How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart

My fiancé left me a week before our wedding day. On a Saturday night last fall, with no apparent reason after nearly 8 years together. (Not to mention a house with a mortgage, two pets and a few thousand dollars in wedding expenses.) I was told, “I need space,” and he left. It’s safe to say my life felt like it was in complete shambles, decimated in the course of three words. Never did I think I’d find myself at a Starbucks at 5 am on a Sunday sending out cancellation emails and texts. Personally, I was wrecked; but professionally, I was in the midst of the busiest and most important weeks of my life.

This is what I learned on this wild healing journey.

  • You can’t heal where you were hurt. I didn’t feel comfortable in my house anymore, it just reminded me of the years of memories and time spent there. I went on my honeymoon to Paris with my mom (begrudgingly); thankfully she was able to get off work at last minute to come with me to the City of Lights or Love or for me – the City of What Could Have Been. The trip itself was fairly miserable, with many days spent lying in my hotel bed or walking endlessly through the city so I could try to feign sleep. However the physical distance allowed me to detach. (Note: This is a phrase that I would tattoo on my forehead just because of how perfectly true it is).
  • Support may come in surprising ways. I’m a fairly private person naturally, so when my private life was catapulted into everyone’s eyes, I was mortified. I would go to work and be met with sad, wondering eyes which only made it that much harder. Not to mention the endless embarrassment. Some people in my life, who had once been just on the periphery came forward to help support me; including a long-extinguished old flame, a casual coworker and even someone I’d known for only two weeks. These people without reason or explanation, stepped up and took care of me at my worst.
  • Sometimes there’s no real reason and that’s okay. As a long-time sufferer of high-functioning anxiety and depression, it’s hard for me to accept something that is gray. I need to have a black and white world. Right and wrong; good and bad; yes and no. Not ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I can’t explain it’. But sometimes, things are truly murky. Sometimes, there’s no good answer or reason. It was a tough pill to swallow. But every day I had to remind myself of what was true; actions.
  • Take your time. There is no perfect path to healing, or a one-size fits all plan. I tend to keep myself occupied when I’m anxious – but that prolongs the healing because you’re not actually confronting what happened. Sometimes you need to feel it – even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time in a safe environment. I spent a whole day of my honeymoon, cooped up in our hotel room, watching shitty French murder documentaries and purging myself of everything I’d been avoiding. I made myself confront what happened in its entirety, piece by piece before neatly letting it go. My one-time old flame was the one who really brought me to my senses. He told me, “he doesn’t care right now. I know it hurts, but you need to hear that.” Which was 100% true. As much as it hurt, I was wasting a perfectly nice vacation and being sad about someone who clearly did not care in that same moment. That mindset really helped me to take that first step.
  • Get it out of your system. Holding on to something from the past that is beyond your control is just draining. There will be no good ending. Having spent a solid two years in therapy during college, I consider myself to be fairly familiar with coping mechanisms. I chose to write a letter (technically an email while wine drunk in the bathtub, but hey, it still counts). I wrote to physically manifest my thoughts and feelings into something that could be set free, therefore releasing its toxic hold on me. I wrote to let go of all of the questions, thoughts and feelings that I’d been drowning in. The local radio show I listen to in the Midwest set a standard – “for however many years you’ve been together, take one day to mourn.” By that logic, I had 8 days to mourn. It was closer to 15 but giving yourself a deadline can help. I was determined to not spend an ounce more energy or time on this.
  • Only talk when you’re ready. After such a public catastrophe, everyone is bound to have questions. Even those with the best intentions will still want to ask questions that will feel like nails being driven into your always shattering heart. It took me months to fully open up to friends and family about what happened. On the other hand, you may have to ask close friends and families to stop mentioning it – stop treating you differently. It drove me nuts when people would look at me with sadness or remorse or embarrassment – no matter how well intended it was. I wasn’t some broken puppy in a cast or a bird with a broken wing so don’t treat me as such.
  • Healing isn’t linear. You will have good days and bad days. Maybe even good weeks with a few bad days sprinkled in. You will have nights of crying so hard, you’re sure the walls are about to cave in. But there will be joy. Remember that just because there’s a few slips on the journey, doesn’t mean you’re done moving forward.
  • Get out of bed. Physically. Metaphorically. While yes, those blankets and pillows may feel like your only comfort right now, but you’re not helping yourself by staying there. It may be painful and annoying, but you must get up and move a little. Don’t get me wrong, you need time to feel and process (see previous point) but know that there is a point where enough is enough. Even if it’s just to get a drink of water, get out of bed. I continued going to work (albeit at a heavily modified schedule) just to not be in my house. Was it easy? No. Was it comfortable? No. Did I want to accost every person who looked at me with sadness? Absolutely. But it helped give me space and to see that everything is still moving.
  • Heartbreak is temporary. While in the moment and for weeks or even months and years later, it hurts; little by little it will fade. You will rebuild – yourself, your life and your heart. You will become a stronger version of yourself. During this journey you will learn endlessly about yourself, your expectations and those around you. It may not ever be the same as before, but you’ll be better for it.

