How I’ll survive Valentine’s Day after a painful breakup, and how you will, too

Despite what all the card and jewelry companies want you to believe, not everyone is “in love” with celebrating Valentine’s Day. For some of us heartbroken folk (me), it’s actually the worst time of year. For couples, it’s a pressure cooker meant to force you into romantic scenarios. For singles, well, how about we don’t? If you fall into the latter category, fear not. You just need a few pointers on how to slide past the 14th without added damage to your already broken heart.

If you scour the web, you’ll find all sorts of ideas on how to “treat yourself” for a solo V-Day, but honestly, some of the ideas are too broad, too basic, or too weird to help you get through it unscathed when you’re hurting. Right now, I’m not really in the mood to buy lingerie or write myself a love letter. And while suggestions of organizing a “Galentine’s” situation with close friends is admirable and enviable to a degree, there are some loners out there who’d rather not deal with other people (me again). Dressing up to sit at a bar with friends, drinking fruity drink after fruity drink won’t heal my wounds on a day meant for celebrating romantic love, no matter how fly my friends are.

After a major heartbreak of my own this year, my friends tried to fill the void. But if you’ve been with someone for years—or have been married to your soulmate and are now separated or divorced—a good friend can’t always fill that void. Besties are fantastic support systems, but some might make you feel worse by talking badly about an ex you still care for or getting angry with you for not moving on fast enough. It’s a fine line you might not want to walk on a high-pressure holiday.

For those of you nodding along with my frustrations, here’s a quick survival guide that I made so we don’t have to dread today.

1Let yourself sulk.

Seriously. I give you permission to forget about keeping your mascara intact. Spend a pre-set amount of time sobbing into your pillow while The Notebook streams in the background. Take in all that “Ff you’re a bird, I’m a bird,” crap and feel the pain. Stare longingly at Ryan Gosling’s abs and cry over his and Rachel McAdams’s real-life breakup (because if they can’t make it, who can?). Block time out in your planner so that you can look forward to letting it all out. You’d be surprised at how cathartic this can be, especially if you have commitments all week and don’t have the proper amount of time to flat-out ugly cry. Valentine’s Day is a hard holiday for many people (again, me). If you’re grieving over a breakup, separation, or divorce, allow yourself extra time to be sad without guilt to handle other responsibilities.

2Do something self-indulgent.

Do any and everything that makes you feel like the queen you are. Want that greasy fast food burger you wouldn’t normally eat? Get it. Want a soothing back rub? Schedule a solo massage. Want a box of candy but there’s no one to buy it for you? BUY. IT. FOR. YOURSELF. There’s no shame in being your own Valentine. If anything, it’s a necessary reminder to love yourself first.

3Don’t text the ex.

February 14th might have once been a day when your ex bought you the first season of This Is Us on DVD so that you could “watch it together from the beginning.” Ugh, gross. For some, it’s a day when nothing significant ever happened, but it still reminds you of the deep love you shared. It’s only natural that you’ll want to text something to remind your ex of that love. But listen—don’t do it. No matter how strong the temptation, or how lonely this holiday makes you feel, stifle that desperation and channel it into texting literally anyone else. I’ve had conversations with a website’s “Help” chat just to re-direct my focus. It’s hard, I know, but rarely will anything good come from a V-Day text to an ex, so spare yourself more heartache and use that energy to hit up a friend instead.

4Change it up.

You can want to be alone and have low energy, but still do something. Anything to take your mind off of “romance” so that you can relieve some stress and have a (little) fun.  So why not do the complete opposite of what you’ve done on Valentine’s Days in the past? Make the day new and exciting. If you went to a nice restaurant last year, go roller skating solo this year. If you’ve gone dancing, hit up the trampoline park or go to mini golf.

5Watch whatever you want.

What’s with all the rom-coms airing on Valentine’s Day? I, personally, don’t want to see other people kissing and holding hands when my heart is broken. If you feel the same, forget the previous Notebook reference and forget that This Is Us DVD you never actually watched with your significant other. How about you dig into a mind-bending thriller, action, or fantasy movie instead? When I’m blue, I put on Dr. Strange and pretend I have my own magical cape to manipulate time. I may not feel any happier, but at least I don’t have to watch a fictional couple make out through my tears.

6Buy yourself flowers and jewelry.

You deserve the world. Don’t wait on anyone to remind you of that.

7Name a cockroach after them.

If you haven’t heard, the El Paso Zoo is letting anyone name a cockroach after an ex before the roach is fed to meerkats. Likewise, the Bronx Zoo is doing something kind of similar where, for $10, you can name a cockroach after someone, though that roach won’t be sacrificed. Depending on how bad your breakup was, this could be a way to translate your pain into the metaphor of letting go…or something.

8Dress down if you want to.

With no Valentine, there’s no pressure to put on fancy clothes or spend an hour to perfect your eyeliner wings. Lounge in the comfiest clothes you own and don’t you dare feel guilty about it. This is your day now. Own it.

9Visit animals.

In totally random suggestion news, if you’re feeling down and can’t seem to shake it, visit a local shelter or rescue. Regardless of what’s going on in your life, it’s nothing a fur-baby can’t help make better. Doggos, puppers, and floofers will heal any wounds. The hardest part will be leaving without taking them all home. One battle at a time.

10Remind yourself that February 14th is only one day.

Seriously—this holiday is a swift 24-hours. Don’t stress so much. I know the ache of missing someone; I know how it hurts. I feel for you. If it gives you any relief, the 15th is the real MVP—that’s when all the candy is half off.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be the worst experience after a breakup. It’ll still sting—especially if it’s recent or was particularly painful—but it’s time to re-brand the “romance holiday” into something new: “The Day of You.” It may not feel like it right now, but don’t put too much weight on the “love holiday.” No matter how gloomy the skies seem now, they’ll clear up soon. You’ve got this.

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