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TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 3, 2022

50 People On The Lessons They Learnt From Their Worst Heartbreak

If you’re in need of some hope, some pockets of joy and what feels like unreachable curiosity about what life is like when you finally reach the other side, we spoke to 50 people about the lessons they learnt from their worst break-up.

All-consuming and nauseating at best, traumatising at worst, it might sound dramatic, but for those who have gone through a break-up that tore their world in half, the reality of surviving what feels unsurvivable can be truly devastating. Whether the rug has been pulled from under your feet or you made a difficult decision to leave a relationship that was no longer serving you, the minutes, hours, days and months that follow can feel endlessly challenging in everything from significant calendar dates to the tiniest intricacies of your day- ordering a takeaway for one, the familiar smell of their shower gel on someone else or their favourite song on the radio all thrusting you back into the depths of it all. As the world keeps spinning and life carries on for those around you, you’re left stuck exactly where things ended, with time now being separated in your brain as simply ‘before’ and ‘after’ the end of you and them. 

And whilst the anguish that comes from heartbreak can feel so isolating and unique in its destruction, it’s true that in any given moment, thousands of others are in the same throes of emotion, wondering if things will ever feel normal or okay again too. 

Spoiler alert: it is survivable, and not only that, one day you will thrive and glow with newfound energy, lust for life, and all the highs and lows the universe sends your way. It certainly might not be a short or easy journey, especially if the person you lost felt as close to ‘the one’ as you thought you would ever know, but sometimes it really does take reaching the lowest point possible to rise on the other side stronger, better, and with more clarity about what you deserve from your precious time on Earth. Break-ups change us in unfathomable ways, but it’s true that what breaks us can then make us, and from rock bottom… the only way is up!

So if you’re in need of some hope, some pockets of joy and what feels like unreachable curiosity about what life is like when you finally reach the other side, we spoke to 50 people about the lessons they learnt from their worst break-up and the knowledge they took into their new chapters of love, lust and longing. Grab a cuppa, take a deep breath and know that rejection can equal redirection in the end.

