It takes a village: dissecting heartbreak
I recently read Dolly Alderton’s “Everything I know about Love” and honestly, if you haven’t read it yet, please do. It made me think hard about the way I have navigated love throughout my life so far, all (nearly) 31 years of it. Dolly described watching heartbreak unfold in her best friend and it got me thinking about the ways we can all help each other when one of our closest is nursing a broken heart.
Have you ever had your heart broken? I’m not just talking about romantic relationships. I’m talking about losing someone, a friend, family or having to navigate a situation so difficult that it’s broken your heart. Heartbreak isn’t just for your boyfriend or girlfriend. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve experienced heartbreak on a romantic level and on other levels. They vary in degrees in of intensity but both, fucking hurt. So let’s talk about how to help a broken heart.
I’ll talk to you about my romantic heartbreak because that’s easier to discuss, since I’m out the other side of it.
I started my little life in the world of high school as what many refer to as “an ugly duckling” gangly, flat chested, a bit goofy from sucking my thumb endlessly, timid and an all round easy target token friend. Which as you can imagine brought me absolutely zero positive attention from boys. They frightened the life out of me anyway, but still, nothing like feeling ugly at the tender age of 14.
Things changed for me when I got to college, the Summer between high school and college was where I think I started to blossom into what I would always become. My boobs grew slightly, I’d had braces to sort out my goofy teeth, I got my hair highlighted and I found a group of friends who lived on my road who were actual friends, with really great traits. I had my first kiss that summer in my garage with a boy who was 3 years younger than me, and way more experienced.
College was an eye-opening experience. If we’re going to reference a current affair, ahem, Love Island, I was Megan at college. BOY CRAZY. The sun rose and set with boys, they were all I needed and all I wanted to be around. It was an entirely new Lindsey, and I didn’t know what to do with male attention so naturally, I took it all.
By the time I got to university I’d settled into myself a bit more and had got my good girls around me. Who are still my number 1’s today.
This is where I met my first proper boyfriend. We were together for 6 years, lived together, etc. I was the driving force behind everything we did in that relationship and to be honest, I was desperate for commitment in the form of a ring on my finger and a baby. Talk about pushy. I lived my life for and around him and the only other thing I did was go to work. I always wondered why I was so anxious, why I was so desperate for commitment. Then it clicked, it’s because he didn’t want those things from me and wasn’t brave enough to tell me, so 6 years later it all came crashing down off the back of an argument and I haven’t seen him since. I moved back in with my parents and my dad stayed up all night with me one night whilst we re-decorated my old bedroom so I could really have a space for myself, no matter how long I would be staying. My family and friends rallied round me like nothing you’ve ever seen in your damn life. There was Laura, who quite literally scooped me up and made sure I was okay at every opportunity and would have me round to stay so I could eat her and her husband out of house and home any time I liked, which was often. There was Lucy & Chris who insisted I join their trip with their friends to New York a couple of months post break up, and I don’t think they know how much that did for me. And the way that Lucy’s husband Chris was in Manchester for work overnight so took me to an Adidas trainer exhibition and out for dinner because he knew how much I was struggling. Kindness like that makes me cry as I remember it.
I started a brand new job the day after we broke up, I went straight to my manager and told her what had happened, that it wouldn’t affect my ability to do my job, but not to worry if she caught me sobbing in the loo. I needed to own it and control it, and I sure as fuck wasn’t going to let it ruin anything else in my life. My new team at work were nothing short of amazing, and they always say to me now, that the journey they saw from day 1 broken-Physio-Lindsey to years on, dating, coming straight into work from a successful date (in the most professional way possible of course) was amazing. They had my back and literally held my hand throughout. I owe them so much.
I won’t lie to you and tell you that it didn’t take long for me to get over this relationship. At first it felt okay, because I made sure I was busy and distracted at all times. I went on my first date 3 weeks after we split and it was exactly what I needed. The cracks started to show in new relationships, and when anyone got close I fucking legged it.
The way I navigated my broken heart, in a nutshell was:
I drank a lot initially, went out a couple of times mid week and every weekend- (not the most sound advice but everyone needs a blow out and this was mine. Limit the alcohol and stick to dancing!)
+ I concerned myself with dating men, which did wonders for my confidence
+ I saw so much of my friends that there wasn’t a toilet habit we didn’t know about
+ I booked holidays
+ I booked festivals
+ I made endless plans and time for myself
+ I saw those bands that I loved
+ I went to the cinema on my own
+ I went for walks on my own
+ I didn’t mold myself around anyone else
+ I was selfish, I cared about myself, and it felt nice
Have you ever supported someone going through heartbreak? Like really, really been there? Or did you find it all too difficult to know what they needed when they really didn’t? Whatever your answer was, it’s okay. Whether we’ve been through it ourselves or had to watch someone close to us navigate the destruction that a broken heart leaves behind, I wanted to talk about it because we all deal with things so differently.
I hope that writing about how I managed it has helped you even the tiniest bit. If you’re trying to help someone with a broken heart, you don’t need to orchestrate grand gestures to let them know you love them. It’s that text first thing in the morning and last thing at night, it’s that hilarious notecard you send in the post just because you know it will crack them up, it’s listening, it’s making sure they know you’re always there regardless of the hour (even if they don’t use the offer).
I’ll be 4 years out of that relationship this October, and the kindest thing he ever did for me, was to let it end that day. I wasn’t myself, in fact, I didn’t know who I was and now, I really, really do. It’s taken a long time and a lot of failed relationships in between then and now for me to fully understand why it didn’t work, to learn about myself, to learn about who my best friends are, and to see that honestly, it takes A VILLAGE to mend a broken heart. I’m happy, healthy and full of love, not just for others but for myself too.