1. The crying stage.
Cry it all out. Cry until it becomes empty sobs. Cry until your body is exhausted. Fall asleep, but still feel the pain. Stay in bed for days. Refuse to eat. Stare at walls and don’t go to class. Ignore the concerned phone calls and texts from friends. Worry your roommate. Let the insomnia kick in, stay up for days and write bad poetry and drink too much caffeine. Feel the overdose of adrenaline pump through your veins in a fake attempt to recreate the feeling your ex used to give you. Convince yourself that your ex will come back. Cry again when you know they never will.
2. The stage in which you shower.
Eventually get out of bed. Shower. Realize that all your products remind you of your ex. Get your roommate to go buy you new things. Attempt to wash the ex away with things that don’t smell like lilac and vanilla, but of grapefruit and coconut. Clean out your drawers. Throw out perfectly good clothing, just because the ex saw you in them once. Find yourself on the floor wearing ex’s old sweatshirt. Have your roommate guide you through putting your ex’s stuff in bags and stuffing them in closets that you don’t open. Go to class. Find yourself checking your phone out of habit, and learn to live with your heart breaking every time you remember that your ex’s name won’t be waiting for you. Have friends constantly checking up on you. Realize that you need time alone. Watch them slowly fade back into their own lives. Sit by the sidelines when you get together with your friends and feel the ache in your chest because you know that someone is missing. Watch as your friends look at you, realize this and embrace you.
3. The adventure stage.
On a cold February night have friends knocking at your window with a lighter in one hand, and beer in the other. Trudge up the highest hill on campus dragging the bag behind you from the closet. Take your ex’s Old Spice and spray it into the flame. Watch as you destroy the letters and old pictures in a fire. Watch something you used to think was home go up in flames. Watch it burn until it becomes just embers. Feel exhilarated. Smile and laugh on your way back to your dorm. Fall asleep with a newfound love for your friends and makeshift family.
4. The travel stage.
Get out of the city and escape to the country. Or if you’re from the country, escape to the city. Or just go home; sleep in your childhood bed and see that even though things have shifted in your life, the walls of your family home are still frozen in time. Find comfort in that.
5. The baby steps stage.
Listen to your song until it becomes just another song. Learn to push aside the memories which still bubble up with the lyrics. Accept that for now, and for a long time, that this song will always remind you of your ex. Do things that you put on hold and learn to love yourself without the help of someone else backing up that love. Learn your worth, and learn that your worth cannot be measured.
Wake up one day and start to feel okay. Realize that the hurt in your chest is just a dull ache and not a roaring pain. Look forward to your day, make plans, laugh a genuine laugh. When a stranger on the bus asks for your number, agree and give it to him. Feel the butterflies you haven’t felt in a long time. Go on first dates just for the hell of it. Cut your hair and feel like a new person. Change the color five times in two months. Recreate yourself, for yourself. Learn that dancing at 3am to Taylor Swift with your roommate will always be the best cure for anything. Go shopping with that lifelong friend, buy things that make you feel good. Go to the gym when your mind starts to get cloudy and you start to hurt again, run it all out until your heart is pounding in your ears.
7. When you finally realize you’re over it.
Eventually, return home knowing the ex will be there too. See him or her from a distance. In your local grocery store. On the bus passing by. Walking down the street. Find your eyes meeting him or her for the first time in months. Smile. Ask, “how are you?” Smile and laugh some more. Walk away with your head held high. Don’t look back. Keeping looking forward.
Keep moving forward.