Breakups: 5 ways to keep your sanity (and help heal your heart)

It’s been nine years since the shittiest break-up in the universe was aired on Sex and The City. You remember. In season 6, episode 7, when the dude (Jack Burger) Carrie was just talking to her BFFs about ending it with (unbeknownst to him) beat her to the punch by splitting in the middle of the night, leaving a seven word break-up post-it in the dust. Yea, that break-up.

“I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me.”

Sure, its fiction, but being a die-hard SATC fan, I felt a little something when Carrie whacked that vase of carnations to the floor after her discovery. A wave of sorrow, anger, frustration, and empathy crept through my bones and I was once again impressed with how the writers of the show were able to hit a nerve.

Most of us have been there. Whether on a post-it (or these days, text message – both are equally gross), email, phone call or gasp in person, being told our love-partner wants out is one of the scariest and heart-breaking moments in our lives (surpassed only by the feeling you get when a nurse calls to schedule a timely in-person appointment – because your test results can’t be discussed over the phone – but that’s another level of scary).

Some would say the pain of a break-up is (in some ways) even harder to survive than losing a loved one to death. With loss of life, you have the brutal fact that the person is physically gone from this world – and however painful the process of accepting this fact – it’s that much harder to have the knowledge that your lost love is still walking around. Happy. Without you.

I remember my first heart-wrenching break-up. I was in my late 20s and we had been living together for a couple of years. After accepting a job offer out-of-state, my guy shared with me the news, in addition to letting me know he was going to be moving there alone. Nothing says “I love you, but not that much” like the absence of factoring you in the equation of re-locating your life.

“Welcome to the broken hearts club” My best friend reassured. “It’s sucks, and you can feel your heart being shredded to pieces, but we all survived – and you will too.”

Sobbing, hyperventilating, and more sobbing.

“YES. My heart…I can literally feel it breaking!” Pulverized, I tell you.

“What do you think all those movies, love songs and television shows are about? It’s shitty. But you will survive, I promise.”

She was right, I did make it through, but only after dropping a shit-load of weight, countless hangovers and lots and lots of time.

If Google were around back then, I’d have spent thousands of obsessive hours surfing blogs for answers (or at the very least, suggestions) on how to heal the fragments of what was once my whole and happy heart.

Nowadays, we have people like Greg Behrendt, co-author of It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken to hold our hand and tickle our funny bone (yes, you can laugh while going through heartache). One of my favorites:

“Even with all the mayonnaise in the world, you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.”   ― Greg Behrendt

If you are one of the millions of us card-carrying Broken Hearts Club members, who just so happen to be treading in a sea of anguish with a recent break-up, I can’t recommend Greg’s book enough.

And in addition to a little light reading while you sob the hours away (totally healthy, by the way), I’ve compiled a list of ways to help you ease the pain a bit:

Make a WON’T MISS list

I know we all like to believe our significant others were flawless, near-perfect peeps. But there’s no time like the present to take those orgasm-colored classes off and identify his/her many flaws. Did they correct your grammar? Talk over you? Chew with their mouth open? Leave dirty socks on the floor? Have you ever made excuses for their behavior? Write that shit down, and on the top of the page in bold letters, write WON’T MISS.


Congratulations! You have more free time. Book as much of it as possible with your close friends. You know the ones. Those loving souls who take us in, talk us off the ledge, remind us how fabulous we are, and won’t give you too much shit for obsessing.

Find your laugh

It’s a scientific fact that laughter really does heal our torn up insides – if only for a second. It’s worth it to hit up some local comedy clubs with your friends. Even if the comics suck, you’ll still have a good time laughing with your company – probably at the fact that certain people think they’re funny. If you don’t have any comedy clubs in your hood, You Tube some shit. You can’t go wrong with Googling “funniest comedians” and hitting up their clips on-line. Three of my personal faves? Classic George Carlin, Louis CK, Amy Schumer.

Also – don’t forget funny movies, TV shows and books. There are some real gems out there that are sure to help you find your happy again.

Feel it

If anyone knows about numbing the pain, it’s drug addicts. I’ve spent the better part of a decade anesthetizing myself. There are a couple of major reasons why this doesn’t work:

  • You cannot selectively numb. When you block out pain, you can also say good-bye to joy. And when going through a break-up, you need as much happy as you can muster.
  • Numbing is temporary. There’s nothing like licking your wounds from a broken relationship with a monster hangover. Even if your way of numbing pain is through comfort food – you will still need to process the muggy waters of shame, disgust and guilt you feel (a “food hangover”) after all those fries and doughnuts. Same goes for shopping – “buyers remorse” aint fun, and will bring on new anxiety and panic attacks. Good times.

Stand your ground

You are not a jellyfish. You and your spine need to suck it up and accept the harsh reality that it’s over, and it’s time to move on. This means NO drunk dialing (or texting, emailing, etc.), NO blaming yourself (it takes two – always), and absolutely NO settling for scraps (no matter how much you think it’s NOT a booty call).  This is one of the hardest things to do, I know. And if you DO have a slip up – it’s crucial to forgive yourself and get right back on the road to recovery.

Let it breathe

It may feel like a good idea to sign up for, J Date, E Harmony, Christian Singles, or whatever match-making service floats your boat. But trust me on this. If the wound is fresh, don’t pick the scab. You need time to be on your own, find your independent, fabulous strong self before even thinking about allowing a new person in your love den. This is where masturbating really comes in handy (pardon the pun…and sorry, mom).

* * *

Post-it note…or long, drawn out talks, it doesn’t really matter how this new chapter of your life happened. If you’re going through a hard time with a breakup, there’s no easy way out. But the operative word here is “out”.

Here’s the part where you tell me: what have you done to help yourself (or someone you love) through a breakup?

4 thoughts on “Breakups: 5 ways to keep your sanity (and help heal your heart)

  1. Haven’t dealt with a breakup in a long time but I experienced pain and depression when our dog died. I found it really helpful to talk about it to people who understood what I was going through and to make lots of plans with my nicest, most positive friends. Even though the last thing I felt like doing was being with others, I found that it really helped me momentarily forget about my sadness, and I would laugh and feel more hopeful… Until I got home again, and then I would feel unbelievable sadness again. But the pain does eventually diminish, with each day, even though at first it feels as though it never will.


  2. After I read “He’s Just Not That into You,” I wished it had been issued to me in junior high. Every girl should read that book and it sounds like his breakup book is just as good.

    Little comforts were often really helpful to me when I was going through breakups. I had the entire SATC series on DVD and I’d watch that for hours, while cuddled up on my couch eating French toast (sometimes for dinner). A good chick lit book usually made me feel a little better too. I think on some level I was able to live vicariously through the characters and start believing maybe there was something else – some other path – out there for me.


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