Breakups are honestly the worst. I endured my worst breakup in October of 2017, a messy ending to a long-term relationship. I affectionately named that period of my life “The Dark Ages.” I was dumped right before my graduate program’s comprehensive exams, one semester before graduation. After reviewing pages upon pages of course material, I’d take a break to cry, find a moment to recollect myself, and do it all over again. The timing could not have been worse.
In order to survive, I attended weekly therapy appointments, checked in daily on a breakup app called Mend and poured my heart into my Passion Planner. Passion Planner asked me so many questions that I struggled to answer at the height of my heartbreak.
“If you could be anything, do anything, or have anything, what would it be?”
“What goal is going to make the most positive impact on your life right now?”
“What or who are you especially grateful for this past month?”
I was unclear on the answers to these questions because I was unclear on my identity without my ex. “Who am I?” “Did I like certain things because I liked them or because he liked them?” “What have I been holding back because of our relationship?”
With each page of planning, I got to know myself again. Where Passion Planning felt like dating myself at first, as time passed I began to fall in love with myself.
The Dark Ages are but a distant memory now, but I reflect on it often, especially around Valentine’s Day.
This article is for all of you recovering from shattered hearts: for holding it together during your workday only to let yourself sob on your commute home. For picking up your phone every five minutes for the text message that never comes. For staying silent around friends and family about your heartbreak so as not to be a burden, even though it’s the only thing you think about.
It may be a long time ago, but I remember being where you are. I hope you realize how strong you are, and that you find these tips helpful in your healing.
1. Erase or cross out triggering dates or appointments.
One of the hardest times during my heartbreak recovery process was receiving a Google Calendar message notifying me that my ex had canceled our 3 year anniversary. Up to that point, it had been two months since we had talked, and getting such a distant albeit direct interaction from him in this way made me feel like I was back at day one.
Mentally prepare yourself for this step because it’s a tough one. Whenever you feel ready, go into your Passion Planner, and erase or white out important dates that you had written down pre-breakup: anniversary dinner, vacations you’d planned, events and parties you’d attend together. Feel free to be creative by covering them with encouraging stickers or inspirational quotes. If you’d like support, invite a friend over to do this with you.
Good friends are some of the best breakup medicine.
2. Replace time with your ex with a passion project or time with friends.
The first thing I realized after my last breakup was just how much time and energy I committed to the relationship. Since we parted ways, I didn’t know what to do with the extra time I had on my hands. This abundance of idle time exacerbated my suffering, and before long I learned that I needed to devote that time to something else.
When did you spend the most time together during the week? Did you get brunch every Saturday morning, or have a dinner date every Friday night? Replace that time with someone or something else. For me, it was yoga and spending more time with my family.
It may not seem like it now, but there really is so much more in life to experience, and others in your life who care for and love you deeply. You may find that this vulnerable time will deepen your friendships, and give you insight into what you’re truly passionate about.
3. Vision board in your back pages.
Because my identity was attached to this person, I found breaking down my goals challenging. I really didn’t know what I wanted my life to look like. In fact, I had a friend share with me during my healing process that she had always been worried about me, because I had centered all of my life’s goals around my ex. She was right.
I now was in a position to create the life of my dreams, and author my own story. I filled my blank pages with printouts and magazine clippings of what my dream life would look like. There was a picture of Scotland, a woman practicing crow pose in yoga, and a TEDx sign, among other things. That same year, I did end up going to Scotland, holding crow pose, and even made the interview round for a local TEDx conference. I never thought that I would be able to do any of those things. As you create your vision board, ask yourself the following questions.
What are the things you’ve always loved doing?
Where have you always wanted to go?
What experiences and hobbies have you dreamed about doing?
4. Schedule time to feel your feelings.
The line between filling your schedule with your passions and filling your schedule to distract yourself is a muddled one. While it’s important to spend time exploring new experiences and deepening relationships, it is just as important to feel your feelings completely. Numbing the pain with busyness only prolongs the healing process; take it from someone who often uses grinding and hustling as an unsuccessful coping mechanism.
When open time comes up in your Passion Planner, allow yourself to sit in that blank space. Use it to journal, cry, or scream into a pillow. We often mistake this blank space as emptiness, but what it can be is room to breathe.
It is okay to feel sad. Depressed. Infuriated. Lonely. Name the feelings as they arrive. Healing is only possible when you acknowledge the pain.
5. Reflect often.
One of the easiest ways to get in touch with your emotions is to reflect. During this season of my life, I was journaling everyday. There was so much turbulence in my emotional landscape that writing was the only way I could make sense of any of it. The dark side of journaling is that sometimes it leaves you stuck in the negativity, without a sense of direction of overcoming.
Looking back at journal entries now, I have definitely caught myself in the same emotional spiral, ranting about the same things, stuck in my drama.
The Weekly Reflection PDF is a great way to journal in a way that’s targeted for your happiness. It helps you recognize the good in your life, by prompting what you’re grateful for, people who have helped you, and how you’ve been taking care of yourself. This reflection didn’t exist when I was powering through my heartbreak, but if it did, I know that I would have been using it.
As February draws to a close, we’re preparing for spring, a season of new beginnings. Whether you’re in the happiest time of your life or navigating a challenging transition, Passion Planner will always be here for you.
Remember: the breakdown often happens before the breakthrough. Keep going.
Paula Votendahl is a Content Marketing Specialist with Passion Planner. In her free time she enjoys Passion Planning, eating Hot Cheetos, and watching British period dramas.