Breakups suck. It sucks to see your ex’s Facebook page flourish with pictures of red-hot babes or muscle-toned athletes. It sucks to go to that café you guys used to go to and be bombarded with painfully happy memories. Losing that special someone can knock the wind out of us for months — even years — before we remember how to breathe easy again.

But the reason so many of us are struggling to let go is not necessarily because our lost love is irreplaceable. In fact, most of the time we are causing ourselves a lot of needless pain. Luckily, this pain is entirely preventable. You just have to recognize the mistakes you’ve been making to get on the fast-track to recovery.

1. The most important rule of breaking up, which I will reiterate until someone out there listens to me, is that you cannot keep in contact with your ex. To illustrate this point, I have constructed an appropriate metaphor. Imagine that your relationship is a cat. Now imagine that cat just got hit by a bus and is dying in the street. You have two options: shoot the cat and end its misery, or watch it suffer as it dies a drawn-out agonizing death. If you’re talking to your ex, you are going to watch your cat/relationship die slowly and painfully. If you cut your ex off completely, it will be painful at first, but you will be spared so much heartache in the long run. (Note: Do not actually shoot your ex.)
It is crucial to sever ties if you want to move on. That means no texting, no drunk calling and no “accidentally” bumping into them. I know you loved your cat, but don’t put it through any more pain. If something is dying, let it die. You have to let go of the past to embrace the future.

2. The second biggest mistake that heartbroken lovers make is viewing their breakup as this disastrous, life-ending event. You’re looking at it all wrong. Yes, you have lost someone you love, and it is an extremely painful experience. But try to see the positive side. Be grateful you had the experience of falling in love and be grateful you will always be in that person’s memory. But now you are single! Forget your ex, it’s time to focus on you! It’s empowering to think now is the time to really improve yourself, to try new things, to discover who you are by yourself. All that energy you poured into your relationship can now fuel your own personal success. You have a great big world around you and a vast future ahead of you. This is your time. Take all that anger and hurt you’re feeling and channel it into something great: write that novel, paint that masterpiece, sing that song. This is the dusk of your ex and the dawn of you. Seize the day; it’s all yours!

3. As you’re reading this right now, you’re probably checking your ex beau’s Instagram feed. You are making things exponentially harder for yourself. Looking at pictures of your ex or keeping tabs on their life is going to hurt you, especially when you watch them move on to someone new via social media. That’s going to be a punch to the gut for sure. You need to unfriend them, block them, delete them from your life. Out of sight, out of mind. If you get the urge to check up on them, remind yourself that it is only going to hurt you. Realize that not looking at their social media will make you feel better, will help you focus on yourself instead of your ex and will decrease your obsession with a past relationship. This will require a lot of self-control, and most people might not be able to do it. But at least make the effort. Pep talk yourself into resisting so you don’t break down so easily. After a while, the urge to stalk your ex will fade.

4. It is important to allow yourself to feel the pain of your loss. It is a huge mistake to just push aside your feelings and pretend that you’re not affected by your breakup. While it is still important to distract yourself and focus on your new life, it is also okay to have those moments of sadness. Take the time to cry it out, belt out those breakup songs, complain to your friends about how much your ex hurt you and soothe your broken heart with some retail therapy or one-too-many milkshakes. Let yourself grieve so that you can recover. If you push aside your feelings for too long, an intense relapse will catch you off guard. You lost someone you love. You need to cry out the pain to make room for healing.

5. The last deadly mistake that is made so frequently post-breakup is not accepting the end of your relationship. It is normal to hold out hope that your ex is going to come back or that the two of you will meet again one day and realize you are soul mates that never stopped loving each other. But it is important to step out of your fantasy realm eventually and face the reality of your situation. You are broken up. The relationship has ended. As painful as it is, there is a reason that things are over and it just means there is something better waiting for you in the future.

Brenna Dilger always shoots the cat first, and asks questions later.