In the days after a breakup, it is so raw and physically painful that it feels like you should be in a hospital on a morphine drip.
It’s so agonizingly painful, it’s ridiculous. I had never experienced this before. My pillows were soaked with tears for a week straight and I was continuously scribbling down angsty, heart-broken thoughts in a moleskin journal multiple times a day. It was a pathetically poetic experience.
“People think first love is sweet, and never sweeter than when that first bond snaps. You’ve heard a thousand pop and country songs that prove the point; some fool got his heart broke. Yet that first broken heart is always the most painful, the slowest to mend, and leaves the most visible scar. What’s so sweet about that?” – Stephen King, Joyland
Despite the heartache, I still had to put on a face and go to work, sit through meetings, and interact with people. I had to interview for a new job the day after the breakup.
My boss at the time accidentally caught me in the middle of a breakdown and told me I could hide in the bathroom anytime I needed to cry.
I understand how melodramatic this sounds. A bad breakup being the worst of my struggles is the definition of first world problems, but everyone knows how much it stings and how particular it feels to you.
Obviously other people have experienced heartbreak — many of them much more intense than mine — but it’s hard to internalize that, because no one else has been through this relationship. This breakup. It’s a lonely feeling.
It was difficult to talk to anyone, even the people that I loved, because they weren’t the person I had the breakup with, and that’s the person I really wanted to talk to.
“It’s hard to let go. Even when what you’re holding onto is full of thorns, it’s hard to let go. Maybe especially then.” – Stephen King, Joyland
As time passed, I was able to get out of the house and be a person again. I was no longer constantly thinking about the breakup and I could function again and have fun.
But the breakup was like a person always standing right behind me, trying to look over my shoulder to see if it could attach itself to what I was doing. Sometimes I forgot it was there, but then it would jump out and grab me by the shoulders while I was minding my own business, just to say, “Hey, remember me?!”
Then suddenly, any happiness I was feeling in that moment was completely destroyed by that reminder that I lost something that partially defined who I was for so long. It felt like nothing I was currently doing or accomplishing had any real meaning, because a part of me was missing. No new job, or a pair of jeans, or a good book could replace it.
Of course I know that’s not entirely true. I have my own identity outside of one relationship and I have so much more growing and evolving to do, but it’s like the breakup is a third wheel. It’s that friend who always wants to be involved even though they weren’t invited. It never leaves you alone. Every time you think it’s disappeared, it always comes back.
In the initial days after a relationship ending, your family and friends offer support and encouragement, but that doesn’t last very long. You are eventually left alone with the burning torment and you have to climb the mountain of acceptance by yourself.
Nobody really cares. There’s no funeral service or gathering of friends and family to say a few kind words about your breakup. No flowers or condolences or speeches. For the most part, you’re on your own. Even though most people I know have been through this, there seems to be a wall that separates them from truly remembering how awful it feels — at some point I’ll have that wall too.
I keep thinking the scale of acceptance will tip, and I’ll no longer have these bursting moments of anger or sadness or desperation, but I’m not there yet. I have my good days and my bad days. Sometimes memories come into my mind that feel so supernaturally real, but other times I struggle to remember what features of his face even look like.
It’s hard to receive any advice during the healing process, because most of the time you hear, “You just need time.” Although that’s true, all you can really feel in that moment is, “But it hurts now. I want it to stop hurting now.”
But here are just a few things that have helped me:
- Let yourself be sad. Don’t distract yourself. Take a couple days to wallow in your misery and really mourn. Listen to some sad songs. My breakup playlist consisted solely of “Green Light” and “Liability” by Lorde. BUT, you do have to eventually put on some shoes, go outside, and re-enter the world.
- Find things to look forward to. Plan new things to do throughout your week. Fill your schedule with things you know you’ll enjoy. Take a painting class. Cook yourself a meal. Go to the gym. Go on a bike ride. Buy a new shirt.
- Talk to someone who can give you level-headed, unbiased advice. I was lucky in that I had a long-term therapist who could give me an outside perspective that I couldn’t get from those who were close to me. You can also share your thoughts with people online! The internet is magical place with so many strangers full of insight and advice! I was also somewhat lucky, because my best friend happened to be going through a breakup at the same time, so we could bitch to each other without any concern that we were burdening the other person.
- Slowly ease yourself back into the things that remind you of that person. You don’t want to have to get rid of all the things you enjoyed doing with your ex. Find a way to enjoy all those TV shows, foods, music, and places you used to share with each other.
- Find new things to enjoy that you didn’t share with that person! Find new music, games, podcasts, and books that are completely separate from your past relationship.
- Properly let go of the relationship. This is the hardest thing to do. You have to give up on the idea that maybe one day things could be different or maybe it will work out. It is true that in the future you don’t know what will happen, but if you hold onto that hope and it doesn’t work out, you’re just going to feel heartbroken all over again.
Know your worth and face the world head-on. We’ve got this.