Ask Ainsley: How do I heal from a pandemic breakup?

Dear Ainsley, 

As if dealing with the current state of the world wasn’t hard enough, I’m now newly single and left to cope with my pandemic breakup. Before, I’d usually get dressed up and spend the night dancing away my pain with my closest friends. Now, all I can do is use my seemingly endless time to ruminate over what happened with barely any distractions aside from online assignments, which have begun to feel more and more overwhelming. What should I do? 

Sincerely, 

Single Amidst Disaster (SAD)


Dear SAD, 

I’m so sorry you’re having such a tough time! The present moment is a particularly difficult time to be going through a breakup, since most traditional breakup recovery advice revolves around going out, letting loose, and processing emotions in the company of friends. You should be gentle with yourself as you heal. Although the conditions of online learning can encourage a skewed school-life balance, allow yourself to disconnect from work if you feel it would help. It is okay to do the minimum for a while as you cope with emotional turmoil.

As difficult as breakups may be, there is one key advantage to the pandemic breakup: A clean break. You likely won’t run into them at parties or gatherings with mutual friends, giving you some much-needed space while you gather your emotions and take care of yourself. Similarly, you likely won’t have to fight off the temptation to jump into a rebound relationship. Try to reframe your newfound alone time as an opportunity to focus on cultivating your individual interests and passions. Many people have rediscovered a new enthusiasm for old hobbies while in quarantine, which can help to rebuild the fractured sense of identity that sometimes follows a breakup. However cliché, nurturing these interests can help strengthen your sense of self: You were whole before this person, and you are equally whole without them. 

Alongside acknowledging your grief, therapist Anisah Milley recommends replenishing oxytocin, a hormone that is related to connection and touch, post-breakup. While this is more difficult amidst the pandemic, there are remote options: Connecting with friends and family over video chat is a great way to remind yourself of the platonic love you still have while combatting loneliness. Though quarantine limits the options for comforting touch, it’s not impossible—try out self-massage or self-pleasure.

We can all agree that breakups suck, but healing is different for everyone. If you find yourself needing someone to sit with you as you process your emotions, reach out to family, trusted friends, or a counsellor. Sometimes talking about your situation can help you process the pain. McGill-specific resources include the Peer Support Centre, the Wellness Hub, and Keep.meSAFE. Additionally, meditation or journaling can be useful forms of expression. 

Although it’s difficult, isolation can serve as a time to reflect on your past relationship and what you learned about yourself in the process. Prolonged alone time can allow for some much-needed introspection, and can ultimately help you grow as an individual. Taking some time to understand what worked and didn’t work with your previous partner can strengthen your future relationships—and yes, there will be future relationships. 

The current crisis does not need to keep you from practicing healthy coping methods. Get dressed up anyway, put on your favourite playlist and dance away the pain in your living room. Although things are a little more complicated, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the notion that time will heal your post-breakup blues. Keep focussing on you, and eventually it won’t hurt so much. 

Best of luck, 

Ainsley 

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