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Being broken up with in November, so close to finals and the holidays, might be the worst timing I have ever experienced. Actually, I think that my mother having to undergo emergency gallbladder surgery in November of 2020 on the day of my first final for that semester was worse. But that is a story for another day. 

My parents, my younger sibling, my best friend, and my mentor did the best they could to make sure I did not succumb to the waters of sorrow that I wanted to drown myself in. Never in my life had I ever experienced a loss that left me breathless, my stomach churning from anxiety, morning nausea, and the desire to cry at every hour. I was physically sick with grief. Now, not as much.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, it is especially easy to continue to be stuck in a state of nostalgia and hurt over what no longer is. Amid the advertising for this day, I am sure there are thousands of articles centered on answering the question of “What should I do when I am heartbroken?” Here is my version that comes from the very specific niche of being heartbroken during finals and the holidays. However, this list can apply to all seasons.

cry

A lot. Probably a bit obvious, but I mean it. Let it all out and acknowledge that even if it may be slightly embarrassing to be sobbing in the middle of your dorm’s study area, you will feel infinitely better in being able to look out a window as your tears fall in tune with the leaves. Trust me on this one.

Delete Social Media

Not doing this one immediately after the breakup pushed back my healing process by a couple weeks based on all the speculation I did as, given that it was technically an amicable split (he did nothing wrong and neither did I, it was just time to call it quits, I guess), I did not feel the urge to block him so I still had access to his profiles. Most people would argue that I should have blocked him, but in our situation, that would be a declaration of anger and I wanted to be the “bigger” person. Even if you have made the choice to unfriend them, it does not really do much if it is still easy to just click on their page and look. It is VERY tempting. I am only three weeks into my social media cleanse (which is really just from Facebook and Instagram), but I finally feel like I can have some peace where I do not feel the urge to stalk him to see if he is active and what posts he likes. Regardless, there is something liberating about not constantly being on platforms like Facebook (where it gets depressing to see people you went to high school with get engaged either on Christmas or New Year’s) and Instagram (where it is even more depressing seeing so many posts of couples opening presents together on Christmas or ending the year with a commemoration of their past year together as a couple). Truly, the sooner, the better! Give it a try, and I promise it can save you from unnecessary speculation and added despair. 

Do one of your favorite activities with a family member, friend, stranger, etc.

I love movies. In a pre-pandemic world, going to see a movie happened almost every weekend for me. Unfortunately, going to an actual cinema is sometimes not the best choice given the pandemic, but being able to mimic this experience at home with my younger sibling was one of the most important things I did to cope during the holiday season. I was able to engage in one of my favorite activities, and I did not have to worry about being unable to share this joy with someone else like I was so used to. So, grab a friend or two, a parent, your favorite cousin, your roommate, whoever it may be, and make sure to find a way to watch Disney’s Encanto if you have not already (seriously, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is almost 100% guaranteed to be my most played song on my end-of-year Spotify review).

get creative

This can happen in many things. Get creative with the activities you set out for the day. Get creative and paint your favorite animal. Get creative and write. For me, the two things I did the most during the early stages of my breakup were write and paint. For me, writing is therapeutic and serves as a record of my most intimate thoughts and emotions. It may be helpful to write out what was left unsaid, reflections on life without worrying about being judged for your thoughts, or simply anything that crosses your mind at a given moment. It can also be helpful for future reflection as time goes on (and you may cringe at what you have written but it can be helpful to be able to have compassion for the version of yourself that wrote those sentimental paragraphs about how much you will miss the two-hour conversation on FaceTime, but at the very least you might be able to be more productive with homework after releasing these feelings). Even if it is not writing, anything creative can turn your feelings into something that can be used as a memory of growth. You got this!

drive

If you have a driver’s license and do not already do this, pay attention to this one. I cannot accurately describe the feeling of pure joy that driving while your current favorite songs are played on shuffle can give you. There were times when I would sing at the top of my lungs and every time I felt like I was releasing the pressure that had accumulated in my chest from my heartbreak, not as much as I wanted, but enough to breathe a bit better.

discover new places

I come from a small town in rural North Carolina. Inherently, I grew up thinking there was nothing truly exciting to do in my county, mostly since I am of a Mexican background, and my town did not have many activities that my parents were interested in. However, it was interesting to become a tourist in my own hometown during winter break. I took a trip with my younger sibling to our closest (small) city with a downtown area, and finally explored the cute little places and Southern gems that it had to offer. I gained a new perspective of the place I call home, and while there are things I wish I could change about it, I am happy I was able to enjoy learning and exploring a bit more about the small piece of the world where I was raised. It makes for a wonderful day where you can also get a chance to potentially re-evaluate how you fit into these places. So, go out and see what new things you can find about the places you may think you may know everything about; you might be surprised.

love yourself

Ah, the most abstract one, but simultaneously, the most important. I think one of the major struggles I encountered was the fact that I was going to be alone and that the future I had planned was also non-existent. But I am slowly (but surely) learning that I still have me. The driven student who just wants to make her family proud, who laughs a little too loud in public spaces, who thinks too much, and who loves writing and music. And I love me. It saddens me that it took a tremendous loss, followed by sorrowful self-reflection, to recognize how valuable and special I truly am and have been. It’s not an easy thing to learn, and in my case, especially not easy given the years I spent not believing that someone could actually love me for who I am. But the reality is that I have to live with myself every second of every day, so why not be kind to myself. I know this is easier said than done, especially in a society that places so much emphasis on a hierarchy of characteristics in terms of appearance, skill, knowledge, and so on. But, dear reader, no one else is quite like you, which makes you a gift. We are all our own gift and we need to wrap ourselves into one big bow of self-love.

I hope this list is helpful. I hope it encourages us to value our relationship with ourselves in the same way we value a relationship with a romantic partner. Being heartbroken sucks (I still cringe when I think about Valentine’s Day coming up), but if it has taught me anything, it is that sometimes we can’t control everything, except our own actions. Cliché, but it is okay to not be okay; some days may be better than others. Just remember that there are many ways to move forward, and no matter what follows, you are always worthy of love.

Teresa Vazquez

Chapel Hill '23

Teresa Vazquez is a junior studying English and Political Science.
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