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My Ex Moved On and It Hurts – 3 Experts Share Their Best Tips + Insights

by Megan Carnahan – MSW, LISW, Hilary Jacobs – LCSW, Shannon Knight – MS, LMHC

My Ex Moved On and It Hurts

“You can love them, forgive them, want good things for them… but still move on without them.”

~ Mandy Hale

You Can Love Them Forgive Them Want Good Things Mandy Hale Quote
Megan Carnahan

This can be very painful. Pain is a portal. It doesn’t always mean you’re still in love with your ex. There may have been a lot of hopes, dreams, or fantasies still attached to that person or that relationship. Grieving will unfold in layers.

1. Allow yourself space to feel:

You gotta “feel it to heal it”. As hard as it might be, allow yourself time and space to name your feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones. All feelings are messengers, they’re there to tell us something. So when anger arises, or jealousy or sadness, notice where it shows up in your body. 

Acknowledge it as sensation. 

Try not to judge it, or judge yourself for feeling it. Write about it. One good technique is to write from the angry or hurting part of yourself. Give it center stage and let it write, uncensored. Give it time to “purge out” anything it needs to let go of. You’ll know when it feels complete. Do this as often as necessary.

2. Practice self compassion:

It might sound silly, but this is such an important step, and one that is often overlooked. Learn to coach yourself through the painful waves of emotion. Chances are, you’re talking to a part of your inner child. Do I feel unloved/not seen? Do I feel used? Do I feel discarded? 

Learn to “parent” your inner child, and self soothe by letting it know that seeing your ex with someone else means none of these things. 

Maybe your ex is moving on simply as a tool to avoid feeling their own feelings. Maybe your ex moved on because it’s part of their own soul’s path. Chases are, it’s more about them and what’s going on with them, and less about you (or your primal wounds). 

Trust the bigger picture, and know everything is working out for your highest good.

Honor your feelings, honor your pain, but then know when to release and let go. Don’t stay “stuck” in the stagnation of the past. It’s just a story now.

Megan Carnahan, MSW, LISW – www.megancarnahantherapy.com

Shannon Knight

One of my guilty pleasures is that I *sometimes* listen to country music. Just by looking at me you’d have no idea, because I tend to look like someone who enjoys indie rock and some occasional heavy metal – and by looking at me – you’d be right. But like I said, country music is simply a guilty pleasure and when 

I found out I’d be writing about feeling hurt when an ex moves on, the song “Everywhere But On” by Matt Stell would not leave my brain. Believe me, I tried to replace it, but now it’s stuck. Country music does that to you. Stell sings about how he’s travelled all over the country, experienced some amazing things trying to heal from a breakup, but still can’t seem to move on from a past lover.

The truth is, a breakup is essentially another form of grief. 

We all know grief isn’t linear and there’s no right way to experience it or feel. So, why would it be any different in terms of a breakup and seeing your ex move on? 

One of my favorite analogies when working on breakups is defining it in terms of the grieving process. 

Grief doesn’t go away or “heal with time” like so many of our friends and family members like to say to naively comfort us. 

Our grief stays the same size, but our life grows around it and as our life grows it gives the illusion that our heartache is smaller. 

Since our life is growing, the heartache takes up less space, which is why it becomes less and less of a focal point.

When it comes to a breakup and finding out that our ex has moved on, we become hyper focused on the grief and heartache of the breakup again, which limits the ability for our life to grow. 

So, what do you do? 

  • You focus on building and strengthening your relationship with yourself, your friends, your family, your co-workers, and/ or your neighbors. 
  • You dive into projects that make you happy. 
  • You focus on expanding the areas of your life that bring you joy and fulfillment. When you do this your life expands, making the heartache of your ex moving on less and less important. 

This usually leads to the creation of an opening for another partner to enter as well. 

Eventually, you’ll be able to stop playing those way too catchy country break up songs or maybe just add your own lyrics to Stell’s song. Perhaps something like, “…and I’ve moved everywhere AND on.”

Shannon Knight, MS, LMHC – www.moderncounselor.com

Hilary Jacobs

When our ex has moved on it may signify the true end of our relationship. We may finally be able to process our loss so that we too can move on. 

Sadness is the natural and adaptive response to loss.

But sadness gets a bad rap. Myths in modern society lead us to believe that emotions are for weak people and that it’s best to “rise above them.” Stigmas surrounding emotions make us judge ourselves when we feel sad. We are instructed not to “wallow” or “be weak.” 

As a result, most of us strive to push sadness away. But it is important to allow ourselves to move through our sadness and fully process it in our mind and body, where emotions live.

Crying is one way we release sadness. 

Releasing sadness is vital for both immediate and long-term emotional health. For those of us who struggle to get the tears out or who want to process sadness but find it hard, the following gentle “prescription” might help. 

If at any point something doesn’t feel right to you, just stop. It probably means you need a live, emotionally-safe person to be with you. Nothing could be more natural.

A Gentle Exercise to Release Sadness

  • Get very cozy and comfortable on your bed or chair.
  • Bring a soft pillow, blanket, or pet to snuggle for comfort.
  • Take 5 or 6 deep belly breaths. Deep belly breathing is a skill that helps us move through the full wave of our core emotions.
  • Next, bring into your mind the loss you have experienced. 
  • Notice what changes in your body. Scan your body from head to toe as you breathe nice and easy, and see if you can find the sensations of sadness in your body. You might notice a heaviness in your chest, a lump in your throat, or a feeling behind your eyes. Or you might notice another sensation associated with sadness. There’s no right way. Whatever you feel is normal and natural for you. 
  • Stay with the sensations of sadness and breathe gently. You might start to feel the wave of sadness moving or building. Just deep belly breathe through it, noticing the sensations moving through you. If it feels too much, try dropping any thoughts or images in your mind and merely focus on the body sensations of sadness with a stance of curiosity and compassion towards yourself. 
  • Ride the wave of sadness, stay with it, allow yourself to cry until it is over and the wave naturally comes to an end. Stay breathing until you feel calmer. 
  • Finally, when you’re ready to move again and continue with your day or night, remember to treat yourself kindly and gently, like you would care for someone you loved.
  • Repeat as necessary. Soon you will feel all better and find the guy that’s right for you.

Allowing ourselves to cry when sad, either on our own or with someone else, is good for our emotional and physical health. 

Pushing down emotions leads to stress in the mind and body. If your sadness feels too overwhelming to experience on your own, AEDP psychotherapists or psychotherapists who are well-trained in helping people through big emotions will help. 

Painful as it can be to ride the wave of our sadness, that is precisely how we feel better sooner than later.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW – www.hilaryjacobshendel.com

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