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  • Writer's pictureRebecca MacFarlane

Healing Heartbreak: What My Breakup Taught Me

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

Anyone who’s ever been through a breakup knows that they are the fucking worst. Even in the most ordinary of circumstances, breakups are heart-wrenching and disorienting – but the circumstances of my breakup this year were anything but ordinary. I was on the opposite side of the planet from my home, my family, my main support system. Oh yeah, and there was a global pandemic going on. As if it wasn’t hard enough already, healing heartbreak becomes even harder when you have none of your usual distractions to help you cope. I couldn’t go get drunk and cry with sisters. I couldn’t hug my mum or cuddle my dog. It was just me out here on my own.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one who went through a breakup during this hellish time. Just a couple weeks ago, BBC reported that divorce and breakup rates have spiked worldwide during the pandemic. Even worse, relationship experts are predicting the trend will continue well into 2021.

Selfishly, the numbers are a bit of relief to me. It makes me feel better to know that even couples who have been together for years couldn’t withstand the trials of the pandemic. And, admittedly, misery does love company.

When I think back on my breakup back in June, I remember the recurring thought that kept playing on a loop in my mind: “What now?” It’s a logical question to ask; after all, your world has been rocked. Your plans for the future with your go-to person, your source of solace and support, have suddenly vanished. The rug has been ripped out from under you and you’re struggling to find your footing. Plus, depending on the nature of your relationship, you might have to handle some complex logistics. Maybe you have to move out of your place or divide up assets or figure out how to split custody of your dog. Or your kids. That’s some real adult shit I can’t even begin to wrap my head around.

For me personally, the logistics of my “what now” centred around…well, just about everything. I was in Australia with five months left on my visa. Would I go home now, with a broken heart and my tail between my legs? Would I stick it out the remainder of my current visa and then go home to Canada? Would I continue to explore all my options to extend my visa, as I had been vehemently doing when I was in the relationship in an effort to remain with my partner? Did I even want to stay now that he wasn’t in the picture?

While the logistical nightmare that ensued following my breakup was an added burden, it was nothing compared to the heartbreak. That pain. That all-consuming, can’t sleep, can’t eat, cry until you can't breathe kind of pain. The pain that feels like it’s swallowing you whole. The pain that crawls into the deepest cavity of your chest, burrowing a hole and settling in for the long haul. For what feels like the longest of hauls.

I felt angry and sad. Cheated and confused. It was then that the other recurring question began to pester me: “What if?” This one, while less logical, is still very common to ask; it’s natural to wonder what could have happened, what would have happened if you had done even one thing differently. After a while, though, you realize how ultimately futile this practice is. You can’t go backwards. Only forward.

Even if I could go back, I can’t say I would jump at the opportunity to re-experience that heartbreak. In all honesty, you probably couldn’t pay me to. That said, it did teach me some valuable lessons for which I’m exceedingly grateful.

For one, some things are meant to hurt that much. Sometimes, when something rattles you so deeply, it’s a sign that it was worth having in the first place. That it carried weight and meaning. That you allowed yourself to be free and vulnerable enough to get hurt. While that kind of vulnerability is scary as hell, it’s also necessary – and magnificent.

It also taught me that, just because some things don’t last forever, doesn’t mean that you failed. For some reason, as a society, we tend to hold relationships to the near-impossible standard of forever. In other words, when a relationship comes to an end, we see it as a failure. Sure, it’s usually painful and difficult but…a failure? Seems extreme. After all, why do we get into relationships in the first place? To experience love and companionship, to learn from one another, to make each other happy. Ideally, every relationship you have will bring you at least some of those joys. Just because it comes to an end doesn’t erase that it ever happened and that, at one point, it was magical.

More than anything, if this breakup reminded me of anything, it’s that relationships – from beginning to end – are so incredibly varied and complex. Some are steady and strong, capable of withstanding the trials of time and distance. Others are fierce and fleeting. Brief but beautiful. The thing they have in common is that they all have a place and a purpose in your life. To hurt or to heal. To cherish or to change. To last or to leave.

At the end of the day, these people and the relationships you have with them were meant for you. The hard reality is that they just weren’t meant for forever.

As we stand on the precipice of a new year, ready to ride a new wave of change, it’s important to remember that. To go into this new year with every intention of holding onto to the people who are meant for us, letting go of those who aren’t, and finding solace in knowing that we are enough all on our own – no matter who comes and goes.

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