The thing about heartbreak is that it’s astonishingly tough to convey. You can sing along to all the Atif Aslam songs in the world and you can sob your way through your fav rom-com. You can order the best brownies in town and bury yourself in work emails. And yet, when someone asks “how are you,” it can be hard to put a broken heart into words.
The other thing about 2020 is that we’re all heartbroken. You might not be going through a standard-issue break-up. But you could’ve lost a loved one. Or seen all your well-laid plans come to naught. Or been forced to radically change your life. Or just be compelled to be a silent witness to the relentlessness of the news. Basically, heartbreak is a familiar face this year.
Like folks at the Harvard Business Review have said, “we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has…The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.” In fact, it's entirely possible that whenever we are all vaccinated, we might have to contend with another kind of pandemic. The co-founders of a project called Modern Loss put it most eloquently — “The “third wave” of coronavirus may very well be its emotional toll, which will continue to inform our inner lives and life choices.”
So, what to do with a broken heart? How to put it back together? Whether it’s grief or old-fashioned heartbreak, how to heal?
Firstly, by acknowledging it hurts. Pardon me for sounding like a boy band from the 90s (Backstreet Boys, we still love you!), but having your heart broken is damn painful. In a 2011 study, respondents were shown a photo of their former love, and it was found that the brain responded exactly like...when someone would burn their arm! Simply put, it’s a shock to your system. So if you’re not feeling like a #bossbabe right after a break-up, cut yourself some slack. Your feelings are 100% valid!
Secondly, don’t become your feelings. We all like a good wallow. Especially when nothing in the year has gone according to plan or when a serious relationship goes bust. But experts suggest that you try and not let your emotions overwhelm you. This can mean staying active even if a workout seems like the last thing you want to do. Or, surrounding yourself with a support system, like your girl gang, old friends or family. Basically, you need a self-care action plan. (A plan which preferably doesn’t involve too much alcohol, or endless tubs of ice-cream.)
Thirdly, find a way to heal that works for you. The pandemic has meant that general ways to handle grief, or even a heartbreak, are out of the window. Funerals are now on video calls. It’s harder to get together with friends in a way that’s pandemic-proof. Which means that healing has taken different forms. For instance, poet Maggie Smith recently asked people to tell her one good thing that has happened to them in the day. You can also work on things that hold meaning for you! Like picking up a hobby you always wanted to, or taking a reading challenge, or dancing everyday.
And finally, reach out to others. Like I've said, it’s been a hard year...for everyone. And often, we have no idea what deep pain may lie behind someone’s filter-waali, happy smile. When Meghan Markle wrote about her miscarriage, and how she dealt with her grief, she wrote that perhaps the way to healing starts with a simple question. “Are you OK?”
Ask that question. To yourself, and to others around you.