As I’ve navigated my way through 31 years of life, I’ve found that there are few things that cause greater times of turmoil and change than “matters of the heart” as my Mom likes to say. Love and loss have a way of affecting us and molding us unlike anything else. Some of the lowest and hardest times of my life have being enduring breakups, and I’ve found this experience to be similar for many of the close women in my life. From high school til now that’s looked like phone calls filled with tears at all hours of the day, just needing to tell someone it hurts, and needing to hear you’re not alone. Rushing to each other’s houses with open arms and tissue and bottles of wine when there’s nothing left to do but just sit with one another. Reminding each other of all the truths we can offer when the other can only hear the lies. This is why friendship is everything, and how frankly, I’ve survived and even thrived up until this point. I am so grateful for the women placed in my life and the strange beauty of shared experiences to get me through those chapters. And similar to how I would speak with one of my close girlfriends, or my sweet Mom, I want to share some of the things I’ve learned through these breakups, in the hopes that you find comfort in our similarities, or can borrow from my truths, or feel a sense of solidarity and hope in marching forward together more whole and more beautiful than we were the day before.
1. Feel all the Things
There’s a reason our natural instinct is to resist feelings like sadness or pain and to push them away or cover them with something else. Sadness is exhausting, it slows us down and interferes with our every day lives and it’s a barrier to the happiness we’d much prefer to live in. But for me, shifting my perspective on how I look at pain and sadness, reassigning it as a good and beautiful and necessary emotion makes such a difference. Our tears are powerful teachers and an incredible reminder that we are alive and paying attention.
The phrase “give yourself space to grieve” sounds nice but what does that even mean, right? I’ve been spending a lot of time lately seeking and asking myself what it looks like to grieve in a healthy and helpful way, and I’ve found that for me it just looks like grace and permission on repeat. Heaps of grace to sit in whatever emotion has come my way that day – anger, sadness, frustration, confusion – and ask questions and write down my feelings or Vox my best friend and talk through the tears until it’s all out there. Grace to not condemn myself for feeling those things, and rather to recognize my bravery in not turning away from them.
And then permission to do what I need in that moment to care for myself – do I need to be alone and sit a night out with my friends? Do I need to be surrounded by my loved ones and ask for their hugs or have them take me out dancing? Do I need to step away from my computer at work and take a walk when the tears come and I can’t push them away? Do I need a margarita? Do I need to take a break from drinking? A break from social media? Ask your heart what it needs in any given moment during these tender days and do just that.
2. Be Grateful for the Good
I think one of the toughest things for me in a breakup has been mourning all of the good I had to say goodbye to. Even when it was my choice, or when there were things missing for me in a relationship, I clearly was with that person for a reason (or many reasons, rather) and having to let those things go sucks. My mind is so quick to remember only the good post-breakup and to be honest, it feels really yucky and hard for me to try and focus on “the bad” or the reasons we didn’t work out. So my mind quickly becomes a spiral of sadness missing those good characteristics, fearful I’ll never find that again. I think there’s part of me that feels to fully move on to someone else, I’d need to fully reject all that my exes were and start fresh with a new human and their different qualities. But the truth is that will never be possible, and we date and are in relationship with people to learn to love others yes, but also to more fully form our hearts and to learn things about ourselves, and to continue growing into the person we’d like to be. This is such good news! Because that means a relationship that didn’t “work out” doesn’t have to be thrown in the trash, forgotten and left behind with the hopes you’ll start fully over again next time. No, you get to carry with you the good from that relationship and the pieces of yourself that are different and stronger and better because of them. So now this is something I try to be grateful for rather than sad about. How lucky that I’ve been able to date people who have all loved me in their unique ways, and who have taught me things about life and faith and feelings, and who have hopefully walked away from me and our relationship better and more equipped for the next person they date. I don’t spend much time feeling grateful for the exes of my boyfriends, but maybe I should, and I sure hope the new girlfriends and wives of people I’ve dated may someday be grateful for how I helped shape the men they are with now.
3. Comparison is Not Your Friend
This is another tough one. Especially in the age of social media and constant updates and reminders about where everyone else is in their stage of life. This phrase has been on repeat in my head the past few weeks and it’s been so helpful: “Their journey is not your journey.” That means that their timeline is not my timeline, and some people might date easily and frequently and others might wait years in between dates or relationships. What other people are doing doesn’t concern you or your journey. Your story is unfolding in a unique and special way, at just the speed it’s supposed to. Another phrase that’s been on repeat thanks to this incredible post from Allison Fallon is “What is for you will not pass you by, there is no such thing as missing your own boat.” Oh man that’s been helpful to remind myself of. That whole post is filled with so much wisdom, I highly recommend reading it. When your mind starts drifting into comparison territory, anchor yourself to your truths and hold on tight. Define what those truths are for you (write them down if you can), and here are some of mine if you need help finding your’s:
- I am fully loved, and fully whole, with or without a partner
- I am not alone
- There is a good and beautiful plan for my life
- Whatever happens in the future doesn’t take away from what you had or experienced in the past
- Trust in the One who has led you to this place
4. This Won’t Last Forever
The beauty of having multiple broken hearts, and of watching your friends experience the same, is having the hope to draw from that this won’t last forever. You’ve done this before, you’ve mourned and healed and moved on and you’ll do it again. When you’re in the trenches of the tears and the messy mind games and are having to avoid all the songs that make you sad, remember that this is temporary, you will love deeply and laugh loudly and it will be even sweeter because you have heartache to compare it to.
If you are in this place now, I wish I could hug you, and cry together. If you have recovered from a breakup and are on the other side, then I am cheering with you and am grateful for the hope your story brings us. And if you are facing a breakup, know that you can do hard things, and this is not the end, just the continuation of a story that is becoming more and more beautiful with every experience you add to it.