So your ethical Romeo has made a Shakespearean tragedy out of you. Or, maybe you did the leaving because the former love of your life refused to hear you, see you, or consider your needs. Whatever the case, you’re suffering through what anybody who has been brave enough to open their hearts has experienced: heartbreak. If you’re similar to me, heartbreak wakes you at 4am when your anthropomorphized stuffed animal collection is the only thing onto which you can grasp—because, after all, your love is gone, and they’re not coming back. Heartbreak kicks you in the gut while you’re volunteering at your local dog shelter, even though you and that darling pit bull were totally fine two minutes ago. Heartbreak catapults you into acting like a monster, a glutton, an addict, and a fool—because not even Häagen-Dazs’ new vegan flavors could make your heart heal after this colossal disappointment. Heartbreak and I are no strangers, and since I have spent many days sharing space with the beast, I can tell you with confidence that your heart will heal. I realize you want to punch me for saying that (even though you have an ahimsa tattoo on your thigh, you non-violent teddybear, you), but I will bet my supply of B12 capsules that I’m right. Here are seven tried and true steps to curing the vegan heartbreak blues.
1. Eat vegan bonbons
When it’s time for a sob fest, go old school, and stuff your mouth with the iconic magical treats known as bonbons. Popularized by Peggy Bundy—a personal hero of mine—nothing helps muffle the sounds of desperate cries better than filling your face with vegan chocolate. But mind you: you have one, and I mean one, opportunity to indulge in bonbon therapy, so make it count, because you will soon be moving on to Step 2.
2. Feel it
After your bonbon hangover is complete, you are going to be tasked with the tall order of suffering through the bad parts—and they will be bad. You will cry in the bathroom stall of a sushi restaurant that has amazing avocado rolls. You will find yourself listening to Meat Is Murder on repeat while curled in the fetal position on your apartment floor. And you will exhaust a few of your friendships with your one-note histrionics. That’s because you will officially become boring. But the only way to Step 3 is to feel every aspect of that pain, which means embracing the grief and fury (much like you did when you first learned about factory farming). Don’t try to suppress this step, friend. Though you might not feel it at the time, feeling your pain is key to moving on.
3. Distract yourself
When you’re done ugly-crying, you’re going to want to start to incorporate some distractions into your life. Is that the same thing as relaxing? Absolutely not—that comes later. For now, you need to rest those precious tear ducts and go on some adventures—but make them ones you haven’t experienced before (Farm Sanctuary is revitalizing for sure, but if your ex works there, maybe find a place to go bowling instead). This is your opportunity to get out of old routines and explore new plant-based restaurants, fair-trade stores, and vegan bars. Will you find yourself thinking about your ex’s sexy collarbone at some point? Yes. Will your muscle memory make you want to text them a photo of your soy White Russian? Totally (also: don’t). Just keep filling your schedule with people who like and/or pity you, and you will soon be on your way to the next step.
4. Practice radical self-care
Now that you’ve bonbonned, wept, and set a world record for the most gutter balls in one game, it’s time to get serious about healing. In addition to drinking plenty of water each day, think about doing a cleanse—I like juice fasts, but they’re not for everyone, so consider focusing on smoothies, soups, and simple foods that nourish while giving you a break from the crap you’ve been ingesting of late. If you’re able to, spring for a detox vacation, but if that’s not realistic, focus on consuming whole foods and reducing or abstaining altogether from sugar, alcohol, and impulsive texts that you will later regret (trust me on this one).
5. Set boundaries
This is going to be uncomfortable, but you’re going to start to have serious boundaries with yourself and your former partner. That means that you block them from your phone (which is really so that you stop being tempted to text them), you discontinue those dastardly automatic Facebook notifications (even better: you boldly unfriend them), and you unapologetically single-ify your calendar. Will your ex be at that upcoming PETA fundraiser? Decide now that you’re not going to go, and instead make solid plans to host an intimate gathering of friends to watch a double-feature of Okja and What the Health? at your apartment. Creating boundaries can suck. They bring out the abandonment issues in the best of us, but they are absolutely vital to moving on.
6. Be of service
When I’m in the habit of feeling sorry for myself, the last thing I want to do is help someone else, but that’s always—without question—the thing that propels me out of my spiraling and reminds me to practice gratitude and keep my self-pity in check. Once you’ve reached this point, see if your local sanctuary needs someone to rake chicken poop. Or maybe that nearby animal-rights group is seeking weekend leafleters. Volunteer at a cat rescue on Sundays, mentor a new vegan, or start a letter-writing group to prisoners. Being of service speaks to the core of many of our compassionate worldviews, and when we extricate ourselves from our suffering long enough to help someone else, karma often has a way of working its magic.
7. Get out there
At this point, you’re ready to slowly put yourself out there again, so go ahead and flirt with that cute redhead at the protest. Make eyes with that freckled Starbucks barista (the way she steams that soy is so oddly salacious), or go ahead and finally let your bestie set up that dating profile for you. Keep in mind that sometimes you’ll need to fake it ‘til you make it, which means acting like life without her is normal—when, at moments anyway, it will feel anything but. Just keep plodding through, and time will work in your favor. You’ve got this—just don’t let past experiences shut down your heart. Just because your last relationship didn’t work doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful for what it was. If vegans have one thing going for us, it’s that we’ve got heart—so here’s to mending yours.
Jasmin Singer is the senior editor of VegNews Magazine, the author of the memoir Always Too Much and Never Enough, and the co-host of the Our Hen House podcast. Check out out her regular love column in VegNews.
Photo by Christy Robinson Designs