Things Fall Apart: Living Alone in a Space After a Breakup

Last year, one of my good friends found a new job, packed up his belongings, and moved hundreds of miles away, for love. He was even talking of proposing this spring. Fast-forward to the present, and instead of planning a wedding, my friend and his (now) ex-girlfriend are going their separate ways. He is now living alone in the apartment they had picked out together, the space they chose to start their life together. 

As I was talking to my friend the other day, he said something that struck me. He said, “It’s really tough to look around at this place now. We both worked so hard to make it feel like a home, and it felt so nice in here, and now it feels so sad and cold in here.” 

My initial reaction was: move out, move back to Chicago. His reaction is that he needs time to regroup, and for logistical and financial reasons, he’s going to try and do that in the same apartment he shared with his girlfriend. So how do you heal when you stay in the same home you lived in with your ex-partner?

I think we rightfully fill our homes with hopes, dreams, and plans, but our homes can also be places of sadness, loss, and pain. So how do you move through the same space in a new way?

A few tips I've gathered include:

  1. Grieve. Allow yourself to time feel the absence of the person who is gone and acknowledge the sense of loss.
  2. Clean top to bottom to help clear literal and metaphorical cobwebs.
  3. Rearrange furniture (especially the bedroom furniture), and buy some new furniture, if possible, to help alter the feel of the space.
  4. Have people over; create new moments of joy.
  5. Join a gym (which doesn’t relate to one’s home, but does seem to be the universal answer to every problem in the history of man).  
  6. Nina Simone and Ben & Jerry's (which doesn't relate to one's home, but does seem to be my answer to every problem in the history of man). 
  7. Any other suggestions?
In the words of Jane Austen, "There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort" (Emma), so how do you get the comfort back once it's gone? 

(Image: Michael and Danijela's Modern Minimal Milwaukee Home)

51 Comments