As a kid, did you ever try to swim the length of the pool without taking a breath? Slowly pushing against the onslaught of water with a purposeful breaststroke, desperately trying to reach the other side so your lungs could get some relief? Heartbreak is much like that. Navigating your way through it can feel like you’re wading slowly against a seemingly immovable mass, all the while feeling like your chest is going to explode. It’s misery. And we’ve all been there. Or if you haven’t, you’re lucky. But I have. More than once. More than twice even, which means I have the fortune (or misfortune, in this case) of possessing enough life experience to potentially give useful advice to others.
I realized this recently when I met a friend of a friend in the throes of a recent breakup. After a night out and a few drinks, the tears came, which she had clearly been holding in all night. We talked and talked, I shared my experiences, we laughed, she cried a little more and then we both got so tired we couldn’t talk anymore. It got me thinking about breakups and the whirlwind of emotions and stages you go through before finally reaching the other side. And you do reach the other side.
Here, I’ve listed five things it’s important to remember when you’re battling a broken heart.
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You're allowed to be sad. People are going to say "time heals all wounds" and that you need to get over it. And while they're technically right, you're also allowed to take some time to mourn the loss. Be sad. Wallow. Watch sad movies and sob. Complain endlessly to the few people in your life who are obligated to listen and love you no matter what (see: mothers, sisters and very best friends). A heartbreak is a loss, and it's legitimately painful, which means grieving is an important part of moving through it. Yes, you have to move on, and time does at some point heal all wounds, but if the breakup is fresh, you're allowed a grace period. Just make sure the grace period doesn't last too long.
If you thought your sorrows were immune to the advancements of technology, you were sadly mistaken. I was actually informed of this from my new friend, who referred to her "heartbreak app" a few times during our tearful conversation before I had to ask, "What is a heartbreak app?!" She told me about hers, the Break-Up Boss, but I have since learned that there are several such apps, each with its own angle on healing. Some offer content about breakups; others offer advice on the different stages of grief; and a few give you action items designed to help you deal in a more productive manner. I found this fascinating. If only these apps had been around when I was in my early 20s. Perhaps then I wouldn't have tortured all my friends with hours upon hours of misery and confusion and tears. Perhaps I would have moved on faster. It may seem silly, but having these tools at your disposal really can help you process your emotions in an effective way. And, if nothing else, they simply divert your mind from the pain for a while.
During the course of our conversation, my friend referred to her ex's current whereabouts at least three times (in case you were wondering, he's on some Eat Pray Love adventure through South America—how cliché). When I asked how she knew this, her answer was predictable: Instagram. As hard as it is, you simply must delete your former beau on social media—cold turkey. I remember my first Facebook-era breakup. I watched my ex—who loved to document everything online—start to date a new girl, introduce said girl to his family, move in with her, marry her, move to another state with her and then have babies with her. It was like slowly turning the knife in my heart over and over, and I was the one turning it. And it made the process of getting over him that much longer and harder. Oh, and stop following your ex's friends, too. They're like gateway drugs, and you need to check yourself into social-media rehab.
Someone once told me if a person isn't right for you, it's a fact, and you can't fight a fact, so find a way to accept it. Period. I found this dose of tough love strangely comforting. It was such a simple concept, but it made a lot of sense. While you can grieve for the realization that the person isn't right for you, and even wish things were different, facts are facts. Accepting that your ex isn't right for you as an absolute reality can help fast-track the healing process—or at the very least, shift your mental state so you see the situation in a new way.
In the end, that friend who told you time heals all wounds was right. You weren't ready to hear it then, but it is in fact true. I have a little trick that helps demonstrate. Put a dot on the calendar one week from today (if your calendar is solely on your phone, put a reminder on that day). Two weeks from that day, make another dot or set a reminder. Do the same one month from that date, and so on and so on. Each time you see that dot or reminder come up, think about how you felt the last time you saw it and how you feel now. Odds are you feel at least a little better, and a couple dots later, you'll likely feel considerably better. Even if you still feel sad, you'll undoubtedly notice progress—which you may not have realized if you didn't mark that date. Time is like Advil for a hangover. It almost always works if you give it time.