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How To Deal With Heartbreak

From the FGRLS team who’ve dealt with their fair share.

artwork by @henn_kim on instagram

Heartbreak is a complicated thing.

It’s not, as I thought when I was younger – thanks to countless romcoms and unrealistic poolside reads – a beautifully tragic thing that’ll make you stronger. You don’t really feel like taking long walks in the rain. You don’t really feel like doing much at all. Heartbreak is a very visceral, physical pain and when I first experienced it, it smacked me full force in the face. Experiencing my first taste of chronic, wrenching sadness at the hands of someone I loved resulted in a very physical reaction.

Heavy, wracking sobs that left me gasping for breath? Check.

A twisting pain in my chest? Check.

Sitting by a steamed-up window, delicately crying to the soundtrack of Adele wasn’t high on my list of priorities in the fall out, funnily enough. I spent the next few days simply trying to eat a piece of toast without looking at the bread and remembering every single piece of toast my ex and I had together. I would miss my stop on the bus because I’d been so lost in thought I simply forgot to get off. I’d smell familiar aftershave on the neck of a man walking past and have a full-on meltdown. If it’d happened back in the noughties when phones were top-up, I’d have run up hundreds of pounds ringing my best friends and reciting the same rhetorical questions over and over again. And, reader, without going into too much detail, as there’s every chance of a past flame reading this (hiya), the most poignant break up so far was, after a bit of back and forth, fairly amicable.

So, what the bloody hell do you do when an amicable break up causes that much pain? If you know the simple answer to that question, holla the fuck at me, because in my experience it’s a long, drawn out process.

I’ve learned a bit, though, and with the help of the FGRLS team, we’ve compiled a list of 4 holy grail do’s and don’ts.

DON’T– Rush to be on good terms

When you first break up with someone, you might feel an unhealthy rush to be on brilliant terms with your ex-partner for fear of being one of ‘those’ bitter ex-girlfriends. Fighting any negative feelings about the other person, and only remembering the good times in an effort to appear ok to the outside world is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for a fall. Even in the most ideal situations where two people simply fall out of love at the same time, it’s natural to feel anger that the relationship broke down, and you should allow yourself time to express it calmly in your own mind, or with a trusted friend.

“For me it was about being open to every emotion I was having and not feeling guilty for feeling. Hating them a little bit and not feeling bad about it, but not punishing myself if I occasionally missed them or felt nostalgic for the times we had. Falling in love with someone takes a lot so of course falling out of it will, and it’s okay to feel things that make you think you’re being pathetic (like pining for them) or a bitch (like wishing they’d fall off the face of the earth) or bitter (like stalking their new gf to check she’s not prettier than you). It’s all part and parcel of the process and trust that they will pass – one day – whenever that may be.” – Amy Beecham, FGRLS writer.

As Tessa from the Nobody Panic podcast said in their heartbreak episode, it’s like something from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Your ex looks the same, and talks the same, but they’ve adopted a completely different personality, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.  Acting on a fleeting pang of missing your ex is tempting, but during a break up it’s likely that your stance on the situation will change day by day (or hour by hour, or minute to minute), so ensure your feelings are measured before you make a decision to speak to the other party.

DO – Kiss or Shag someone else (just DO it with caution)

Pick a break-up film, any break up film, and I’ll bet my bottom dollar the lead character goes on a shagging rampage in the name of healing a broken heart. For some people, it feels empowering. It’s a fuck you to your ex – you’re not the only person that can please me, you know, I can get another man in a second. For others, it ends in tears. The only way to know how you feel about rebound sex is really to give it a go yourself, and that’s a risky business, so make sure you’re sure.

As Co-Editor Chloe, 24, warns;

“Getting back on the horse came from a need to prove that not all men would treat me badly and that I could find someone who’d treat me well. That, I wouldn’t advise. Never seek validation from men.”

If you feel like you’re ready to have sex with someone new, more power to you. If you’re hesitant at the moment and the thought of jumping between the sheets with someone new fills you with anxiety, leave it until you’re sure.

artwork by @henn_kim on instagram

DON’T – Underestimate the power of a look change

Doing something you’ve always wanted to is a great way to begin to get a little bit of yourself back when you feel like half of you is missing.

Chloe explained how a look change helped her;

My breakups from an external point of view follow the narrative of “heartbroken girl changes her hair and goes on a dating rampage”. But internally, I changed the way I looked because I’d been told for years to look a certain way, to not express myself, to not look like me. When you come out of an emotionally abusive relationship you want to shed your skin and scrub every part of them off, for me it helped to figure out who I was again. What made ME happy.

Basically, do what the fuck you want. If you want to keep the same hair, do it. If you want to shave it all off, do it. Just make sure it’s for you.

DO – Believe that time will heal everything

In the space of time it’s taken to me to get over a ‘recent’ break up, my best friend fell pregnant and then birthed an actual real-life baby. A baby that is now one month old. In the space of time it took her to grow an actual human, I was still trying to outgrow one.

There was no magical moment that I felt miraculously better about the situation, but slowly I discovered that it didn’t really hurt so much any more. That’s not to say it’s taken me ten months to get over the person I was in a relationship with, but more so of adapting to the idea that it was me out there, on my own. Some days I missed him. Most days, I’ve realised in hindsight, it was the feeling of being in the relationship that I was actually missing. Of being in love, confident that someone loved you the same way. It’s easy to confuse the two.

FGRLS writer Katie advises that is just takes time, too:

“I don’t think I specifically remember the precise moment I got over my ex. Not to say that he isn’t firmly in my past, but I didn’t have one morning where I woke up and thought “Ha, good riddance you bastard” (no matter how much I wished for it). For me the only thing that genuinely helped me move on from my last serious relationship was time. I sobbed on the kitchen floor with my Mum and drunk a whole bottle of red wine when I found out he had cheated. I bleached my hair and turned it pastel pink. I shagged a childhood boyfriend after a drunken night out and I slated him online in two extremely undignified articles. I even went back there and had the dreaded ex sex that I was convinced would magically make my feelings disappear. Turns out none of it really worked. I remember people telling me to be angry or get mad, but I think the best thing for me was to just slowly discover who I was on my own again. Hang out with friends when you feel lonely. Cry when you feel sad. Masturbate when you feel horny. Call your mum when you feel loveless. And smile when you look in the mirror ‘cause you’re lush and sometimes you have to just let time do its thing.”  

Even four like-minded girls like us have had different experiences with heartbreak, and that’s okay. During a break-up, you should do what feels right for you. Talking to friends helps, to an extent, but if their advice doesn’t sit well in your chest, don’t take it. Do consider really digging deep and working out how you feel before you make any rash decisions, however. Never have I ever sent a text to an ex at 3am when I’m a bottle of vino down that I haven’t regretted.

Most of all, know that whatever you’re feeling is completely valid. Most of us will experience a bad breakup at least once in our lives, and all it makes us is human, so don’t stress, love. Let the tears come, scream into a pillow, and for god’s sake don’t watch The Notebook.

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