Closure: The Art of Moving On
By Renee Cottrell
It took a rainy day in February to make me realize how happy I was.
I had just woken up in my little apartment, stretched, and stared contentedly out at the misty grey whilst wrapped in my still warm blankets. I would eventually have to get up, do the dishes, eat breakfast, head to the gym and then drive to work in the car I had just bought myself; but for now, I savored this small moment in time.
Because it wasn’t always this way.
Seven months ago I had what some would arguably call a “rough start” to my first semester of college.
I had just pulled off the miracle of moving halfway across the world (from the cold northern border to the deep south of Texas) alone at eighteen. Badass, right? Well, I can tell you it didn’t feel that way when I watched my parents drive away, standing on the sidewalk outside of a new apartment with nothing but a half empty pizza container, a roomful of unpacked boxes, and a whole lot of tears. I was car-less, jobless, and friendless. I was alone in a new city. I was scared. But I was hopeful.
At the time I was in a three-year relationship, one which had begun when I was a fresh fifteen in a park in Houston. We had seen prom nights, graduations, and senior football games, growing up together in a way only being together in high school gives you. It had even continued over a full year of long distance; one which tested both of our capacities to handle a relationship, complete with tears, arguments, and the type of jealousy only insecure highschool girls get (guilty).
By the time we were faced with my freshman year of college, I was excited to finally be less than a plane ride away.
And so as I stood on that curb, I thought; in an effort to cheer up, that things couldn’t go down from here, could they? Spoiler: They did, and this is where the “rough” really happens.
I got dumped. Surprisingly, quickly, neatly dumped. It happened outside by the sand volleyball court at my apartment , him driving up; me, excited to see him and introduce him to my new roommates. And then him, pushing me away, saying we needed to talk. He asked me to sit down with him.
I stayed standing.
I looked him in the eye and braced myself, threw up my shield that had taken so much uncertainty and fear already, sure that I could weather the storm I knew was coming.
“I’m just not happy anymore”
“You’re too invested”
“I just can’t see a future with you”
My shield crumbled. Three years of memories rose in the back of my throat, choking me as hot tears welled up on my cheeks. Still I fought it, we would get through this, we would talk, we would...we would…
We were done.
We were done.
I asked him if he needed food for his trip back to the coast, he asked me if I needed to go to Walmart (as if it’s completely normal to dump a girl, then buy her groceries). I shook my head. He left. I didn’t watch him go. I went back up to face my roommates, who saw my distress and instantly handed me a solo cup as we ate the fettuccine I had cooked for him.
That night was blurry, I ended up sobbing in the hot tub one minute, then surrounded by people, ranting with a flamboyant boy from the next building how “Men ain’t Sh*t, honey.” I woke up damp, bathing suit tangled in my sheets, and smelling like chlorine. I felt like a very real, very badly hungover edition of a Taylor Swift song.
And so began, my art of finding closure.
First, I removed the evidence. That same morning, I took down years worth of pictures, shoved them in a box, then judo-kicked the box under my bed, never to see the light of day again. I mercilessly tossed the cards, and the gifts. I then showered, vacuumed, and drank a LOT of water, in an effort to drown all my sorrow in crystallized pedialyte mix. I also handled the final social media formalities that come with a modern day breakup, deleting pictures until my thumbs hurt. Although the hardest, this step is crucial to moving on, as leaving physical reminders in your view will only serve to (duh) remind you. You don’t have to be an angry raging mess about it, screaming obscenities while pouring gasoline on his sweatshirts; although, if it makes you feel empowered, go for it. Eggs are also a viable option. However, I highly recommend taking a simple deep breath and calmly thinking “this is a clean slate, a blank canvas, a new day” as you cleanse your space of negativity.
Next, and I mean QUICKLY, set boundaries. Out of pity, during the breakup he invited me to still come for Thanksgiving, a kind enough gesture, just very, VERY wrong timing. I mean come on...what was I going to do? Sit across the table from him and his hypothetical new girlfriend and pretend I was his cousin from North Dakota instead of his ex? No, thank you. Here are some examples of what is good to say, all of which I used myself in an oddly formal final text message: Yes, you have your freedom. No, please do not contact me. Yes, please explain to your family exactly what happened and give them my best. Yes, please unfollow me on social media so we don’t have to live in competition of who is having the better life. And no, I am not coming back for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or ever.
Enforcing a healthy boundaries contract for both of you keeps you out of the “uncertainty matrix” of to text or not to text, to see or not to see. Sure in a few weeks you can briefly take a peek if it bothers you (and honey you know it will), just do so at your own risk, and prepare yourself for anything you may stumble across. Remember, you are not an object, so your breakup shouldn’t come with any term for return or receipts. Know your worth, then add tax.
Then—change it up, find what works for you, and have some fun! So cliche I know. So, so cliche. But true. After starting school and my new job, I cut and dyed my hair finally the way I wanted to. I felt like a new woman, and everyone noticed my change in mood when I bounced in that day. I had always been into fitness, but in the months after I found a newfound peace in getting up early and, you know, throwing a hundred pounds at the floor. I also went out for the first time, really out, to clubs and lounges and social functions. I danced more in the first four weeks than I had in my entire lifetime, and although I did end up eventually bumping into a tall, blond, and very handsome subject of permanent attraction; I also made many close new friends who to this day I still lean on and laugh with. It’s important for you to refind yourself in this way, as psychological research shows that after a separation from a long term partner, it’s much like losing a piece of your personality. Refilling that space your partner left may seem impossible at first, but with time you’ll be noticing new hobbies catch your eye and starting some kickass new projects.
Finally, know that it is okay to talk about it as much as you need to. The shock of heartbreak mixed with the new sense of change can leave you reeling for a few days, even weeks. You will feel confused, you will feel sad, you will feel angry. Keeping these emotions on lock is extremely unhealthy, pretending nothing happened is even worse. You’ll only lead yourself down a rabbit hole of denial and blame. So talk. Talk to your Mom, a few close friends who support you, your dog, your webcam, a therapist. Joke about it, laugh at your mistakes. Find the impossible humor within heartbreak. Speaking on how you feel and giving body to your emotions can help you box them up and categorize them, just stay away from completely throwing your ex- SO under the bus. It takes two to break up, and examining your own behaviors at this time can help you realize what to do to better yourself moving forward. Being the so-called “bigger person” is a myth designed to see who can pretend to be more mature faster, but being a better person is always the high road, not to mention more genuine. If still frustrated, again, eggs are very affordable.
*Some post notes*
Be warned. those around you will try to give you a timeline; either telling you “you’re not over it?” when you bring it up, OR, “Wait..you’re over it already??” when you don’t. Do NOT listen. Work through it at your own pace.
Also, warning number two, people will ask questions. How it happened, who said what; and the biggest one, why?
And it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. If there wasn’t a blowup or a scandal involved, you can fall into assuming the worst; secret lovers, hidden lies, but the truth is you may never know. You just have to hope in the end, they cared enough about you as a person to give you the truth, and if not….well, karmas a b*tch.
Single you is still you. In a relationship, you is still you. Doing yoga you is you, eating dessert every day you is you, smiling you is you. Ugly crying you? Still you, girl. No matter what happens, you are not any less of yourself due to the absence of someone else.
The space they left behind is simply a space for you to expand into.
What is your advice to dealing with a breakup? Send us your thoughts here!