Small Life, Slow Life: The Modern-day Breakup Kit.

A really close friend just recently went through an earth-shattering, out-of-the-blue breakup. It happened on a Friday and she called me on Saturday morning.

“I read your blog,” she said tearfully.
“Oh geez, don’t do that!” I said, feeling like those blogs from so long ago couldn’t possibly help anyone now.

It made me think about how people still come to this blog for breakups, and that I haven’t said much about breakups in the last 5+ years. I realized it was time to update with some fresh resources, spurred by the advice + comfort I wanted to give my friend.

Her breakup was almost three weeks ago (and since then they’re working on reconciling). But after being there for her during some of the darker days, I’ve been thinking about breakups again…how people always seem to come to me during them, how this seems to be an occurrence in life that I am uniquely suited to help people with.

First of all, my own breakup was over 8 and a half years ago now, which is crazy, because I can so acutely still remember what those early days felt like. How grief makes everything slow and unbearable. How the pain is actually physical.

As I was helping my friend with her breakup, I thought about what I would have needed during mine to heal at a faster pace. And I think that’s where some of my advice differs from when I wrote that famous post eight years ago. (It is still the top-visited post on my site, by far, having been viewed by over 300,000 people, millions of times — which is just CRAZY to me!)

The first thing I did for my friend was to buy her How to Survive the Loss of a Love (linked below). It’s old now, and it needs to be updated, but I remember an early breakup in my twenties was that it was the ONLY book that helped me. I flipped through it again before I gave it to her and I still think it’s exactly what you need (once you’re ready to accept what’s happened) to get through a bad breakup.

Then I got to thinking: If I were to make someone a modern-day breakup kit, what would it have in it?

So this is what it would be.

  • Books:
  • Sleep — do whatever you need to do to get it (within reason). Your body is going through a terrible shock, which is exhausting all by itself. Add lack of sleep to that and it can actually be dangerous. Do what you need to do to unwind before bed — meditation, no screens, or a hot bath. Try melatonin, or an over-the-counter sleep aid. I asked my mom what to do when my brother died and I couldn’t sleep. “Just take NyQuil,” she said. “Three days on, one day off.” It was what I had, so it worked for me — probably you could take a sleep-aid too, but NyQuil will help you breathe if you’ve been doing a lot of crying. (Obviously I don’t recommend self-medicating for long periods of time, so please be reasonable, but during the first two weeks, do whatever you need to do to get some sleep.)
  • Bananas. Yes, bananas! It’s the only food I can eat when I’m super devastated that I won’t immediately throw back up. My friend has been eating a lot of hashbrowns. Think simple starches to keep you from passing out.
  • Two clean spoons in the freezer every night to decompress your swollen eyes in the morning. Or you could also use a bag of frozen vegetables or an eye mask like this one.
  • Water, or something with electrolytes, like coconut water. If you can’t eat, at least drink. Again…it’s a lot of crying.
  • This is a non-negotiable: you need one, true, REALLY good friend who agrees to be your partner during this trauma and will not consider your long-winded texts a burden and doesn’t get drained by listening to you. You are going to be Saddy McSadsad for WEEKS — this needs to be someone you trust DEEPLY who will see you through to the other side. Ideally, this person should be sending you good morning and good night texts, be available for a one-hour phone call most days, and also just check in on you randomly, because this is what you need. They need to not mind if you repeat the story 10,000 times, because again, this is what you need. Ideally, this person should have survived a devastating breakup of their own as a pre-requisite.
  • If you don’t have a friend like this, do some therapy over Zoom to get through the first four weeks. (You can also do this even if you have a good breakup friend. I went to therapy twice a week for four months to get through my big breakup.)
  • A good sad playlist for when you need to wring your heart out and grieve. Spotify has one called “Sad Bops” if you don’t have one of your own.
  • On that note, take long periods of silence too. Music can be really triggering initially.
  • A journal solely dedicated for this time period. My friend actually used the Notes app on her iPhone and eventually built a huge document. Writing out her feelings, and what she wanted to say to him, was extremely cathartic for her and I actually think it accelerated her healing. It also kept her from reaching out to him, which is a plus if you’re the one who’s been dumped.
  • I think my blog on what to do when your world just exploded still holds up. (Fun fact: I wrote this in the actual pit of despair during my breakup, about one week after it happened. I wrote it as much for myself as I did for you.)
  • Movies that cheer you up that hopefully aren’t romantically charged…or alternatively, movies that deal with breakups themselves. Two go-tos for me are Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (so silly, it’s my favorite) and more recently, I saw The Sound of Metal, which deals with navigating profound loss.
  • On that note, when I’m super down, I watch game shows, specifically Wheel of Fortune. I’m not kidding — I have seriously done this during every sad period of my life. Not a lot of chance to be triggered by happy couple storylines in game shows! During a different sad time, Food Network can be credited with actually saving my life. I got a weird taste for watching Rachel Ray, only during that time period, and never again since.
  • Everything cozy. When my brother died, my friend Amelia dropped off her favorite cozy blanket from Target. She gives it to all of her friends who are suffering. I also only wear comfy, non-restricting clothes when I’m grieving.
  • Lastly, you need a TON of inspirational images on your phone to scroll through so that you don’t just look at your ex’s social media or old pictures of you two. Don’t have any images? Great, I’ve got you covered:
credit: @peopleIveLoved on Instagram
I still believe this is true. 😦
credit: @peopleIveLoved on Instagram

