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May 9, 2017

10 Tips for Journeying Down Heartbreak’s Hazardous Rabbit Hole.

This isn’t a “How to Survive a Breakup” article—although I’ve read plenty of those.

Every last one, to be exact.  

I’ve conducted page 15-level Google research. The kind of internet scouring that burns your 4:30 a.m. eyeballs out of your head as you swear to yourself that this will be “the last one of the night.” Each article had a different pearl of wisdom to offer. The solidarity temporarily numbed the ache in a way little else could. Others had survived this. They’d lived to tell their tales.

I’m finally one of them.

And I’ve learned there’s no easy way out of the spiral that ensues when your betoken soul mate tells you they’ve changed their mind, they’ve changed their heart. I like to envision Alice as she tumbled down that little black hole into Wonderland, my bathrobe flared up like an ugly flannel parasol as I float slowly down a tunnel of memories and emotions.

What tips can I offer those embarking on their own voyage down heartbreak’s bullsh*t little rabbit hole? For starters, hold on tight. Then…

1. Spiral.

We must. If we try to skip this step, we’ll get sucked right back up into the tunnel from which we prematurely clawed our way out. Cry. Yell. Binge eat. Call people. Shut off your phone. Do whatever you feel like doing during this dark period. For me, it was force-feeding myself grilled cheese sandwiches, writing tragic poems, and Googling “heartache.”

Feel it. We’re mourning the loss of a person, a life plan, a space in our heart that was full and beating. It’s all gone and empty, but we can’t fill it back up in our current state. Let it bleed.

2. Do something spiritual or creative.

We put a lot of faith in a non-divine being. And they didn’t meet us where we needed to be met. It doesn’t mean everything else will fail us. Go for a walk. Get on your yoga mat. Paint yourself a picture. Prepare a meal. Do something positive. You can get back to grieving later.

3. Detox.

There are plenty of articles advising us to pour a glass (or four) of wine and saddle up to our favorite romcom. I strongly encourage against this. Alcohol is a depressant. When the buzz wears off, you’ll find yourself sobbing on your best friend while she tells you everything is going to be okay. “No it’s not, Laura! I am going to die. I know it. I’m going to die alone!”

That’s the alcohol talking, so let’s save ourselves the tortured monologue and try not to drink our feelings. Eating’s better, anyway.

4. Resist rekindling.

There’s a good chance one or both parties have made a communication attempt. A butt-dial. A rogue belonging in need of being returned. Take it from me: That’s what screen locks and Fedex are for. When we see the face of an ex, be it in person or via vigorous social media stalking, our bodies often go into a literal state of panic. Don’t undo all the good work you did spiraling, creating, and detoxing.

5. Make a plan.

Book a trip. Sign up for a class. Get a new apartment. Disclaimer: I did all three of these things and felt immediately overwhelmed by the amount of money I was hemorrhaging on heartbreak, so take baby steps here. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose, but locking in something positive for the future will help ensure just that: a positive future.

6. Tell people what’s happening.

If our sour state is affecting our interactions with others, tell them—even if it’s a simple “I’m working through some personal stuff.” You’d be surprised how accommodating people can be when you storm in an hour late from lunch with a face that looks like it got hit by a bag of wet coins if you clue them in first.

7. Don’t make things so absolute.

This mostly applies to our demonic little inner critic, but stop making everything so conclusive. Yes, we got dumped. Our ex-partners may have even given us a litany of reasons as to why. But it’s up to us to choose which parts to believe.

This isn’t the end. Someone will love you again. You will be happy. You are not a failure at love. And you’ll probably look back on this relationship and be thankful it didn’t work out.

8. Learn those lessons.

There’s almost always a lesson to be learned when we experience heartache. Were there red flags? Did we repeat old patterns? Perhaps we lost sight of ourselves entirely. Maybe we learned what love is not. These are all good things to be aware of, don’t you think?

Eventually, we’ll get back into the love game, and you’ll have grown into a person who attracts what they deserve. Make sure it’s something good.

9. Dip your toe in.

There’s no timeline for how long it will take us to spiral down the rabbit hole, over the river of tears, through the drunken tea party, past the Queen’s army, and out the other side of the nightmare—but once we finally awaken, we’ll be ready for some simple, light-hearted dating.

Figure out how to flirt again. Put on some damn mascara. Unbuckle that bathrobe. Remember that you are a desirable human being.

10. Be grateful.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase “you were lucky to find out sooner rather than later!” A statement that offered about as much comfort as a 50-year-old mattress. After a certain point, though, I began to acknowledge its merit. I came to appreciate a lot of what met me in the pitiful state I was in: the friend who sent flowers, the mother who kept her ringer on high, and the coworker who brought me cream puffs.

Somehow, while sifting through this giant cesspool of emotions, we come to realize what’s actually important. Let’s be grateful for those things. Write them all down so you can come back to them when you start feeling low again.

And remember: You really are better off knowing that the person you invested your heart and soul into had no intention of keeping them safe. But there are plenty of people who will.

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Author: LeeMarie Kennedy
Image: Anil kumar/Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton

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LeeMarie Kennedy