How to heal a broken heart (trust me, I know)

As divorce rates spike, love is getting harder in the time of coronavirus. Rosie Green shares the lessons she learned when her husband of 15 years ended their marriage

Hearts, flowers, images of perfect couples, a gazillion gushing love declarations jumping out from your phone screen; Valentine’s Day can feel like a celebration of love, a marketing opportunity or, if you are in the newly heartbroken camp, a sucker punch to the gut.

If you spent the weekend feeling lost — you’re not alone. In fact, thanks to Covid and lockdown, the size of the latter group has increased. Hugely.

The pandemic may have strengthened lots of relationships (thanks to more time together, less with any one else), but it also has brought failing ones into sharp relief (thanks to more time together, less with anyone else).

Lockdown is testing. Financial pressures are ramped up and parenting disparities highlighted (are you a lesson planner or a PlayStation-as-childcare advocate?). Any distractions from ailing love, like going out with friends, daily gym sessions or the water-cooler chat at the office, are off limits. Any cracks are in plain sight.

Hearts, flowers, images of perfect couples, a gazillion gushing love declarations jumping out from your phone screen; Valentine’s Day can feel like a celebration of love, a marketing opportunity or, if you are in the newly heartbroken camp, a sucker punch to the gut.

If you spent the weekend feeling lost — you’re not alone. In fact, thanks to Covid and lockdown, the size of the latter group has increased. Hugely.

The pandemic may have strengthened lots of relationships (thanks to more time together, less with any one else), but it also has brought failing ones into sharp relief (thanks to more time together, less with anyone else).

Lockdown is testing. Financial pressures are ramped up and parenting disparities highlighted (are you a lesson planner or a PlayStation-as-childcare advocate?). Any distractions from ailing love, like going out with friends, daily gym sessions or the water-cooler chat at the office, are off limits. Any cracks are in plain sight.

Which is why I have written a book called How To Heal a Broken Heart. Because when mine was smashed into a million pieces there was nothing on the shelves that spoke to me, that offered a story I could relate to and advice I could adhere to.

I wanted to read something that would offer me comfort in the darkest of times and give me hope that brighter ones were coming. I wanted practical advice to get me out of the black hole I was in and to give me the tools and advice I needed to emerge from it all stronger, happier and more self aware.

My husband and I had been together for 26 years, married for 15, when he said he wanted out. I was blind-sided. Devastated. Broken.

I lost two stone. And my mind. I was determined to be honest about the rejection. Nobody likes to talk about being dumped because, well, it’s not great for the ego. It’s much more palatable to one’s self-esteem to say it was a conscious uncoupling.

But it’s not helpful to others going through it. Others who think they won’t survive another day, that no-one will ever love them again, that the future will consist of a life time of day-time telly with only a mangy Alsatian for company.

When I wrote about my heartbreak I was overwhelmed by the response. So many people found such comfort in hearing my story. They started writing and messaging me to share theirs. With their permission I started putting their words on my Instagram and in the responses they found clarity and strength. I also interviewed the experts on the effect heartbreak has on the brain and the body. And I found it incredibly comforting to know that, though everyone’s experience is different, recovery from heartbreak follows a well-trodden path.

Like grief, you progress through stages like shock, anger, denial and growth. You may skip some, or progress faster or slower through others, but it is a universal journey.

I know from the thousands of messages I get that lockdown is a terrible time to experience a split. You can’t get reassurance from friends, the comfort of hugs from family or the self-esteem boost of dates. I want to help fill that void, provide the humour (just ask me about sex), advice and the hope you need to get through it.

Moving on: your heartbreak toolkit

1. Understand your brain

Your subconscious makes choices that sabotage your recovery. Research shows in a split you crave your ex as strongly as an addict does drugs. So treat your break up like a withdrawal process: go cold turkey and cut off contact with your partner. If you can’t do this (kids/property/etc) create a “functionally friendly” relationship where you don’t emotionally engage with them.

2. Create your own certainties

Hypnotherapist, NLP practitioner and master coach Malminder Gill says we feel more anxiety over uncertainty than we do about negative experiences when they actually happen. Which is why we often call time on relationships before we get dumped. If you know it’s over, end it. That way you get some control back and start the recovery process.

3. Visualise the future

This might sound woo-woo but it works. Take some time out and imagine what you want from life. Is it a cosy home, a fulfilling career, a new partner? Think about what that really looks like, in detail — it increases the possibility of it happening.

4. Make your home cosy and warm

Yoga and somatics teacher Nahid de Belgeonne made me realise that it’s much harder to be stressed and anxious when you are physically comfortable. So get the cosy blanket out of the drawer, light the fire and buy some fluffy slippers. Or: light that candle that’s still got the dust film on top. You think these little things are frivolous but they are a sign that you are being kind to yourself. And you need kindness right now.

5. Flirt online

Online dating wisely can help you focus on moving forward. Divorce coach Sara Davison thinks you can’t underestimate the confidence-boosting impact of getting likes online. “Often it represents a complete shift from the disempowering and limiting thought process of ‘nobody will ever love me again’ to seeing evidence that people can and do like you in that way.”

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