Is there anything you’d add to this list? I’m happy to keep it as a working document full of things that will help others who are suffering. If something really helped you through a breakup, please let me know!

Sending you so much love during this difficult time.


6 thoughts on “Small Life, Slow Life: The Modern-day Breakup Kit.

  1. Hi Jen

    Here we are again with another post🙂 I’ve returned to you blog so often in the last few weeks to see if you write anything new, to find comfort from your posts and other people’s comments. It’s been almost two months since my break up occurred, I wrote to you, you answered like you have always done with others. Although the intense of the pain has been subsided a lot, I still find myself crying every now and then. Guess what,I’ve become so compassionate with people around me who are also going through pain, whether it’s a breakup, a family loss, or their cat got ill and die. I feel their pain just like mine, I even comfort them while coping with my own and it HELPS me to ease my pain! The other day a friend called me telling about her freshly breakup, I told her I feel her pain, and I told her to read your blog🙂

    Before finishing my comment, may you please let me ask you two questions as I would like to hear from your perspective :

    It’s been 7 weeks radio silence from both sides. By all means I DON’T and WON’T plan reach out to him ever. But a part of me have wondered will I ever hear from him again?

    We still follow each other on Instagram and friends on Facebook. Though he seldom posts anything while I’m the one more active. Not that I post a lot, mostly happy moments of me when going somewhere, when I baked and cooked something nice or sceneries and he LIKES ever one of them. Not only that he watches all my stories as well, never missed one and has always been one of the first watches them. If I said I didn’t do it deliberately, I would be a liar to you, which I don’t want. But part of me seeing what he does gives me the comfort of he still cares ( at least how I think). What is your thought on this?

    I send you lots of love, too. You know you have a loyal reader, a fan, a friend from Switzerland , so just you know!🤗❤

    • Seven weeks isn’t that long in the scheme of things. It was three months before I heard from C for the first time, and four months before he began to reach out regularly. Will you ever hear from him again? Statistically speaking, most (80%) of exes reach out at some point. It really depends on where he is in his life. If he’s still watching your stories every day and liking your posts, I would actually shift your thinking to realize that you are ALREADY hearing from him. You’re hearing from him via his attention.

      I’ve told you my thought on this before — he can’t really come back until you let him go. While you’re hooked on getting his attention via social media, you’re not letting him go. I would remove him as a friend and block him from Instagram, immediately. If he asks you why, tell him it’s because you’re moving on with your life and it bothers you that he’ll watch your stories but not check up on you.

      I know it sounds harsh, but I say it with love.

      • It doesn’t sound harsh Jen, you just woke me up from being in my bubble. The bubble of getting his attention via social media. To be frank, it’s like a slap across my face to only realize how many times I was anxiously waiting for his “like” after posting something, or constantly checked the watching list just to see had he already seen what I show in my stories…Jen, it brought me to tears, I’m much more worth than someone’s “like” button, how could I not see that…

        In the midst of this heart wrenching time, I do need someone like you, to point out what wrong have I done to delay my healing…

        Thank you Jen!
        Much love

  2. Hi Jen, I’m a long-term lurker and a first-time commenter.

    I thought of you the other day and to my surprise you posted this. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect honestly. I’m in the midst of a break-up and I feel downright miserable. The 24th made four months since the break-up and the 22nd made two months since we last spoke.

