Get over a break up

5 Ways To Get Over a Break Up (According to an 800-year-old theologian)

In Advice and Encouragement by Debra Fileta

Want to know how to get over a break up? Check out this insightful guest post by Will Herrmann in our Summer Guest Post Series featuring our favorite readers!

Breakups hurt. A lot. And while it might seem like nobody in the whole world has ever felt what you’re feeling, the truth is that sorrow like this has been around since the beginning of humanity.

Over 750 years ago, an Italian priest and theologian named Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) set out to write his Summa Theologiae (“Summary of Theology”), giving answers to every possible question of faith. And he meant every question, even some embarrassing ones like  ”Are wet dreams sinful?” (which he charmingly calls “nocturnal pollutions,” and in case you’re wondering, he gives several reasons they’re not).

So it should come as no surprise that Aquinas wrote about sorrow too and how one might overcome it. Going beyond trite advice like “turn over your troubles to God in prayer,” this 13th Century priest instead provided 5 practical ways to overcome sorrow, which a 21st Century man or woman can use to get over a breakup and deal with it’s sorrow.

1. Do Something You Enjoy

You might feel guilty about doing something fun or even fear that you’re avoiding the pain of a breakup. But Aquinas sees pleasure as a remedy to sorrow, just like rest is a remedy when you’re tired:

“Just as all repose of the body brings relief to any kind of weariness, ensuing from any non-natural cause; so every pleasure brings relief by assuaging any kind of sorrow, due to any cause whatever.”

Proverbs 17:22a says “A cheerful heart is a good medicine.” When a breakup leaves you emotionally, mentally, and even physically exhausted, pleasure that leads to a smile or even a laugh can make things not seem as bad.

2. Cry

Here’s a man who says that it’s okay to cry! If we’re a mess inside, letting it out through tears means our inner sorrow is lessened.

“A hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: whereas if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened. This is why men, burdened with sorrow, make outward show of their sorrow, by tears or groans or even by words, their sorrow is assuaged.”

Even Jesus wept (John 11:35) when Lazarus had died, and he knew the miracle he was about to perform! Letting your outward emotions match your inward feelings keeps things from being “bottled up” inside and goes a long way towards healing.

3. Share your struggle with friends

You aren’t the only one who has gone through sorrow. Your friends and family have gone through their own sorrows and they can help you go through this as well. Aquinas explains why it’s important:

“Since sorrow has a depressing effect, it is like a weight whereof we strive to unburden ourselves: so that when a man sees others saddened by his own sorrow, it seems as though others were bearing the burden with him, striving, as it were, to lessen its weight; wherefore the load of sorrow becomes lighter for him: something like what occurs in the carrying of bodily burdens. The second and better reason is because when a man’s friends condole with him, he sees that he is loved by them”

It’s likely that Aquinas had Proverbs 4:9-10 on his mind: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.” Having friends to help you up in times of distress and carry your unseen burdens can make getting through it that much easier.

4. Contemplate truth

Aquinas said earlier that pleasure helps assuage sorrow. While ice cream and chocolate might be a start, he explains that the deepest kind of pleasure comes when you become a better person from contemplating truth and growing in wisdom:

“The greatest of all pleasures consists in the contemplation of truth. Now every pleasure assuages pain as stated above: hence the contemplation of truth assuages pain or sorrow, and the more so, the more perfectly one is a lover of wisdom. And therefore in the midst of tribulations men rejoice in the contemplation of Divine things and of future Happiness, according to James 1:2: “My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into diverse temptations””

The Bible is filled with examples of comfort brought about by contemplating truth, especially from God. Psalm 94:19 says “When sorrow was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Take this time of sadness to grow in wisdom while healing from your breakup.

5. Take a nap and a bath

What? My heart is broken! How can taking a bath help?

You may have noticed a theme with Aquinas’ remedies: our bodies and souls are intricately connected. Because of that, taking care of our bodies helps bring our soul’s inner sorrow in check. And a nap and a bath are great ways to do just that. Aquinas explains:

“Sorrow, by reason of its specific nature, is repugnant to the vital movement of the body; and consequently whatever restores the bodily nature to its due state of vital movement, is opposed to sorrow and assuages it. Moreover such remedies, from the very fact that they bring nature back to its normal state, are causes of pleasure; for this is precisely in what pleasure consists, as stated above. Therefore, since every pleasure assuages sorrow, sorrow is assuaged by such like bodily remedies.”

Psalm 127:2 says “[God] grants sleep to those he loves.” A great example is 1 Kings 19:3-9, in which the prophet Elijah flees for his life into the wilderness and becomes suicidal, telling God to kill him. Then he falls asleep and an angel of the Lord feeds him before letting him fall asleep again. While Elijah’s sorrows didn’t instantly go away, he had the strength to make a forty-day journey to Mt. Horeb, and his future conversations with God seem less desperate.

Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Troubles

There are a lot of destructive ways to cope with the sorrow of a breakup. Scrolling through social media for hours on end. Looking at pornography. Getting drunk.

Instead, turn to Thomas Aquinas’ five remedies for sorrow as healthier ways to cope. Go for a run with a friend (#1 and #3). Watch a movie that makes you cry and write in your journal about why you feel that way (#2 and #4). Take a hot bath and go to bed early instead of staying up all night on your phone (#5).

By following Aquinas’ tried and true methods for coping with sorrow, you’ll spend less time in a breakup and emerge as a healthier person, ready for whatever is next in store.


Will Herrmann is a programmer living in Minnesota. When not on the computer, he enjoys board games, bicycling, and creative writing. Will thinks writing about himself in the third person is awkward, and he wants to thank you for reading his bio.

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