Laura Donovan
October 22, 2013 7:00 am

Heartbreak is rough, especially when you’re given a calendar day to be done with it — and criticized once that date rolls around and you’re still mourning an old flame.

I’ve heard over the years that it’s supposed to take half the time you dated somebody to fully move on from him/her, and while we could control our emotions and meet this deadline in a perfect world, feelings can’t be put to rest on command.

This topic is difficult to write about because I often find myself hung up on folks who never even made it “official” with me, and for that reason alone, I’ve been told I have no right to be mad about anything negative that transpired between us. A college fling once said he didn’t think we were close enough to hurt each other, and though I understood his logic, it wasn’t helpful to have my feelings monopolized and questioned, and besides, it’s totally possible to hurt people you’re getting to know. In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Kate Hudson’s character states, “You can’t lose something you never had,” but I beg to differ. As Adele would say, “we could have had it all.”

You have to go through the motions of heartbreak (at any stage) and pick up the pieces when you’re ready, not when others claim you should be ready, and that goes for friends, family members, and anonymous life coaches who make declarations about how long normal suffering lasts. After all, everyone operates at a different pace, and whether you bounce back in 24 hours or take months to stop thinking about the enticing charmer who only bothered to text you a couple times a year, nobody has a right to say you’re doing it wrong or the one with the problem. It’s bad enough to be rejected, so when your disappointment is a cause of social shame and labeled weak, moving on is even harder, and maybe even impossible for the time being.

Eat Pray Love has been slammed for many reasons, but I’ve always admired the honesty with which the author shares her own story of heartbreak. If nothing else, the memoir has a fantastic character named Richard who patiently helps writer Liz Gilbert get over her ex-boyfriend, an actor in New York who served as the rebound following her divorce. Rather than tell Liz there’s no logical reason for her to continue feeling awful about her relationship disaster, he says it’s fine to be torn up about someone: “So miss him Send him some love and light every time you think of him and then drop it.” Keeping it positive doesn’t hurt either, even when you’ve got anything but happy thoughts about the individual who let you down.

When you’re devastated by a break-up, the last thing you need is to be told you must feel normal and full again by a specific date, or that you have issues if you can’t seem to pull this off. Forget the deadlines and cultural rules and progress at your own pace, even if it’s extremely slow and frustrating the people around you. You’ll have an easier time moving forward once you quit focusing on the fact that it’s taking forever.

How do you handle heartbreak? Do you move on immediately or take a while? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section.

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