You’ve swapped your lacy knickers for ones big enough to encompass the pain in your heart. You’ve made three drunk calls in the space of an hour. You’ve exhausted both your friends and your eyeballs with your incessant and slightly manic crying. You’ve written several haikus about love, only to realise you’ve confused haikus with limericks. You haven’t washed in a week and people are starting to hold their noses when they pass you in the street.
And as you lie alone in bed, exhausted from watching Love Actually on loop, you can’t help but ask yourself: “When will I become normal again?”
It’s not nice when people belittle the pain of a broken heart. Oh, I know the heart can’t technically break and you’ll get over it eventually, but that can takes YEARS of misery and angst. Luckily for you, I’ve read a ton of books about love and may have even experienced the torment of it myself. I am therefore adequately qualified in advising you on how to handle the following lonely months in a manner that will lead you back into normal sized knickers in no time.
Emotions don’t always appropriately correspond with life events. Sometimes misery can bite you on the bottom for the strangest reason, and you end up having to sneak into a public toilet for a cry. When someone comes looking for you, eager to find out what on earth the matter is, you find that it is not something you can articulate.
It is, however, very easy to talk about having a broken heart. We are taught by television and films that love is a Very Big Deal. We are conditioned to react to break-ups as one would normally react to a hurricane. When my first boyfriend dumped me after two weeks, I wasn’t all that bothered. In fact, I found the concept of having an ex-boyfriend thoroughly novel. This didn’t stop my friends from showering me with excessive love. They bought me sandwiches when I was hungry and constantly enquired about my welfare. It was like Christmas, only sunny.
My point is, people expect you to express sadness when you’re suffering from a broken heart. Humans (especially English ones) can get uncomfortable around emotion, but pretty much everyone understands the agony of love, regardless of whether they’ve actually experienced it. Make the most of this disorienting period and cry whenever the mood takes you. Allow your friends to visit you with presents. Act in a manner that is usually socially unacceptable, purely because you can.
It can be difficult to break years of social conditioning and openly wallow in grief.
If you’re struggling to let out the tears, then pop on Lauryn Hill’s Ex Factor. Pretend you’re the tragic heroine of a rom-com. Play around with stereotypes and eat something other than ice-cream straight from the tub (you can never go wrong with hummus).
So if you’re going to be sad, then do it properly. Now head down to the local shops to stack up on tissues and snacks.
Soon you’ll run out of waterproof mascara, causing you to snap out of the whole modern Electra act. But instead of becoming normal again, you’ll transform into a big lady-hulk. I fully endorse post-break-up anger, which results in fun activities like drinking and buying impractical clothes.
If you have been dumped, rejected, or simply not given the respect that you deserve, then channelling you inner diva will be easy. Download the following songs to help you on your way: I hate you so much right now by Kelis, Fighter by Christina Aguilera, and Survivor by Destiny’s Child. Take the listening experience a step further and indulge in the best form of procrastination: YouTube Karaoke. When I had an iPhone, I would record myself and then play it back before I went to sleep at night. Oh, how I loved my little out-of-tune lullabies. Then I dropped my iPhone down the toilet, and now I cover my ears with sheets of paper to find out how my voice really sounds. This hasn’t got much to do with getting angry, it’s just a little tip for having fun. Back to you and your misery.
If you do feel like there are genuine unresolved issues between you and your ex, then by all means address them face-to-face, but not at this stage of your mourning. You will only be hysterical and possibly inebriated, and that will lead to weeping and then possibly some make-up sex. That is not what we are after here. Acknowledge your grievances and deal with them by treating yourself with the love that you were previously denied.
But maybe you aren’t a woman wronged. Maybe you initiated the break-up, or maybe it was a mutual decision. This doesn’t make the situation any less painful, but it does complicate the healing process. When I saw Beyonce at Glastonbury, I spent the whole time inwardly cursing God for never blessing me with a good-for-nothing scumbag cheating boyfriend. My karaoke version of Irreplaceable lacks any authenticity.
But don’t think that you can’t get angry just because of the nature of your break-up. Be irrational and seethe over everything the other person did that contributed to the end of your love.
Don’t get bitter, but allow your grief to evolve into something a little more fiery. Soon the embers of rage will die out and you’ll be left feeling a whole lot better.
People bang on about love like it’s the best thing since the invention of the microwave. What they fail to acknowledge is how frustratingly time consuming being in love actually is. It’s a big commitment that requires numerous sacrifices.
So… have you ever read Kafka? No? Well what’s stopping you? You’ve got to fill up all that empty time somehow! Don’t actually read Kafka, as he is very depressing and will do nothing to make you feel better about life. Save that for when you’re in a more emotionally stable place perhaps.
You could learn to knit though, or take up professional archery. You could become a superfan of something, as I hear that’s quite time consuming.
Do, however, bear in mind that many people skip the grieving process and lunge themselves into bizarre hobbies as soon as they experience singledom. There’s nothing wrong with this, but don’t be surprised if you’re half-way up Kilimanjaro before realising that you don’t even like heights, and you’re only embarking on such a journey because your exes’ haircut reminded you of a mountain. You may then have a full-blown snotty breakdown in the snow. Don’t be ashamed, just let it happen. We can’t force ourselves to feel the proper emotions at the proper times, even if we do have the right songs on our iPods.
I don’t really know what to advise you for this step. Don’t start throwing rocks at me. I’m not Jesus, I can’t be expected to know everything. Maybe if you sent a cheque in the post I’d try harder.
But don’t run off to the self-help section of a library just because I’m being useless. Self-help is bad advice dressed up as philosophy. You know yourself the best, and you know what you need to do in order to feel better.
They say that it takes half the duration of a relationship to get over it, but I know that’s not true. A week-long fling may manifest itself as a seven year trauma, and a three year relationship may only require a fortnight of quiet mourning. Films like The Notebook imply that love transcends everything, and this simply isn’t true. It’s an important part of life, but not a fundamental part. You don’t need to meet someone else to be happy. Concentrate on that mountain climbing career. Knit me a jumper for Christmas. Take a writing class and learn how to channel that grief into beautiful art. Start listening to The Go! Team. I don’t know if they sing about love, because I don’t understand a word of their songs. The melodies are happy though. Good luck, my teary comrade. Let me know how it goes.
Written by Phoebe Eccles