Before the coronavirus outbreak hit the United States, I felt I was handling my breakup surprisingly well. I had stopped looking for my ex's name to pop up on Instagram, wishing he would text me, and questioning if things could have played out differently with us. But once quarantining began, I started missing my ex more than I ever expected to two months after our split.
The breakup happened at the end of January. It wasn’t a dramatic one. It was actually very amicable… which almost makes it worse if you ask me. We were only together for a couple of months, but it was the first relationship I felt excited about. We were total opposites: His logical mind and consistency balanced out my emotionally driven and spontaneous personality. His decisiveness and confrontational nature challenged my paralyzing indecision and passive tendencies. He was endlessly curious, always eager to learn new things. He's one of those people who could make you feel smarter after just one conversation. I found myself caring deeply about him after only a couple of dates. Sadly, relationships are a two-way street and as it turns out, both parties have to feel strongly to make it work. After a series of serious conversations and sleepless nights, he pulled the plug and my heart hurt like hell.
Going from talking to him every day to no communication at all was incredibly difficult to handle and get used to. Healing wasn't easy, but after muting my ex on Instagram and lots of journaling, I was finally feeling good about everything. My mind felt less foggy and my heart felt less sad.
And then… quarantine happened.
As many of us enter almost one month of quarantine due to the devastating coronavirus outbreak, we also enter a slower lifestyle. It's a newfound pace that has presented me with the space and time to pick up a new hobby, catch up on my reading, try new recipes, and revisit every detail and memory of the relationship I thought had properly mourned and healed from.
Who needs to bake sourdough bread when you can re-read every text you and your ex ever sent each other?
Who needs to watch Tiger King when you can replay every moment you spent together over and over again in your head?
Who needs to organize the medicine cabinet when you can repeatedly scroll through his Instagram as if you had never seen it before?
Thinking about my ex had become my quarantine hobby. Whenever my mind rested in a blank space, it was instantly filled with the thought of him. I wondered how he's doing. I wondered if he was thinking about me. I wondered if he missed me.
It didn’t help that during the first week of quarantine, he texted me for the first time since we ended things. Now, keep in mind, I had fully accepted the fact that I would probably never hear from him again. The last time we texted was after the breakup, he left me on read and he unfollowed me on Instagram. If that doesn’t say “goodbye forever,” I don’t know what does.
“You staying safe in NYC with the pandemic??”
I was taken aback. What kind of meme was I living in? The short and not-so-sweet conversation that followed was his attempt at apologizing for the way he behaved post-breakup. This exchange brought back a lot of old feelings and sent my already nostalgic mind into a downward spiral.
I found myself feeling the same (if not worse) than I did immediately after we ended things. How could this be? By now, it had been two months since the breakup. I thought I was done with these feelings. I thought I was done checking to see if he’d watched my Instagram Stories. I thought I was done wishing he would text me again. I thought I was done missing him. But alas, I was not.
Missing an ex is a wild and diverse experience. In my case, missing him means using a global pandemic as an excuse to keep texting him. It's crying in line at Trader Joe's because I used to go there with him on Sundays. It's writing down all the ways he upset me so I can help myself move on. It's checking to see if he's watched my Instagram Story because knowing he thought of me for at least 15 seconds brings me some weird type of comfort.
After three weeks of missing him, seemingly more than I did when we initially ended things, I asked myself: Do I miss him? Am I just bored? Or am I using him as a distraction from what’s happening in the world?
As a society, we are collectively enduring a traumatic experience. Normalcy has been disrupted and the future is uncertain. I personally don’t know how to cope with this unfamiliar stressor. What I do know how to cope with is heartbreak. This breakup is something I’ve navigated before and know I can navigate again.
I’ve found the pain I’m reliving by missing my ex has helped me cope with the anxiety and fears I have about the coronavirus. It’s been a way for me to fill my mind with thoughts that aren’t the current death toll, our government’s faulty way of handling this pandemic, my job security, and my family’s suffering financial situation. It’s only natural to gravitate towards familiarity and comfort in times of distress. It’s much easier to focus on lower-stakes problems, like missing my ex, than it is to think about higher-stakes problems, like this pandemic.
Although I believe my revived feelings for my ex have been a way for me to cope with the world’s heaviness, I also know my feelings are valid and true. Missing him may be a coping mechanism, but this doesn’t diminish the fact that I genuinely do miss him. In a situation where we’ve been stripped of everything non-essential, we’re forced to look inward and determine what we deem essential, who we deem essential, and who we want to be walking with through these dark and uncertain times.
Missing someone is a beautiful thing. It shows the depth of our humanity. It shows how much we care. It proves that we’ve been moved by another human being. I’m grateful to have met someone who has given me so much to miss. Although it’s painful, it also represents the power of human connection. It's similar to the result of this pandemic. Although devastating and incomprehensible, the coronavirus has also presented a surge of compassion and love from our neighbors around the world. Human connection is what brings us out of our darkest moments.
Now, whenever I experience sadness over my ex or the pandemic, I let myself feel it out. Then, I immediately write down three things I’m grateful for. This has helped me stay grounded. It’s my way of acknowledging my hurt and my blessings. Combating dark with light, if you will. If quarantine has taught me anything (other than how much I miss my ex), it’s that we have to surrender control to stay sane. This is true about breakups, too. We cannot control what’s happened in the past, and the future is out of our immediate control. We can only focus on the present moment. In doing this, we must give ourselves the space and grace to feel our many emotions deeply.