A few years ago, I’d just finished lipsyncing to Shout Out to My Ex at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern when a baby queer came up to me and told me that my performance was so good because they could tell I’d had my heart broken many times. I couldn’t help but laugh at how tragically true this is. After 20 years of dating, relationships, love and loss, I’ve had to learn how to deal with heartbreak. Luckily for me, I enjoy channelling that energy creatively into my drag shows.
Heartbreak can happen in occur for many reasons. Sometimes you love someone who can never love you back. Sometimes a beautiful though ultimately impossible relationship comes to a sad but necessary end. And sometimes a person who made you feel supported and cherished suddenly takes that love away. While this blog has tips that can be helpful for any of these scenarios, it’s particularly for those who’ve been dumped, ghosted or shut out.
If you’re reading this and an emotionally irresponsible person has broken your heart, I want you to know that I’m so sorry you’re going through this. You don’t deserve the pain you’re experiencing. I promise you are strong and no matter how lonely or abandoned you’re feeling, you are very loved by many people. Your future happiness does not depend on this idiot who has hurt you and one day, this pain will pass. Until then, this blog is my love letter to you, with all the things my friends and I have discovered through learning how to deal with heartbreak.
Make a folder of lame photos
Before you go deleting this person off every social platform known to humankind, my friend has a hilarious heartbreak strategy. She recommends doing a trawl way back through their Facebook and Instagram to find the worst possible images of the person who broke your heart and saving them in a folder on your phone. We’re talking terrible emo haircuts from 2007, awkward family Christmas photos or the tagged section on their Insta, filled with unattractive shots they would never put on their feed. If they have no social presence, this is where Google is your friend. Those ill-judged work headshots last a lifetime online and are true gold.
These images must be unappealing. The ones that make you question why on earth you ever had sex with this person. Photos that remind you that they aren’t actually amazing but, in fact, pretty average. So every time you miss them or are feeling the pain of rejection, you can look at these photos and remember they ain’t all that. I recommend getting a friend to help go through their photos so you can laugh about it together through the tears but also so they can stop you from secretly saving any nice photos. Don’t go adding to your pain like that.
Fill your ears with empowerment
I have a Moving On, Staying Strong, Smashing Heartbreak with Every Song playlist on both Spotify and YouTube Music specifically for times like this. So yes, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to torture yourself by playing music that reminds you of the person who broke your heart on repeat at first. Songs you both loved, songs you had sex to, songs about losing love, losing hope, losing your dignity. Go on, play them. Have a big bloody bollicking cry. Then switch those songs off for good.
What you’re going through now is hella painful, but also universal. There’s a tonne of music out there about getting over heartbreak and no matter what your thoughts on pop are, it’s perfect for getting you motivated, angry and ready to be done with this person for good. Unfortunately, it’s pretty heteronormative and almost exclusively about women getting over men. However, I do think Lizzo’s Soulmate was made for everyone.
I’ve included videos from many of the songs on this playlist throughout this blog so you can start belting these tunes out while you read my tips. Better still, get your friends together for a night of karaoke where love songs are banned and the playlist is strictly empowering break-up cheese. You can cry, you can scream, you can sing Whitney’s It’s Not Right But It’s Ok three times if you want and your BFF can serenade you with Mariah’s Hero at the end. I promise it’s exactly what you need.
Allow yourself to be held
Heartbreak is physically painful. You can feel it in your chest, hence the name. One of the most surprising things I discovered about this experience is how transformative the touch of other people can be at a time like this. I don’t mean a quick hug or shoulder squeeze. I mean having people hold you while you cry. Stroke your hair while you watch TV. Spoon you while you talk about how you’re feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, family or other partners for what you need now. Often the people who love you are unsure how to help, so this is one of the easiest things they can do to ease your pain.
But don’t shag anyone new
There’s a charming saying that goes ‘the fastest way to get over someone is to get under someone else’ — but trust me, this isn’t true. You’re feeling rejected and unloveable, so now is not the time to go looking for someone new. Dating apps are the worst place to be when you’re vulnerable and you’re not being fair on anyone you connect with (you don’t need to attract more bad dating karma for the future). Even if it’s just a hook-up, you’re going to spend the whole time having sex while thinking about the person who hurt you. Even worse, you could start crying. So don’t do it. Give yourself space and time to heal. Save the new sexy fun times for when you’re actually ready to enjoy them.
Oh, so they don’t love you anymore but still want to be ‘friends?’ They’ve ghosted you but now won’t stop watching your Stories and liking anything you post on Facebook? Time for them to go. No matter what the circumstances were that allowed them to reject you, they need to give you a whole load of space. There’s no way that you can get past this heartbreak if they’re just going to keep popping up digitally and reopening that wound. At the very least, you need an entire month of space, everywhere — especially online.
Do yourself a favour and just unfriend them on all social channels. This person isn’t going anywhere, so none of this is in any way permanent if you don’t want it to be. At the very least, change your social media setting so that they can’t see your Stories or posts and you can’t see theirs. I also use Blocksite, which is a Chrome extension for blocking websites but can also block apps on your phone, to remove the future temptation to torture yourself. Having space to process, away from their updates and watchful eyes, is one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself during this time.
Sit your ass down and meditate
When the pain of heartbreak tears through you, it can leave you feeling extremely raw and vulnerable. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably try to push all of those emotions down, get on with life, be resilient — but that’s one of the worst things you can do. Right now, there is only one relationship you need to work on and that’s the one with yourself. Don’t fear your feelings but make space for them. Listen to them and learn to love yourself.