While everyone will surely have their own experiences, these were the few ways that I was able to move through my situation a little easier. Rely on those close to you and reach out when you’re feeling down; you are not a burden.

If I Could Redo My Study Abroad

I studied abroad in 2016, it was the spring semester of my junior year in college, and I was posted up in Caen, Normandy, France.

I could blanket statement my whole experience by simply saying: I had the time of my life.

I made life long friendships, had unforgettable nights, traipsed around Europe chasing one adventure and sleepless night after the next… It was truly magical and amazing, I’m a huge advocate for study abroad programs due to my experience.

But now, 4 years later, I’ve reflected and there were definitely some things I wish I did a bit differently to further enhance my experience.

Maintained a relationship with my host family.

When I first arrived in France, I did a “Welcome Weekend” program where I stayed with an older French couple and they helped get me settled in the city. They also took me to a rather large dinner party their family hosted and honestly it was the most culturally overwhelming thing I’ve ever experienced. My French was mediocre at best and I spent the whole event near tears, guzzling wine the whole time. I would directly link this overwhelming experience as to why the minute the host family moved me into my dorm I practically blew them off. Even though they were nothing but overwhelmingly kind to me, it was exactly that – overwhelming. I was in culture shock, overwhelmed, and completely shut down. I proceeded to stick with mostly English speakers most of my time abroad when outside of the classroom.

In reality, I should have powered through this culture shock a bit better; perhaps reached out to my french professor in the US and talk through what I was going through with her, and embraced my host family (no matter how temporary they were hosting me) a bit more openly. I know that if I had, I would have great relations with them to this day, but now that is something that has blown like dust in the wind.

Saved more money prior to study abroad.

The best way to explain how I am with money is to say that I can make $5 last a lot longer than $100. So essentially all the money I brought with me was money I had earned only the summer before, which I worked three part time minimum wage jobs (I even gave a fourth job a go for about two weeks) and managed to put away around $1200. Which would be a fine amount if you cooked more than you ate out, didn’t travel as much, and rarely went shopping. But that’s literally the opposite of me. I went out like crazy, I traveled like crazy, and don’t even get me started on the shopping. Even piled with scholarships and the saved money that had me coming to Europe with close to $2,000… my family ended up needing to send me more money halfway through my time abroad because I ran bone dry.

So really if I had a do over, I would either be more frugal with my money while abroad or started saving maybe two or three summers prior to study abroad…

Traveled to more countries.

Ok, so I guess with this point I could really say being more frugal with my money is not in the cards for me – saving more and planning is though. When I was living in France, I traveled to Rome, Athens, Cologne, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Believe it or not, I wish I saw more, went to more countries, and planned my trips more wisely. A part of me almost wishes instead of the Germany trip that I vacayed with other friends who tackled way more countries in a similar amount of time.

But at the same time, I also believe everything happens for a reason.

I don’t regret visiting those cities in Germany, and even though the people I traveled with caused me headaches like no other… that shorter trip also resulted in me going back to Caen with an extra week to hang out before classes started up again, and it led to cementing friendships with others who were in a similar boat as me – low on cash and spending a chunk of the holiday in Caen.

SO

Even though I have these do overs, they aren’t really do overs.

Everything happens for a reason; even though it seems like ties are severed with my host family I know I could reach out to them even today and spark up a conversation – they really were that kind – and while money makes the world go round, what good is it if you just have it all locked away? Use your money to experience, to aid in creating memories, and to expand your horizons.

Am I saying to blow all of your money?

You know what, if your bills are paid, freaking blow it.

And if you need help on how to blow your money to create memories, hit ya girl up. I got you.