Anamaria, 26, spent the first month of the coronavirus pandemic living with her ex-boyfriend in their shared New York City apartment. “It was so f*cking weird,” she tells Elite Daily. They broke up at the end of February, right before the world stopped. Due to statewide stay-at-home orders, they had no choice but to experience the awkward aftermath of their breakup together. But by the end of March, she had moved out and booked a flight to Miami, where she spent the next three months at her parents’ house, healing from her breakup in quarantine.
Before the pandemic, post-breakup life was different. “Usually, people experiencing heartbreak could rely on healthy distractions, like spending time with friends and family, going out for entertainment, and even going into work,” breakup coach and dating strategist Natalia Juarez tells Elite Daily. “COVID-19 has turned all of this upside down.” The risk of spreading the virus has made dancing your sorrows away at a club impossible, escaping reality on vacation out of the question, and all-night venting sessions with your friends a legitimate risk. These activities used to provide “an emotional break from all the painful feelings that accompany mourning the end of a relationship,” says Juarez. But when it feels like all you can do is sit at home with nothing but the bleak state of the world and your breakup top of mind, healing becomes significantly more difficult. So, how do you move on when your usual coping mechanisms are off the table?
“Although the pandemic has impacted how we usually mourn the end of a relationship, traditional methods can be adapted,” Juarez says. She recommends implementing four pillars for a healthy breakup: self-care, grief work, actively rebuilding your life, and joyful living — all of which can be adapted to pandemic life.
When it comes to self-care, think beyond skin care and online shopping. After a breakup (especially one during a global pandemic), it’s essential to engage in activities that calm and soothe the body’s nervous system, which is often activated by stress, says Juarez. She recommends practicing mindfulness and meditation, deep belly breathing, and spending time in nature or with a pet. (Basically, if you’re looking for a sign you should do nothing but hang with your pup for a whole day, this is it.)
But healing from a breakup isn’t just about filling your days with distractions — it’s about allowing yourself to grieve the end of your relationship. That’s where grief work comes in, and Juarez says it’s twofold. “One part of grief work is talking things through with loved ones or with a professional, such as a therapist or coach,” she says. “The other part is working through your grief with introspective practices, such as journaling, praying, or body work, like cathartic dancing. The point is to express your emotions instead of bottling them up.” Even though IRL hangouts with friends aren’t options at the moment, that doesn’t mean you can’t lean on your crew for support. Use Zoom, FaceTime, and phone calls to vent. And if you’re quarantining with your family and you feel comfortable talking to them about your breakup, let them know you’re hurting and that you’re working on yourself, so they can support you, too.
How integrated you were with your ex will determine how much of a new life you need to rebuild after a breakup.
Breakup expert and host of the breakup BOOST podcast Trina Leckie says finding healthy ways to cope means you’re moving forward in a positive direction. “After a breakup, you want to work on yourself, not against yourself,” Leckie tells Elite Daily. “Use this time wisely and reflect on the relationship. Keep it real with yourself — what wasn’t good about it? What was?” The unlimited free time that comes with quarantining at home might seem like a nightmare, but try to think of it as uninterrupted time to reflect.
As for rebuilding your life, Juarez emphasizes the importance of being patient, as this process can take months. “It includes rebuilding new routines, new social circles, and even moving homes for some,” she says. “How integrated you were with your ex will determine how much of a new life you need to rebuild after a breakup.” In quarantine, this looks like meeting a friend for a socially distanced walk, signing up for an online workout program, exploring new hobbies, or meeting new people in online communities tailored to your interests. If you or your ex moved out of the place you used to share, Juarez suggests making your new (or new-to-single-you) space your own. “Rearrange the furniture, give it a fresh coat of paint, and put up photos of places and things that make you happy.”
Lastly, Juarez emphasizes the importance of finding joy, no matter how bleak this time in your life actually feels. “Pleasure functions to provide your heart some temporary relief, and to help you stay the course so you don’t burn out with all the difficult emotional work of your recovery,” she says. Before quarantine, that might have included a vacation or a night out drinking and dancing, but pandemic life lends itself to simpler pleasures. “Perhaps it’s reading books set in a place you’ll travel to in the future, or taking a dance class online, or something beautifully simple such as learning to bake bread,” says Juarez. Leckie also suggests keeping your spirits up by watching funny movies and listening to motivating podcasts and upbeat music.
If you’re not quite sure where to start, write down a routine or daily schedule that includes elements of all four pillars. Start your day with five to 10 minutes of meditation, carve out time to journal or schedule a FaceTime call with your friends, try an online workout class, and end the day with a movie you love, a book you’ve been dying to read, or a recipe you’ve had bookmarked forever.
People who are still seeking ‘closure’ don’t really realize that closure is usually hoping for something you won’t get. The closure is that the relationship didn’t work out.
Healing is about focusing your energy forward, not slipping back into the past. So as tempting as reaching out to your ex might be, Leckie suggests going no-contact for as long as it takes you to fully heal. “Take this time to strengthen yourself and break the attachment, instead of going in circles and hurting yourself over and over again,” says Leckie. “Contact with exes usually equates to constant setbacks and staying stuck.”
She recommends refraining from texting, emailing, social media stalking, or reminiscing over old photos. Don’t look for answers that have the potential to make you feel worse. “People know why they broke up — it’s no secret,” says Leckie. “People who are still seeking ‘closure’ don’t really realize that closure is usually hoping for something you won’t get. The closure is that the relationship didn’t work out.” Mute or unfollow your ex on social media, and delete their number when you’re ready. The fewer ways you have to contact them, the less likely you’ll be to reach out.
For Anamaria, quarantine has included lots of crying, venting, yoga, cooking, and snuggles with her dog. One month post-breakup, she blocked her ex’s number. When she was ready to move back to New York City, she decorated her new apartment in her own style. And after spending time reflecting — really reflecting — on what she wants her new life to look like, she’s finally ready to move on. “Quarantine forced me to be selfish,” she says. “I had to think about myself. I had no other option.”
Natalia Juarez, breakup coach and dating strategist
Trina Leckie, breakup expert and host of the breakup BOOST podcast