    Our last conversation took place nearly two months after the break-up. It was downright horrid. I suffer from anxiety and he knows this. I ended up hospitalized over it and I called him from there as I had avoided seeing him two days before. He was livid, telling me so many awful things, including that he had no romantic feelings for me anymore, didn’t want to be friends, and mainly that he didn’t want to deal with me anymore in any way, shape, or form. He then went on about how we would eventually see one another as we have way too many friends in common and we generally run in the same circles. Heck, we both write food reviews and met on a food review website. I am still friends with him on there and I haven’t blocked him, but I’m wondering if I should. I don’t want to seem hurt, but this is beginning to mess with me.

    It’s been four months and I think he’s already seeing someone else, a mutual acquaintance who is more his than mine. I feel lied to and deceived. He went on and on about his need to be alone when we broke up, as he hasn’t been alone for more than four/five months in the past ten years, but now I see all that is a load of poppycock. Heck, he did this to his ex before me and we were acquainted and got along relatively well. It was only months into the relationship he and I had that she sent him to hell (as they had stayed friends), She removed me from her friends’ list as a result, but eh, we are fine now and she’s happy with her life.

    I have no idea if you’ll ever read this. Heck, I’m not expecting you to, much less give advice, but I want you to know that while it may surprise you, your blog has changed lives. I cannot tell you how many break-ups I’ve gone through the years and I always remember your blog. Somehow your words have gotten to me more than anyone else. I know you’re happily married to C and have a daughter, V, and I can’t tell you how happy I am for you. I may not know you personally, but through your blog, I feel as if I have known you forever. Your words to me feel like that of a close friend, a friend I’ve been with through thick and thin. I thank you profusely for this. It’s nice to know you’re not alone.

    I wish you and your family many blessings. Also, a much belated condolences message to you about your brother. While I may not have siblings, I have lost my parents, and grief is terrible, regardless of where it comes from. If I can ever help you even in a bit of what you’ve helped me, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

    For now, keep on writing. You truly have a gift, and more so, a wonderful heart.

    • Hi Twists + Turns —

      It sounds like it’s been a really tough time. Reaching out and giving your hand a squeeze. I’ve been there. Of course I read comments on this blog, and I do my best to respond to them all. ❤ Thank you for writing to me. Let's just look at what you CAN control in this situation, since there's a lot of it which is out of your control.

      "I don't want to seem hurt, but this is beginning to mess with me."
      Why wouldn't you want to seem hurt? It's only been four months since you broke up — it sounds like the breakup was traumatic — and he's potentially already dating someone new. It's okay if you seem hurt! I want to challenge the myth with any kind of grief that we immediately need to look like we're pulling up our bootstraps and moving on. It's okay to be hurt. It's okay if he knows you're hurt. If you block him on the site, he also may very well assume that you're NOT hurt, but just pissed at him for how he treated you, which, by the way, you'd be 100% justified in feeling.
      So I say block him, because it's messing with you, and it's something you can control. Plus he'll notice it and it'll mess with his mind a little, which is always a plus. 😉

      You *think* he's seeing someone else, but you don't really know. This is an area where I would encourage you to spend LESS of your mental energy. Because whether he is or isn't, you can't control it. Also, if he's only been alone for a few months out of the last ten years, that's a red flag on its own (I know you know) — think about all the baggage + issues he's now passing onto this poor girl (potentially). Wish her well in your mind and don't worry about if he's with her or not. If he is with her, she deserves our sympathy rather than our jealousy. The only thing we can control now is YOU, and you feeling better.

      I'm not surprised that he told you he didn't want to deal with you in any way, shape or form. This is a guy who runs from girl to girl, avoiding his issues and all the thoughts that rise to the surface when he's alone. You were actually feeling your feelings, recognizing you needed help and coping with your anxiety. All of this would feel toxic to him, since he doesn't know how to do those things himself. It doesn't surprise me that he lashed out.

      This is not a guy you want to get back. This is not someone you want to contact you. Work every day a little bit on processing your grief + letting him go. A bigger, kinder love is out there for you. I promise.

      Love, Jen

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