  • It is never wrong to have loved someone, even if they haven’t loved you back. Love is what truly makes the world go around, and there can never be too much of it.
  • In the words of Taylor Swift herself, “she lost him but she found herself and somehow that was everything”
  • As painful as it feels when it ends, you will always overcome it and find people on the other side, romantic or platonic, that will make you feel loved again.
  • Your friends and family are the loves of your life- surround yourself with those soulmates and you can survive anything at all.
  • You can and will have a full life without that person in it.
  • Sometimes someone else has to stop choosing you for you to start choosing yourself.
  • It‘s not your responsibility to fix someone who is broken. And if you still try to and it doesn‘t work, then you have to get out of there before it breaks you too. You can‘t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. 
  • I will always carry pieces of them- habits, tastes, expressions- and knowing that is bittersweet.
  • Sometimes it takes going through heartbreak to make you realise how strong you are. Heartbreak gives you clarity to see the things that made it not work out or made that person “wrong” for you once you have that post-heartbreak lens.
  • Heartbreak f****** hurts, emotionally AND physically. Instead of letting it turn me into a hateful person, it showed me how resilient and strong I really am. I developed a mindset of ‘everything happens for a reason’ (how cliché). 
  • I learnt that you can really lose yourself in an unhealthy relationship- your confidence, self worth, and your moral compass. But when you get out of it, and get over the worst of the breakup, it will all come back and you can become the best version of yourself again. 
  • Never try to fill the hole they left with someone else, you can’t fill that hole, that one will just hurt, but after you’re done with the ice cream and tears, put in the effort to find the parts of yourself and life that make you happy again, that’s the only way to help the world feel whole.
  • You cannot put your whole heart into a partner because they may not give you theirs. You deserve to keep your heart and to love yourself above anyone else. 
  • The death of my mum taught me the capacity of a human heart and that sometimes when broken they never heal, you just learn to live with the cracks.
  • Firstly, you can’t decide who you love but you can decide who you want to spend the rest of your life with. Secondly, unless you truly love yourself no relationship will ever work. 
  • My worst heartbreak taught me to save some of my soul for myself. You should never allow someone to have the entire percentage of you, otherwise they leave you with nothing if they go.
  • Never give up on your dreams for someone else. It’s important to always stay true to yourself and if someone is asking you to do something you absolutely don’t want to do, say ‘no’ and stay true to the ‘you’ that you know.
  • The only person who’s truly there for you is YOU.
  • Take time to yourself in the aftermath, learn who you are and what you want, as opposed to relying on a partner to make you feel like you matter.
  • It‘s okay if it takes you a ‘long’ time to heal from heartbreak, even though it feels like society gives you a certain time frame. It‘s also okay if you need less time than indicated. Heartbreak is neither linear nor universal. Stop telling people how long they are allowed to mourn what they lost.
  • When it feels like the rug has been pulled from underneath your feet, it has. But in time the dust will settle and you will get through this. 
  • The “ride the wave” mantra has got me through A LOT.
  • Don’t settle for someone just because that person makes you feel safe. You are worth more!
  • If they want to be with you, they will make the effort. If they don’t, they won’t. Actions > words.
  • I learnt that you can’t put an expiry date on heartbreak, one day you’ll wake up and forget what you’ve been crying about for 2 years! My friends told me that it would take 6 months to get over it but placing a timeframe on it felt like I had a rulebook on healing that simply didn’t apply to me!
  • No matter how hard you try, you cannot force someone to stay in love with you.
  • Time is the best healer, as cliche as it sounds.
  • If you don’t like the person you’ve become, it’s time to walk away.
  • At the end of the day, no one is more important than you and your mental health.
  • Valuing being in a relationship more than others typically do doesn’t make you weak or needy, it means you are aware of your needs and will help you choose someone better suited to meet those in the future.
  • I personally think heartbreak can be useful, however painful it is at the time you learn some valuable lessons. Lessons in what you want and perhaps even more importantly what you don’t want in a partner. You can learn to value yourself and above all love yourself, and that you’re absolutely not half a person- because being yourself is enough. 
  • Heartbreak has taught me that it’s okay to be by yourself. You don’t need to have another person to make you whole like books and films often tell you. In fact you can do that all on your own & learn so much about yourself just by embracing the moments when you’re alone. And if all else fails Taylor Swift’s Red album will have your back and guide you through it.
  • Once you’re out the other side, you’ll realise it’s scarier to live a life in which you are not truly valued or loved than to feel the temporary pain of a break-up. You deserve someone to meet you halfway with the same amount of love, compassion and respect you give them.
  •  Build a life in which someone will enhance it, not make it or break it.
  • I learnt to never, ever make myself smaller or less, and never to allow myself to be made to feel like my needs and wishes are “too much” (because really, there’s no such thing).
  • Find someone who loves you as much as you had to love yourself whilst mending your broken heart.
  • Even though it doesn’t seem like it, there’s a reason for everything.
  • Words are empty promises, pay attention to their actions. 
  • It’s scary to open yourself up to someone and know they have the power to change it all, but the right person will handle your heart with care.
  • Having your own back is the most powerful thing you can do. 
  • Trust your gut wholeheartedly. If something feels off it probably is.
  • I can give the love I gave to him to myself. 
  • Nothing you try to do to make sense of it ever will. Stop trying to apply logic and work on moving on. 
  • If you can feel so much love for the wrong person, imagine how much love you can feel for the right one.
  • The emotions you feel when you break up with someone are so complex. I learned that guilt, like worrying, is a pointless emotion – it eats you up inside and it won’t go away unless you literally stop letting yourself feel it. You have to remind yourself why you did what you did and that you did it for the right reason, as painful as it is.
  • Keep busy and don’t feel bad for relying on the people that love you and want to help you. Take up space, ask for help and don’t struggle through this alone- you might just find you feel more love than ever from the friends and family you know won’t ever abandon you.
  • Don’t stop listening to the albums you loved together or watching your favourite TV shows (if you can) because it will be a lot harder when they naturally appear in your life and you’re not prepared- push through and reclaim them.
  • Heartbreak taught me that the true loves of my life are my closest friends. They were there for me through everything, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank them enough, from a ‘how are you doing today?’ text, to a gossip over coffee. My friends have actually shown me what real, unconditional love is, not him.
  • Sometimes the timing is right, it’s just the wrong person. 
  • Fall in love with someone who doesn’t make you think love is hard.
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