The Anatomy Of Grief From A Breakup During A Pandemic
Updated: Jun 14
Against a backdrop of people dying en masse to a pandemic, people you know or know of losing their lives, losing their family members, a breakup with a long-term romantic partner doesn’t seem like the worst thing to happen. At least you’re safe. You didn’t lose anyone to the virus. You are healthy.
But unlike the virus, unfortunately there’s no vaccine against a heartbreak. So you go on, see it ravage your insides, weaken your soul system, and kill you on the inside. A virus doesn’t care about you, it doesn’t claim to love you but hurts you. The virus masks, breakup unmasks.
Unlike illness, it’s not the kind of grief that brings flowers from well-wishers, cakes from well meaning friends, outpour of solidarity and support from social media. It’s also not the kind of pain that medicines can heal. It’s not the kind of terminal grief that the finality of death ensues.
Unlike losing someone to death, a breakup, especially one without closure on both ends, is a live volcano. Or an erratic tide. The longer the relationship, the harder, more violently it gnaws inside. Some have even gone as far to say that for every year of a relationship, you need a month to recover from its end. You doubt that math and convince yourself that actually the amount of time needed to heal from the end of a long relationship might actually be longer than the whole tenure of the relationship itself. Unlike death, you never really fully accept the end.
You half dread, half hope for that text any minute. Maybe something will change? Maybe they’ll come around and make things right?
Sometimes the text does come. All those days and months of steeling yourself for a future without them is kaput. You’re washed ashore again on that beach of uncertainty, heartache, longing and dejection. The one person you needed in the comfort of your now empty home, while the world was already socially distanced outside, isn't around.
You read every single line of chat again. Millions of them. Maybe you missed a line that could’ve explained where things fell apart. Surely there’s a misunderstanding. No no, maybe that message just didn't deliver. Damn it, why didn’t you word that thing better? Oh...he said that? There it is...that one line, the final nail in the coffin.
When texts fail to comfort, pictures step in. Endless scrolling, zooming and crying at the photos. You even bring the phone close to your heart in an admittedly dramatic, and yet somehow comforting movement. The only place you exist together, happy, is now frozen in a few pixels on a screen.
In the long lonely road of moving on after a breakup is you looking back ever so often to convince yourself you saw them trailing. You take one step forward, but two steps back, never quite coming close to the finish line. The heart wants what it wants, the eyes see what they want to see.
The eyes. They have been overworked, overcried. Red has replaced the white. They have long lost their spark just like the mythical promise ring on your finger. In the Death Note that is your life, grief is your Shinigami. It feeds off you, it takes you offtrack, it becomes you.
You lose counts of the number of times you’ve woken up mid-sleep, gripped in a panic about the futility of your life and the bleak future that stares ahead. Not ruling out that you haven’t observed the distance between your balcony and the ground and pictured yourself splayed out on the road, or wondered if the rickety fan on your ceiling will let you down. But you snap out of it. suicide is not an option. You owe it to someone to stay alive. Death doesn't hurt the dead, but hurts the living. You can’t do that to anyone. You went vegan to hurt animals less, you can’t possibly wantonly hurt a person or the dogs your death will bring. The quiet of the lockdown-ridden streets amplifies the noise in your head.
The dogs. At least you have the dogs. They’re your raison d'etre. They’re old and someday soon they too will leave. Everyone leaves. You’re all what’s left. Only a work meeting yanks you out from your sorrow-ridden insolence. Now more than ever, money can’t make you happy, but neither can 24 hours of living without a purpose. So you trod on, put on a lipstick and some makeup to talk marketing plans, projections and growth of the company, while your own life is deeply on V-shaped decline. But noone can know that. Not even your friends. You go on living the biggest lie, building the biggest walls, more to fool yourself, less to the world.
Jokes are cracked, stories are told, small talk is made. Hush the grieving heart. Now’s not the time.
The thing with a breakup is, you’ve heard the pep talk. You’ve been given it time and again during your previous times of loss. You have given it to the other people. You know the words well. They’re coming from a good place but they seldom do what they’re intended to. They’re but platitudes, chocolates that will make you feel great in the moment, but that’s about it.
You’re the only one who can help yourself. So begins the redemption journey. “They don’t know you what they’re missing.” You work out, eat healthier, be the social-media approved “the best version of yourself”. This is the age of Tinder, love is available at your finger tips. Or is it? Then why do you read every line that guy said and wonder what would HE have said? Why would you rather clutch a hurtful past than a promising future.
You’re relapsing. The second wave of the pandemic is ravaging the world around you, second (or the millionth) wave of your heartbreak is wrecking your world inside out. Jabs of grief come back poking, without warning. Is it really over? Maybe it isn’t. Rinse and repeat. You’re back under the blanket, tear soaked pillow, seeking succour from sugar.
Your whole life flashes, in small episodes, in your mind’s TV. What could you have possibly done to deserve this?
You’ve won the war against a virus, but a human being has defeated you. Your lungs are fine, but your heart will never be the same again.