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I am writing to you from the neon orange boat raft that’s thrown from the ship to save you from drowning. I am one month post-breakup. My first queer breakup. Floating in the abyss of mutual no contact.
According to sapphic literature, lyric, and word on the street, it’s natural for your breakup to feel like a nightmare escape room where your heart crumbs were scattered around Mars, and the keys to Mars are lost in the Indian Ocean. There’s a squeeze of comfort in that alone together camaraderie.
Jump in the sad girl ocean with me? The water’s cold, but I’ve got extra floating devices.
Over the past four weeks, I’ve inhaled five self-help books and over a dozen podcasts on the topics of love, heartache, letting go, impermanence, attachment styles, and healing. I’ve journaled my sensitive Cancer heart out, fleetingly fallen to the dark side of breakup tarot TikTok, and logged a gazillion steps by way of heart-to-hearts with dear friends near and far.
Yet, of all the heartbreak remedies, there’s one method that truly soothes: Grief Bursts. I learned of it from the new Apple TV hit Shrinking, where Jason Segel plays a therapist who’s one year into existing after his wife’s sudden death.
In the show’s third episode, Fifteen Minutes, seasoned therapist Paul (Harrison Ford) advises both his coworker Jimmy (Segel) and Jimmy’s daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell), to let it all out.
“Pick a piece of music. Something sad as hell. Just feel your feelings,” Paul says, “Take about 15 minutes.”
Alice’s compartmentalized grieving looks like wailing to “I Know The Endwp_postsby Phoebe Bridgers. They poke fun at it a bit, her alarm sounding off, instantly cutting off her cry. Jimmy sees her doing this and tries to the same song while riding his bike. He pedals and he weeps.
It worked for Alice and Jimmy, and it’s working for me.
Whether we’re talking about capital ‘G’ Grief,’ which I personally use to talk about grieving a death, or lowercase ‘g’ grief for losing someone who is still here, this method seems to have the power to work for all categories of heartache. Equal opportunity.
Grief Bursts seem to be most accessible and effective once you’ve organically moved through the fully unbounded emotions phase (which has no defined timeline). In my case, it started to serve me when I entered the semi-controlled phase about two weeks after the breakup, with relative space from the how did we get here shock, my appetite nearly normalized, and the desire to be more available to the life in front of me.
I often find myself doing morning or bedtime bursts. I’ll organically feel a nudge of the sadness. Of the missing. Of the why. Then I’ll be like, okay, let’s release that from my body so I can keep going with the day. Or sleep more peacefully. To fully enter into the feeling and push past that initial human resistance to cut off the cry, I use catalysts. Reread an old card or our goodbye letters. Listen to an emo song or one that makes me think of us. Occasionally, look at photos.
You know how kids need to run out their energy in the backyard so they don’t destroy the house? The release I get from crying feels a little like that.
Be open to each day looking different from the last. You don’t need to set an alarm like Alice. Sometimes it’s a single song, others, an EP. It’s what you need it to be. And it will taper off with time. But it’s a cool tool if you’re at that part of your grieving process where you have operator keys to the rollercoaster. You cry — and then you keep walking forward.
The science folks out there appear to have consensus that crying releases endorphins. It’s the literal exiting of stress hormones. Why would you want to stop that?
I find that the catharsis opens up the aperture for being present the rest of the day. It’s a crack for the light to sneak in.
There’s also a sense of affirmation that comes from knowing you aren’t numbing. You’re moving through it, letting your heart, mind, and body sync up and process.
Exactly one month after our official breakup weekend, I hadn’t done my morning burst. And while I was walking the streets of San Francisco, I saw her. She was in her car, and I’m not sure if she saw me. I know this city is 7×7 small, but oh Universe, you’ve got a solid sense of humor. Apparently, if you skip out on your feelings, they will find you (be warned!).
Part of this process is about giving your love and missing the respect and care it deserves. And we all know that has a trickle down effect on the people we date in the future, too.
Take heart that your shared memories are yours. Like how you peed her bed that one time and y’all giggled about it for weeks. No other adult woman will have that with her, rest assured. Let those memories be an invisible string between you that fades and softens with time, but never disappears. Take heart that they are forever a part of your story, of your growing into yourself — and you theirs. Take heart that you keep moving.
Mae Martin’s Netflix comedy special SAP gets at how we’re all just showing each other our different snow globes, the little spheres that compose our identity. Eager to be seen and loved. If you think about it just right, in one of those gorgeous moments where you can access perspective, you’d see how this breakup will add to your snow globe collection, making it all the more beautiful when someone says to you, yes, these are the shelves of globes I want to waltz into the sunset with, and you feel the same way.
Even as you’re seeing the daylight on your future joy, tapping into hope, you’re still mourning big. Your sense of home. Your best friend. Your lover. Your snuggle person. Your future together. The person you were in their presence. It’s layered and messy and human and honestly very sensible to feel like absolute garbage about this new reality sometimes.
Let it all out, babes.