If you’ve never meditated before, start with something simple. I’ve found Sarah Blondin’s short but soothing guided meditations on Insight Timer to be a great introduction. Download the app, find a quiet spot and listen to her talk you through healing, acceptance and transformation for 10-15 minutes. It’s ok if it makes you cry — let it out and keep listening. I also enjoy using the timer section on the app before or after the guided meditation so I can tune into my inner voice. It helps enormously, especially when your heart is in pain.
Delete their number (or give it to a trusted friend)
You need to be strong and not contact the person who broke your heart for a while. I recommend at least a month (if not more). Easier said than done when you’re feeling vulnerable and rejected. Maybe they’re just waiting for you to reach out, beg them to reconsider, tell them that you still love them? Wrong. It’s humiliating and you’ll regret it later. So if you can’t resist the urge to message the person who hurt you, then my friend recommends deleting their number. Wipe it completely, so you have no way of contacting them when you’re drunk, feeling low or (my personal Achilles heel) on your period.
Having no contact with someone is especially difficult if you’re experiencing New Relationship Energy. If you’ve only been seeing this person for a few weeks or months and have fallen for them very quickly, your brain is probably pumped full of chemicals that are making you addicted to the person who hurt you. So it’s especially important that you get help with this. Give this person’s number to a trusted friend who won’t give it back to you until after an agreed time. Then every time you’re struggling, even if it’s every day, message that friend instead.
Don’t isolate yourself
It’s important to spend time with yourself now — processing, crying, journaling, meditating, doing whatever you need to do. However, it’s important that you don’t become isolated. Even though your heart is broken, you are not alone. You don’t have to go through this by yourself and there are people who love you and want to support you. I recommend making plans to see someone from your support network every second day for at least the first couple of weeks. This gives you time to process on your own and time to process with people who love you. You need other people to talk things through, be held, be supported, laugh, cry, get angry, whatever you need. Let people be there for you.
Be mindful of your other partners
If you’re polyamorous, this can be a tricky time to navigate with your other romantic partners. You’re devastated about what has happened and need space, hugs and time to process. At the same time, you don’t want to go blowing up everything with the other people you love. So it’s important to be mindful of the way that you’re interacting. I recommend sharing Multiamory’s How to Support Your Partner Through a Break-Up podcast (episode 128) with them, so they understand how to support you and themselves through this process — and listen to it yourself. A little self-awareness will go a long way right now.
Let yourself grieve
This is probably one of the best tips a friend gave me recently. When some or all your romantic hopes and dreams have been dashed by heartbreak, it’s important that you let yourself grieve the relationship you lost and the future you envisaged. Part of that pain you’re experiencing is because you’ve lost something you valued (even if they won’t worth your time). Experiencing heartbreak is apparently very similar to experiencing the death of a loved one. Shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and hope are common emotions to experience as you move through grief. So give yourself time to process these stages so you can move on.
Wipe them out
Getting rid of everything — and I mean everything — is the classic way to deal with heartbreak simply because it helps. Not only are you ridding yourself of all the reminders of this person from your life but the experience of throwing things away can be incredibly cathartic. I recommend doing this as soon as you feel up to it. The sooner the better. When you’re angry is the best time as you’ll be extra ruthless.
Firstly, clear all your What’s App/text chat history (especially voice notes) so you won’t be able to torture yourself by going through this again in the future. Delete any and everything digital — emails, playlists, photos, videos. Wipe it all and make sure you clear the trash for all these files as well, so you can’t go finding them again next week when you hit a low moment.
Next, get rid of everything physical that reminds you of them. From Valentine’s Day cards to concert tickets, you need to remove this person who messed with your heart. If it’s something that you can’t bear to throw in the bin, then give it away. Books and clothes can be given to charity and plants can be given to neighbours. The last thing you need to do is be reminded of this person in every room of your house.
If you still have things that belong to the person who broke your heart, get your friends to do a hostage-style handover for you. You need to get their stuff out of your life ASAP because, well no one would blame you if you destroyed it. Plus, your friends not only get the chance to give this idiot a piece of their mind but they can get your stuff back as well — without you having to see them.
Talk to a therapist
There’s never a better time to start seeing a therapist than when you’ve had your heartbroken. You’ll be relying on your friends A LOT during this time and if they truly have your back, they’ll be there for you to help with everything I’ve suggested above. However, you should also get professional help too. Not only will a therapist listen to you talk endlessly about the person who broke your heart but they will be able to guide you on your way to recovery.
It’s also important not to underestimate the effects of what you’re going through. According to the mental health charity Mind, experiencing events that make you feel humiliated, rejected or abandoned can be traumatic. It’s also natural to experience depression or anxiety as a result of heartbreak. So it’s important to receive the support you need at this time and for as long as it takes to heal.
Although therapy is often expensive and takes time to arrange, in most countries you can access free or emergency counselling. Google it, ask your friends and reach out charities to find out what services are available. Alternatively, try BetterHelp — the world’s largest online counselling service. It’s apparently a very speedy way of accessing a therapist and costs less than an in-person session.
Don’t ever, ever go back
No matter how much you don’t want to hear this now, I promise you that this person doesn’t genuinely care. They’ve shown that they don’t respect you and by letting them come back, you’re showing them that you don’t respect yourself either. They will, without any shadow of a doubt, hurt you again. So move forward and don’t look back. You are worth so much more than this.