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.
- How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Peter McWilliams
- The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz (this has a lot to do with how we look at love, how we lose love, and how we can learn to be good at love)
- How to Heal Heartbreak by Carissa Potter (@peopleIveLoved on Insta) — shipping March 1, 2021
- Griever’s note: try Audible if your eyes are too swollen from crying!
- 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:
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.