From First Heartbreaks To Escaping An Abusive Ex, Latinas Share How They Overcame Breakups
Breakups, even when they’re for the best, are some of the most debilitating moments of our lives. The pain is all-consuming. It pounds in your chest, streams down your face through tears, and aches in every joint and bone of your body. It growls in a stomach you don’t have an appetite to feed. It drains you of energy and focus. It feels like death, and in many ways, that’s exactly what it is. It’s the demise of a relationship, a future, of parts of yourself. But in life, there is both death and birth, and after mourning the agonizing loss of love, a new existence, one that’s novel, one you have the power to create and change as you want, is born.
That doesn’t make it easy and it doesn’t mean joy is a night of sleep away, but it does, even if slowly and painfully, offer hope. It’s healing, growing and understanding. It’s smiling and laughing again, even if for a few seconds a day. It’s envisioning a future, one that could possibly even be bright, for the first time in weeks, months, years. During heartbreak, when life really feels over, a storm that could never have a rainbow, a disaster that’s destroyed all existence, seeing how others began to sprout in what felt like their own barren land, could inspire a not-so-distant future where you, too, rebloom.
For those feeling lost, empty and miserable in their breakups, here are the stories of Latinas who allowed their shattered hearts and souls to be catalysts for a new life, women who used their tormenting farewells to welcome artistic projects, international travel, new careers and change-making for themselves and the world around them.
Connie, 27, New York
My ex and I broke up permanently in August 2018, but there were several breakups before then. We stopped living together in December 2017, a year after we decided to move in together, which should have been a sign the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. But toxic love is addicting, and we were each other’s preferred poison. My ex is my twin flame: love at first sight, birthdays only a day apart, our cultures and spiritualities connecting us. We were convinced our love was a product of destiny, but twin flames are not destined to be together. They are simply flowers that bloom for a moment, not a lifetime. Still, breaking up, while the best thing to do, was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I look back at my journal entries from that time, and I do not recognize the person who filled each page: tears dried into paper, words like “forever” and “soulmate” smeared, broken pages, entries never finished, pieces of weed left on the crevices. I self-medicated a lot, oftentimes drinking and smoking myself into incoherence. Those entries were a representation of my spirit. I felt broken, depressed and furious — sometimes even experiencing physical pain from the separation.
But through it all, I did learn something: Pain shouldn’t always be associated with negativity, even if it’s uncomfortable. We are energetic beings searching for other energetic frequencies to propel us forward. Pain is one of those propellers. In nature, we find the most incredible feats of life occur when there is discomfort: a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, a flower blooming, a parent giving birth. Pain is the battle cry you scream that gives you the strength to tackle your personal journey. Allow your body to do the work it was always destined to do.
I used my pain I felt so deeply in my soul and transformed it into energy to help me walk the path that my ancestors laid out before me, but was for too long too scared to take. Through those ashes, I created Alegría Peruanx, a multimedia project dedicated to archiving, educating, unifying and healing the Peruvian community within the US. I’ve been a director and photographer for many years, so I got to combine my talents with my passion to create a photo series, traveling gallery and digital space to create community. This project was my phoenix rising, a project I was always destined to create but had to be spiritually ready for. Pain taught me that I am far more powerful and boundless than the physical vessel I am occupying. It’s an eye-opening experience that propelled me forward, not just in my career but in my spirit. Though I am still in the process of healing, I honor where this pain has taken me and allow it to work through me for a greater cause.
Isabella, 23, Oregon
My ex and I were together for 11 months before we separated in September. While it wasn’t a long-term romance, I was still absolutely shot emotionally and physically. I crumbled. I became restless and so utterly depressed that my hair began to fall out in small clumps. I couldn’t eat. I tried to, but my body rejected any nourishment. My spirit felt so crushed and beaten down that I thought I was dying of a broken heart. At the time, the only thing that sounded appealing was sleeping. When I didn’t sleep, I wrote poetry. That’s when I began to realize the magnitude of the pain, sadness and loss I was feeling.
My relationship with my ex centered on manipulation. Before moving to Oregon to be with him, I was an exotic dancer, and I loved it. I was hoping to expand my stripping career when he told me it was degrading. He made me feel shameful for dancing. He said, if I wanted to make real money, I should escort. My boyfriend was a pimp, and I didn’t know until he manipulated me into his world. I felt so trapped. I tried countless times to leave him, but he never let me get away. I was never out of his sight unless I was working. I felt like I was suffocating. One night, we got into a massive fight and he hit me. He felt so awful afterwards that he left our house. That’s when I packed up everything and left our home.
