What happens when we break up with someone?
The person we thought was our soulmate. The person we dreamed up a future with. The person we woke up next to every morning. The one person who understood us, grounded us, and made us feel safe.
How do we navigate life on our own again?
When I left my five-year relationship earlier this year I felt the ground fall away from beneath me and, as I looked down, I saw nothing but a big black hole.
All of a sudden I had so much time and space and emptiness and I had no idea who I was or how I would ever navigate my way back to myself. The truth is I lay on my bed for days with nothing but sad romantic movies and packets of chocolate biscuits.
I became paralysed by fear and loneliness and it wasn’t until I reached out to my best friend, that I was able to pull myself out of my bed and my anxiety, and step forward into the unknown.
Because that’s what it is, isn’t it? Unknown!
It’s both exciting and terrifying and no book or podcast can inspire you enough or give you enough advice on how to move forward in the best way for you.
I did it by moving to the ocean. I packed my bags and left my life for the sea air and my best friend. We spent our days crying and laughing and analysing and dreaming and drinking too much wine. The point is she became my compass and, in allowing myself the space to just be, I ended up finding my own way forward.
I stumbled forward most days. Some days I didn’t get out of bed. Other days I did. Every day I lived with the anxiety and the fear that I wasn’t enough for him to fight for and somehow I let that mean that I wasn’t worth the fight. I stopped fighting for myself. I gave my power away, and I just let my sadness consume me.
The greatest advice I received during that time was from Grey’s Anatomy: “We can choose to be afraid of it. To stand there trembling, not moving, assuming the worst that can happen, or we can step forward into the unknown and assume it will be brilliant.”
I decided I didn’t want to live in fear anymore and I took control of my life. I wrote for months about my dreams and my desires. I wrote about plans I had had, and I inspired myself enough to begin thinking about a future that didn’t include him. I did it with a lot of help from my family and my friends. This process was one of the hardest things I have ever been through.
It’s never easy but there are some things you can do to help you navigate these tumultuous waters:
Find a coach or a therapist. Find someone who is an objective bystander, someone to help you make sense of what is happening in your world. Find someone who is a professional and that can help guide you and hold you accountable to moving through the sh*t.
Find someone who can help you look at all the stuff that is coming up for you, someone that can help you recognise your patterns, and heal those patterns. I know it costs money but it was one of the best investments I have ever made. I found a coach who gave me homework that helped refocus my life. He was expensive, but seeing him every week gave my heartache purpose, and I was able to look at myself and begin rebuilding my life in a safe, supportive space.
Be gentle with yourself. After a break up it can feel as though you do not know who you are. A big part of your identity is gone and it can feel like there is a hole in your life. I get it. I had no idea what to do with my time. Surround yourself with friends who know you and love you. Sit down and make a list of all the things you enjoy doing that you never had time to pursue because you were in a relationship.
Remember you do not have a broken life—you have a broken heart.
Find ways you can spend your time engaging in new activities and meeting new people. I began volunteering with the local soup kitchen and I finally went to that swing dancing class that he would never go to. I took my best friend and we had a ball. Slowly, I started to find parts of myself I thought I had lost, and it was these parts that brought me joy and peace.
Stop all contact. Delete social media. Delete his or her phone number, sweet emails. Put all memories in a box and give that box to your mum. This is a really vulnerable time and the anxiety can become all-consuming. It is really easy during this time to want to reconnect. Trust me, it’s never a good idea. Social media only serves to fuel the anxiety.
They are in pain too. Trust that what has happened is for the best. When you feel the need to reach out to them, call your best friend. When the bed becomes too lonely to sleep in, go to your mum’s house. Reach out to the community of people around you. They will step in to support you. I spent many nights sleeping in my mum’s bed and crying on my brother’s shoulder. We have lost our partner—but we still have a kick-ass community around us who are ready to step up and step in. Use them.
Create a routine. I know, I know, yuck! But honestly, my routine saved me. I created a morning routine for myself that made getting out of bed easier. I held myself to it. I meditated, I read Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald G. Jampolsky, and wrote every day. When I came home from work I did yoga and I meditated again. It was hard. Who wants to wake up an hour earlier before work? However, these things helped ground me. They gave me purpose and were such valuable tools for calming my anxiety and allowing me to reconnect with myself.
Go on an adventure. Plan something fun with your friends. Create adventures that help get you excited about life again. No matter how old you are, sitting around a campfire drinking wine with your friends is always a good idea. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable with them. Let them know where you are and how much you need them to do this with you.
I didn’t want a life if it didn’t involve him. But I also knew that I had no idea who I was away from him and it has been a slow but wonderful journey of finding that out.
Sometimes I stumble and I reach for him in my fear but I ultimately know now that I can have the life I want. There is power in choosing who you want to be and the life you want to live. It is f*cking hard. I’m not here to sugar-coat that. Some days I call my best friend with so much anxiety I think it is going to eat away at my brain and she listens and tells me I’m doing a really good job and to be gentle with myself.
I’m here to tell you, months later, that it does get better. I promise you that. Life does become joyful again and you do feel whole again. It’s not an easy path to navigate. But this is a mere blip in the context of your whole life. This person is merely a shooting star. They arrived to teach you to stand up for yourself, to look after yourself, to find strength, and to find courage. They were there so you could learn to let go and trust, even when it all felt too hard.
“The best people I know have seen soulmates become strangers and they’ve felt ghosts in their veins where gods used to reign. They have learned that a broken heart can shatter and a shattered heart can splinter, but, eventually it can break no more and in that beautiful, morose moment , the broken become unbreakable, unstoppable. They are fearless. They are free.” ~ Jeremy Goldberg
Love who you love while you have them. That’s all you can do. Let them go when you must. If you know how to love, you’ll never run out. Each person we love has a lesson to teach us.
There is the tendency to want revenge after a break up. A good old “f*ck you, I don’t need you.”
But the best “f*ck you” is doing our personal work. It is learning the lesson and finding strength in it. It is moving on gracefully, trusting that the universe will catch us. The best “f*ck you” is the one that ultimately knows that if we continue to show up and do our work, then we will meet someone who is ready for us. That’s a bloody great thing to look forward to.
Sometimes you just gotta toss your hair in a bun, drink some coffee, put on some gangsta rap and handle it. So just for today get out of bed, meet your bestie for a coffee, cry over soy lattes and broken dreams.
I’m giving you three days to lay in bed and feel sorry for yourself but then—it’s time to face the world again.
Author: Jess Colangelo
Editor: Lieselle Davidson