Mourning Routine: The steps of a breakup

Valentines day conceptual background with colored toothbrushes symbolizing a couple in love. Caption space.


The toothbrush is always the hardest thing to get rid of.

After our breakup talk on Sunday morning, he left my apartment and I walked into my bathroom and stared at his toothbrush.  I haven’t thrown it out yet.

I am again grappling with the necessary stages of grief after loss, and frankly, I’m sick of it.  It’s all rather boring now, like a rerun you’ve seen so many times you can quote the lines.  It will be tough for me to sleep for the next week or so. I’ll think about him a lot and remember only the good stuff. I’ll spend too much money on something I don’t need, to make myself feel better, and it’ll kind of work for a little bit.  The arsenal of reasons why he isn’t right will become fully stocked, and so will my belly, with pizza.  

I’m sad today and it’s okay if it changes into hatred tomorrow, because that won’t last forever either.  I’ve really nailed this routine.

But I’ll get up tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day; and each day that toothbrush stays in the dish will taunt me until I throw it out.  I might even go on a few first dates before I toss it, just to make sure.  I’m getting better each time a relationship ends though, because the toothbrushes have shorter and shorter staying periods after they leave. Small victories.

In fact, after my last relationship (the one before this, please try to keep track), I vowed never to offer another toothbrush again. I declared this edict to myself as if I were Queen Elizabeth, while I triumphantly deleted his existence from my online life.  Either the guy would have to bring one over if he ever wanted to brush his teeth at my place, or we’d have to be living together; in which case he’d be allowed a toothbrush immediately.

Many times in the recent past I have felt like I was falling in love, at which point I hurriedly pulled back on the reins, to slow it all down a minute.  That happened with him during our initial week or two of dating.  Wrapped up in the fear of falling in love, of hanging off the side of a mountain with no rope, I promptly decided it needed to end.  

In a particularly dramatic moment, I listed all the reasons it wouldn’t work and stated that he really should go now.  Then, two days later, I just as promptly decided I was being very silly and of course I wanted to keep seeing him.  I missed him with that painful, stomach-turning feeling of missing someone and so I called and told him that.  And rather quickly, he was awarded a toothbrush.  You can do whatever you want when you’re the Queen.  

It felt easy, smooth, and right.  We’d cook dinner together and go for walks around my Hollywood neighborhood.  We’d scurry around the tourists gawking at the stars on the boulevard and peek into little bars that we’d say we should try someday.  We would praise each other’s creative accomplishments and cheer each other on. If we hadn’t seen each other in a day or two, we’d both sheepishly acknowledge how much we missed each other.  Out of nowhere, he would shower me with compliments.  He wasn’t shy about giving love.

But the fear bug left me and hopped over to him I guess.  That incubation period seems a little long though, for my tastes.  I’d prefer that it hits a little earlier, like before we’re actually in a relationship.

We’d had some tough conversations and there had been very real things to overcome.  Fear though, fear always beats the real obstacles.   He’d ended a 5 year relationship and I could feel him compare me to his ex, in positive ways and then later on, in negative ways.  I think fear is what imagination turns into if an adult forgets how to love.  It’s something we both suffered from.

At some point, all of the hiking trips we planned and the career advice we exchanged were replaced with a fear that everything was too serious.  I missed the memo on that one.  At some point, my friends started calling him my boyfriend.  He didn’t like that.  In a matter of days, our normal interactions suddenly felt uneasy, like walking on eggshells.  And at some point, that magical crackly feeling dissipated and we were left sitting on a couch saying goodbye.

Because at some point, I started to feel lonely with him, and I’d rather be alone than be with someone who makes me feel lonely.

Meg Schmidt
Meg is a writer, director and producer based in Los Angeles and she serves as the Executive Producer at Hello Humans. She has a lot to say and no one to say it to but her houseplants.


  1. This is so good, it hurts. Like really, I have a stomach ache. And it’s been 30 years since I had a breakup. But I’m the type who can still feel stuff from 30 years ago like it was happening now. I wish you the very best of everything in your next relationship – and no breakup!

    So throw out that toothbrush!


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