Something that I still struggle with after healing from my first heartbreak and pent-up years of trauma is grieving an old version of my life, identity and mindset that was my reality for half of my adolescent life. I think a lot of the time the reason why people feel the after-effects of a very life-turning event such as a breakup so intensely months or years after thinking they were doing fine is that they weren’t honest with themselves and their healing from the start. Part of this process is understanding, letting go and mourning not only that person but your old life, who you thought you were to them and all the parts of them you intertwined your identity with so closely.
I think I can definitely speak on this open-heartedly as I spent basically all of 2021 grieving. Grieving my old partner, his physical presence as well as his emotional one that played such a dictating role in how I behaved and viewed myself. I grieved the life that we built together with his family which was also my second family, the routine of having him in my life, the meaning that certain days of the week had restaurants near our homes had. I also had to mourn the future that I had imagined with him which was probably the most painful one of it all, mourning something/someone that is tangible and living is one painful thing. Mourning a dream you had, something you centred so much of your ambitions and actions around, a life that you worked so hard for is also another extremely difficult and overlooked process in healing from the departure of a relationship, whether that be romantic or platonic. Through these moments of grief, anger, sadness, the resentment I realized so much of what I was breaking over was this old version of myself I was shedding. A version of myself that was so wide-eyed, naive and childlike when it came to love. Someone that was so trusting and would hold the door open even for the unwanted. I had to let go of my identity as a girlfriend, of a friend to this person, of a future wife, mother – so much uncertainty filled the emptiness that followed me after those years in that relationship.
Oftentimes, when you seek advice for a broken heart one of the first things people tell you is to just move on from that person. But what about moving on from yourself, your old life and who you were with that person? How do you mourn over yourself? I could never answer that question accurately as I am still going through it and it is a lonely but ever-fulfilling journey. I started to embrace change, in fact, I tried to even take control of all these emotional changes in my life and literally build a new identity physically. I dyed my hair colours he will never me pull off, got tattoos he’ll never touch, I even bought new furniture in my room to completely take back everything that was so attached to him and the idea of him and take back my power in solidarity. And yes, physically these things worked but I still felt that deep anger and void. So, what has really helped me is spending time with myself, taking myself out on walks, listening to myself as if I were my own partner when I’m sad. I started hanging out with my parents again, picked up new hobbies in music – doing things that made me feel me. I also started tending to the old version of myself I’ve been letting go of, giving her a proper goodbye by doing certain things now that I should’ve done for myself during that time, such as speaking up about my boundaries, being a good friend and daughter and showing up for myself wholeheartedly no matter how much change is happening around me. It is a lonely journey, but it is so possible once you realize every new version of yourself that you have yet to meet after experiencing something so devastating is waiting to embrace you with open arms and an open heart.