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Winning The Breakup: 5 Women On How They Turned Heartbreak Into Triumph

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When heartbreak strikes, most people turn to breakup Spotify playlists or comfort food to boost their spirits. Others take an entirely different approach. These optimists (praise be) throw themselves into self-care projects like committing to a steady exercise regimen or starting a business — anything to make them feel empowered and distracted from the inexplicable pain and insecurity oftentimes unleashed from a breakup. After all, research suggests that the brain acts similarly to emotional loss the way it does to physical pain. Women losing weight after breaking things off with their ex or completely spring cleaning their closets in the dead of winter is an archetype as old as time. How are people motivated to turn bad experiences into positive outcomes? New York City therapist Muriel Johnson tells me that “when misfortune occurs, a person has two options. They can take all of that powerful emotion and use it to tout their miserable state or they can achieve greatness from it.”

There are many women who come to mind that have turned their misfortune into greatness. Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine Cohen started her site after her boyfriend (and now-husband!) broke up with her. If she didn’t date men who were repelled by her sartorial interests, she would have never had the idea to start a $5 million empire. Another prime example would be Elle Huerta, the founder of Lets Mend. The #1 breakup app came about after the California native scoured the internet for breakup advice and found nothing worthwhile. “I found a lot of empty advice (‘It takes time,’ ‘Just get over it.’), but nothing that resonated with me or made me feel better. So I set out to build a community for people who were going through heartbreak,” Huerta writes on her site. Co-Founder Rebecca Soffer of Modern Loss, a site that facilitates candid conversations about grief, suffered an inexplicable loss at the age of 30. She lost her mother in a car accident and lost her father a few years later from a heart attack. Alongside Gabrielle Birkner, whose dad and stepmom were killed when she was 24, both women pushed through their heartache and created Modern Loss– a site for people to grieve and find humor after tragedy.

Below are inspiring words from six women who’ve created positive opportunities from heartbreak. And perhaps after hearing their stories, you can too.

Kristina, Senior Beauty Editor, NYC:

“I broke up with my boyfriend of four years at the least opportune time. It was during a work trip at Coachella (which sounds fun, I know, but was hectic). There I was, supposed to be having the time of my life in the desert, and instead I was crying my eyes out, trying to figure out what to do about my living situation (we lived together on a shared lease for five more months), and just feeling very lost. I knew it was the right thing to do, but that didn’t make it any less difficult.

After the breakup, I decided to be a different, more free version of myself. I started saying yes to invites I’d usually say no to. I started pouring myself into work with difficult, ambitious projects. I started training for the New York City Marathon — which was probably the most rewarding experience of 2018. When you run, you spend a lot of time alone with your thoughts, and it was during those 18-milers on the weekends that I found myself — who I am, alone, not a half of a unit. Crossing the finish line on November 4 remains one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Lola Méndez, Miss Filatelista Blogger, Full-Time Traveller:

“I was abandoned by my ex in Thailand a year ago and thought I was done with travel for good but I’m back in the saddle and happier and more successful than ever! My ex was a bit of a gas lighter about many things – including my safety traveling alone – which I’ve now done for nearly three years without him.”

Eileen, Journalist/Photographer, Paris:

“Found out my ex was cheating on me so I moved to Paris and pursued photography (went to grad school). Went from being a sea turtle conservation biologist to journalist/photographer. Never been happier!”

Nancy Netherland, Kids and Caregivers Founder, California:

“When my 8-year-old daughter got diagnosed with a rare incurable disease, I started an advocacy and wellness program for the caregivers of chronically ill kids. [I] just won a big NIH award, graduated from the Duke Health Coaching program, and run caregiver wellness and advocacy groups while sitting in state commissions.”

Jessi, South Carolina:

“When I found out my ex-fiancé was cheating on me, I sold all the wedding things, finished college and began working for a video game company which allowed for me to travel. First time riding a plane, first time visiting the west coast, first time going to major video game events.

You and I both know that heartache is no walk in the park. But maybe a walk in the park is just what you need to clear your mind. And once you’re out from under your covers surrounded by nature, perhaps you’ll come up with a stellar business idea or tactic to help other people mend their hearts like these women did. Whatever you do, keep moving forward.

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