If I hadn’t written my poetry, I would have continued to downplay my heartbreak. Validating my feelings was the first step to moving on. I decided to return to exotic dancing. I worked mornings and afternoons at the strip club to force myself out of bed every day. Otherwise, I would have never left my tiny bedroom or even ate. Dancing forced me to take care of myself. Getting dolled up and entertaining every day reminded me that I am beautiful and that I am desirable. Dancing helped me channel the negative emotions into positive and happy emotions. It led me to discover a new level of my sexuality I never knew existed. I feel, like phoenix, I turned to ash and rebirthed an improved me.
After two years together, my ex and I broke up in November 2018. Right after the separation, I began to feel uneasy about my decision. We had known each other since we were kids. Our mothers were best friends from childhood. They even became pregnant at the same time. As a result, we were born exactly one month apart. With all this history I shared with him, breaking up meant breaking up with our past. I felt I was betraying romance and blocking myself from having a “happy ending.” If anyone heard our story, it was no doubt we were meant to be together. Breaking up started to feel like it was the wrong choice because I was holding onto a fairytale, but it was what I needed to get the finale I deserved.
It has taken me a while to realize my self-worth and self-respect. Even though I loved my ex-boyfriend, and still do, my decision came when I stopped romanticizing our story and looked at our reality. The truth: I didn’t feel respected, not when he lied to me about where he was at, not when he deleted text messages and not when he entertained other women. With each chance I gave him, a little part of me was dying. Letting go was an opportunity to refocus all that love toward myself — finally.
Today, I’m taking the time to focus on the things that bring me joy. I’m a caring individual who wants to make a difference in the world. I’m a community organizer, I run my own film series project, I applied and got accepted into grad school and, most recently, I decided to run for office. In March, I submitted my application to run for neighborhood council in the city of Van Nuys. I am running for the nonprofit community-based organization seat. I’m running in a city I grew up in. I’m running to bring new ideas to the table. I’m running for my community.
It has been six months since I went through a messy breakup. During that time, I thought I was never going to be myself again. Maybe I’m not. I’m finding myself. I’m trusting my intellect and my potential. I’m making things happen. Tough days don’t need to last forever and they won’t last forever.
Jazmin Vega, 23, Colorado
My ex and I were together for three years before splitting last October. This was someone I had planned to move across the country to be with, someone I chose to put my plans on hold for. Imagine my pain then when it ended. The first few nights I slept in my bathroom next to the toilet. I was waking up panicked and my stomach would just heave itself up. I was completely submerged in grief. I went weeks without feeling like I was actually alive. I had this intense and scorching pain in my chest all the time. When I found out my ex had started dating someone else, only days after our breakup, I was in so much shock and agony. I felt defeated. I ended up in the hospital.
Days later, I went to see my curandera, who called it sadness of my soul. She promised that I would recover, that I would build myself up again with my own hands. I am. I began making a plan of all the things I needed to do to get through this. Traveling sounded life it could give me some relief. I decided to backpack for a month through parts of Europe. My mom, who was going through a similar separation, came with me. We road-tripped through Ireland for a week together, spent time seeing the ocean, stood at hostels and drank in pubs. While it was healing to be able to leave, I think it was also a struggle. Whether a relationship, marriage or home, conditions have taught us that we can’t leave, that we always have to stay. So when we finally did escape, so far that we weren’t even on the same continent anymore, we also felt guilt.
My moment of good and productive healing came when I was on a boat tour in Barcelona, crying alone. I kept picturing myself under all that water. I wondered how good it would feel if I could just swim to the surface. In that moment, I decided that I was ready to think and feel something else. I was reminded that I cared about so many other things, like how sacred my time with my mom is. I thought of the deep gratitude and love I have for her. I don’t want to romanticize her pain or her experiences, but I began to recognize how long she had to stay in her marriage and how I was able to leave, how she didn’t want me to similarly waste decades feeling stuck. I thought a lot about how there are people who exist in my life that do love and care about me in the ways that I need them to. I decided I wasn’t going to lose anymore time to my grief. The trip helped me heal from my heartbreak because I came back home ready to return to myself and my own body again.