There’s a difference between moving on and moving forward. Moving on is bleak, attempting apathy or hardness for the sake of protecting ourselves. We dissociate from our pain, anger, and confusion. Moving on usually means we shut off all emotions regarding the end of a relationship; maybe because we’d rather feel nothing than the traumatic pain, or because friends and family have blessed the split, and you don’t want to appear weak or wrong in front of them. Whatever the reason may be, moving on disrespects the Present You. In a sense, moving on will try to erase who you are in this moment.

Moving forward functions differently, healthily, lovingly. It’s optimistic, understanding, and confrontational of what you’re enduring in the moment, while also encouraging you to know when you’re ready to move forward (and this is different for everyone). We live in a society that praises the artificial, and hence many of us act mechanically or numbly after heartbreak. This is manifested through our need to look, act, and talk as though we are prettier, stronger, and happier instantly after the sever. And while many people are capable of getting back on their feet, there are many of us who simply fake it till we make it.

From experience, do not force, rush, or ignore grief, ever. It will always—always—return, and it will return viciously. Humans are meant to process, not suppress. We are wired to mourn and celebrate accordingly. You may not even realize that you’re suppressing emotions, and that’s why it’s absolutely imperative that, to maintain psychological, emotional, and physical health, you listen to the Present You. Be open, be kind, listen, and honor how you process this transition.

With definitions sorted, here are a few steps I used to move forward after a breakup, and I hope they meet you the same way, with empathy, tenderness, and support:

1. Welcome grief, feel it, and then let it go.
Absolutely cry. Your body needs that release. Whether in the shower alone or in the arms of a friend, let the rhythm of crying calm you. Listen to sad songs, but keep a limit to them. If you’re anything like me, I could wallow in every feeling that I experience till the end of my days—one of the cons of being an empath. In retrospect, though, I can clearly see the moment where I vaguely knew I no longer needed the support of sad songs, but rather chose to stay in my pain because it became a comfortable place to inhabit. Music, while often an escape from reality, has a way of keeping you in one place. But the longer I focused on my unmended wounds, the deeper I fell into self-hatred and the resentment of others. Make this breakup different than the last, or, if this is your first time, set the tone of your recuperation. Slowly listen to yourself and detect the smallest lightness of spirit. After a while in your grief, set your intention on pursuing peace. If you sense it—even a flicker—reach for it. You’ve begun to find your way out, but the key is to look for it. So practice: for every three sad songs you listen to, add an empowering or hopeful one, or even a childhood favorite. Let go of the initial incapacitating grief when you’re ready (but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not afraid to), and welcome recovery. You are permitting yourself to be present by choosing not to dwell in the past or dread the future.

2. Feng Shui your bedroom.
Whether you believe in the power of energy or not, change is always a good thing during this time in your life. Even if it’s as much as rearranging your room, it will still feel like a new beginning. Give your room a little more serenity by incorporating neutral colors; citrus and lavender essential oils and/or candles; Bible verses, mantras, or empowering quotes; place rose quartz in a bowl to amplify positive energy, harmony, and self-love. Research which of these suggestions works best for you when it comes to Feng Shui-ing (or changing up) your space. I promise it works: the room I couldn’t stand to be in for a second is now a sanctuary for me. Moving forward feels more tangible when you’re in a place that feels new.

3. Everything in your mind and heart about the breakup: EMPTY IT.
I’m blessed beyond measure to have a sister who’s also my best friend, and when I was enduring the breakup, she welcomed me to say whatever entered my mind; even if it didn’t make sense, she knew how important it was for me to get the thought off my chest. I also have a very small, very tight group of friends who are sisters to me, and they made it their mission to show that they were each a safe space for me to vent. If someone you love is going through heartbreak, speak into their lives and let them know you want to hear every thought to help them process their emotions. If you are the one going through the heartbreak, do not hold anything back if friends or family have already told you that you can confide in them. Meet them halfway and speak when they’ve promised to listen. For those who internalize everything, I know this seems unattainable, but I encourage you to give this method a chance. If you don’t have anyone, consider meeting with a counselor/therapist, or writing your thoughts down, or emailing us at EVERYONE. It’s so important to shed every toxic thought so that you can begin anew, with no weight of the past on your shoulders.

Pretty self-explanatory, but laughter truly is the best medicine. It’ll work wonders for you. Watch a funny movie or hang out with people who make you laugh. Through personal experience, this has been essential to my recovery.

5. Treat yourself, then take care of yourself.
I’m shameless to say that I gladly consumed over 3,000 calories the night after my breakup with the help of my two closest friends, and looking back I don’t regret that for a second. I allowed myself to eat whatever made me feel comforted (mostly mac n’ cheese), but I did so with the intention that this splurge was only for a brief time. But while I was in that “indulging season,” I forbade myself from regretting anything I ate or complaining about my weight (as many of us girls tend to do). And you know what? My body knew when enough was enough, and when my culinary comfort was satisfied, I looked forward to strengthening my body from the inside out. Through prayer, meditation, and the desire to see myself grow from this time, I found the will to eat clean and exercise when I wanted, how I wanted. The endorphins from a peaceful mind, clean diet, and yoga do a phenomenally effective job at rinsing and rejuvenating a broken spirit. And for me, the results of those combined energies—pure joy—haven’t left me.

Don’t be calloused towards your feelings out of fear; be intuitive to the uniqueness of you and your needs. Honor your processing, and challenge yourself by finding strength when you have none, want none. Incorporate forgiveness—towards yourself and your ex—into your daily routine; rarely do we forgive once and forget everything. Often, forgiveness needs to be an active thought and intention every single day. And every day it gets easier because your thoughts and heart grow stronger and more compassionate. You find life continuing, and you find yourself light. Moments fly by, little by little, and you begin to see your efforts pay off. Allow the pain, receive the joy; welcome the tears, rejoice in the laughter; recognize the grief, embrace what is to come. Breathe in and out. Take it day by day. Be gentle and caring—you need it and are deserving of it. And when you’re ready, move forward.