The morning of March 5 was just like any other. My boyfriend left our NYC apartment for work as I finished my oat milk latte on the couch. Ten minutes later, my phone lit up with his name: the words "Have a great day Krissy!" and heart-eye emoji flashed across my screen. I went to work, happily made my way to my favourite barre class around 6 p.m., then raced to the Upper West Side to meet a friend. As I headed back to our apartment, I planned the salmon dinner we would make, the episode of Secret City we'd watch on Netflix. But as I walked into our home that Thursday night, it was like everything I had known suddenly shattered all around me without warning.
I leaned in to happily kiss him hello as I did every single night, but this time, I saw a look in his eyes that will forever be embedded in my memory. One glance at his ghost-white face said everything without him needing to say a word. I didn't notice his packed suitcases in the bedroom until he got up to walk away after suddenly and unexpectedly telling me we were over. Somehow, over the span of eight hours, he'd gone from sending me heart emoji to completely erasing our existence as a couple. The man who, weeks prior, happily suggested we map out the timeline of our engagement and future life split between LA and Melbourne, Australia. The man who agreed "Lover" by Taylor Swift would be a song at our wedding. That we'd start trying for kids in three years. The man who constantly said he'd never been happier, never been more in love.
What do you do when the love of your life, who you were spending forever with, suddenly blindsides you and walks away while the whole world shuts down?
A deluge of words escaped his mouth, none of which I could understand: he suddenly could no longer get engaged this September, now he wasn't sure he'd ever be ready to get married, and he couldn't give me what I deserved. All I could get out were 17 different ways of asking him why, and how, as I repeatedly chanted there's no way this is actually happening. Those few minutes felt like the floor suddenly disappeared beneath me, leaving me free falling. As he walked out of our home, the door slamming behind him, I melted into our couch, breaking down in a way I didn't know was possible. When you're deeply happy and planning forever with your best friend, the shock of being blindsided stings in unimaginable ways — yet I didn't know it was about to get even worse. Eight days after my ex upended my world, the global coronavirus pandemic began to shut down New York City. Inside the now pin-drop-quiet apartment we'd once called home, I felt more alone and more isolated than I ever could've anticipated.
Weeks later, mid-lockdown, I scrolled past a quote on Instagram: "The only way out is through." I never could've guessed that a clichéd saying you'd find in the framed-decor aisle at TJ Maxx would soon become the theme of my life. But if there's a lesson I've learned in 2020, it's that we can never know what the future holds. What do you do when the one thing you thought you couldn't handle actually happens to you? What do you do when the love of your life, who you were planning on spending forever with, suddenly blindsides you and walks away while the whole world shuts down? I wish I could say I discovered a magic bullet that suddenly made things OK. But the truth is, I learned that the message within that clichéd quote was the way forward.
As I worked my way through the heartbreak in isolation, it taught me an important lesson: to never be afraid of leaning on the people in your world. My friends and family rallied around me with love in a way I never could've asked for or expected. From friends willing to drop everything to show up by my side, to care packages of cookie dough and face masks, to a constant stream of phone calls and texts checking in. It was in those moments I was reminded that unconditional love still exists all around me. Setting up a support system to lean on day in and day out became my life jacket. Being vulnerable and opening up about your pain is not easy, especially in a world that thrives on people presenting their most polished, picture-perfect selves on social media. But this experience reminded me of the one thing that truly connects us all: being human. We can all relate to life-shattering heartbreak and pain, and we're all dealing with unprecedented isolation. The experience of living through a global pandemic is hard for all of us, and harder for some of us. But each of us is struggling, and by opening up about our experiences and honouring that about each other, we build space for everyone to grieve together.
In between daily Zoom hangouts and uplifting group chats with best friends, I did something else I never thought I could do: I started a daily meditation. I'd spent the past few years wishing I could suddenly become one of those enlightened people who meditate and journal, but as an anxious person, the thought of being able to turn off my racing thoughts for even five minutes seemed impossible. It was in that moment that I realised another freeing truth: when the terrifying fear of losing the love of your life happens to you, there's no longer anything to run from. I had felt it all, been shattered to my very core, and yet, I was still here. If I could battle my way through unfathomable heartbreak, I could sit in silence with my thoughts for 10 minutes every day.
So I created a new daily routine, one that was just for me. I decided I would wake up every morning, do a meditation from the Calm app, and write in a gratitude journal. My brain wanted to panic with 10,000 different thoughts. How I needed to pack up my life all alone and move out of our beloved home, how I had to start dating again, how I had to say goodbye to his family that felt like my own. But the gift of meditation taught me to stay in the present moment and take things simply one day at a time. Not allowing myself to become overwhelmed with the future became an important part of my healing. Slowly, day by day, the fog started to lift. I began each morning with gratitude, I sat with a still mind, and I worked to shift my thoughts from resentment to forgiveness. I realised we have two choices: we can swim in our anger and ruminate in our pain every minute of every day, or we can choose to let go with grace and believe that what's coming is far better than what we left behind.
It's been four excruciatingly long months since my ex walked out of my life, and six weeks since I said goodbye to our home for the last time. When you go from spending years side by side with your partner to suddenly isolating alone, everything feels impossible. When you have to find a new home and move in the middle of a terrifying pandemic, it seems unfathomable. When you can't utilise the usual breakup distractions — workout classes, signing up for an art class, planning an adventurous holiday — you feel stuck in purgatory. But through leaning on a virtual support system, bringing meditation into my life, and acknowledging and feeling the hard feelings, I discovered that it is possible to get through your worst days. Am I completely over this heartbreak? Definitely not. I miss him in the small moments and the big moments — when I see a Frozen toy his nieces would love, when I finally adopted a puppy we had dreamed about for so long. Every day I wake up next to an empty space in our bed still feels like a bad dream, and I'm pretty certain he'll always hold a fractured space in my heart. But this difficult experience has taught me that day by day, you can and will move forward. Even when it feels like you can't, time has a way of proving you wrong.
Each milestone is painful when you're dealing with a breakup. Leaving your shared home for the last time, starting to date someone new, seeing your ex erase your memories from social media. But the thing about those milestones is that each time you pass one, you're one step closer to the other side. Dealing with a loss isn't a linear pattern. Some days your ex will feel like a distant memory, and then right as you think you're on solid ground, you'll hear your song as you're strolling down aisle seven in Target and the waves of pain will wash over you once again. But as the days pass, the waves get smaller. And what's left is the stronger, braver, grace-filled version of you. One who knows that to love someone fiercely, you sometimes have to pay the price of heartbreak. And when faced with the choice of showing up and loving another deeply with your whole heart or running away in the face of vulnerability and fear, I'd choose love every time.