An epiphany on heartache

Need to check the heck out of Heartbreak Hotel? ‘Tell it like it is’ Harriet Minter shares her epiphany on heartache – and says you, lady, are the ace up your sleeve


An epiphany on heartache

The best thing that ever happened to me was having my heart broken. Of course, it didn’t feel like it at the time – it felt as if every piece of me, not only my heart, was smashed to smithereens and put back together like a badly designed mosaic.

We broke up soon after Valentine’s Day and I remember wondering whether he’d known what was coming when he’d read the card I’d made him. I kept returning to things that reminded me of him: the jumper he’d left; the emails we’d exchanged; and poker, the game he’d taught me to play. They gave me something to take my mind off the physical ache but also kept our connection alive.

I knew I’d have to let him go at some point but, for a bit, I could concentrate on the hand I’d been dealt and just play that. What I know now, and didn’t then, is that people lie when they say time is a great healer. But, back then, I thought I could wait it out – and that’s what I did.

Eventually, it did hurt less, until I’d see a couple cuddling and want to throw something at them. Time closed the wound, but the scar was ugly. A few years later – yes, that long – I made a conscious decision that I was done with heartbreak. Like a broken bone, a broken heart needs more than time – it needs rehab. You have to find ways to stretch it; to piece it back together slowly.

I started by finding things I loved doing; then, things that pushed me out of my comfort zone. At last, I looked for things that challenged the views I’d held of myself since the breakup; events that required me to dress up, stand centre-stage and let people look at me. I learned to love all these things, and myself, again. OK, I still didn’t want to think about him but I was over him.

Then, one day, I was invited to a poker event. I didn’t play any more but it was for charity… Halfway through, I realised: I could win this! The prize wasn’t a bottle of wine, either – it was a Hermès Birkin bag, worth thousands of pounds. And, dear reader, I did win. Now, I’m not saying you can replace love with a Birkin, but that bag finally made me realise how to heal my heartbreak: I needed to see what I had gained from that relationship, good and bad.

That’s when you know you’re healed: when you are grateful to your pain for what it’s given you.

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Photograph: Mark Harrison for Psychologies

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