, and what to donate to charity. If you have things you've left at his place, think long and hard about how badly you need those items. Toothbrushes, CDs and even your favorite sweater can all be replaced. There's no point in putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation over a few trifles.
There is one piece of advice you can count on when your heart is aching after a breakup: whenever you are hurting, remember the pain won't last. What hurts today won't hurt as much a week from now, and as the months pass, the pain and anger will dissipate and finally lift. When that happens, you'll be ready to move on with your life, and if you've followed the five steps above, you will already be well on your way.