We’re taking on a rather different and sombre topic today compared to the usual posts, using our favourite type of fiction to help with a very particular life event – a break up. The end of a relationship is always a tough experience and those first few weeks recovering can feel like drifting on an endless ocean. Platitudes are offered, hugs occasionally given, but sometimes it takes a little bit of personal research to know that things will get better.
Enter our favourite heroines – we’ve taken inspiration from popular period dramas (of course!) and have come up with six crucial steps to remember.
- It’s ok to cry (Marianne, Sense and Sensibility)
We all remember Marianne’s devastation over the dastardly Willoughby. Young, impulsive and endlessly romantic, she had a long way to fall and she definitely shows it. In the books, Marianne’s tears and prostrations go on for a few pages, whilst the television and film adaptations don’t hesitate from showing her tender heart breaking on screen.
However, as frustrating (and frankly irritating) as Marianne’s exuberant emotions can be to those not experiencing a similar situation, tears are a crucial and inevitable part of the initial break up recovery. Don’t bottle it up – it’s important to take the time to deal with those heavy emotions and for a brief time, to let them become overwhelming. It helps the initial shock lose its power after a while. Just don’t do what Marianne did next, which leads us to the next step…
2. Look after yourself (Anna, Anna Karenina)
Anna and Vronsky’s affair is passionate and turbulent, eventually breaking down due to deception and immaturity on both sides. Whenever things go wrong, Anna becomes completely oblivious to her own health, bringing her to the brink several times before she makes one last rash move.
This is not a lesson to follow, but to learn from, since Anna’s coping method only added strain. A crucial part of those first few weeks is to take care of basic health first and foremost – try and avoid eating those comfort foods, stock up on prepared meals that can be cooked with ease, take lots of lazy baths and make sure there’s at least an attempt to get plenty of sleep. Create a new routine that’s simple but gives the minimum that a body needs to be healthy – it’ll help create a safe daily structure.
3. Support will find you, if you reach out (Alba, Cable Girls)
This show is a very new addition to the period drama roster but it’s a good one. Set in 1920s Madrid, it follows the lives of four women working in the first national telephone company. Alba stands out among the group as a woman who has had to take on masks and fight her way to get anywhere. When she deals with seeing a lost flame, and experiences that loss all over again, the other women rally round her, and she has to learn to trust and accept their support.
Like Alba, it’s natural during this time to want to shut everyone out – life is exhausting right now, so why add social aspects on top of that? The truth is that people will and can help, and that having that listening ear is a really helpful support through the inevitable emotional turbulence. Whether it’s family, friends or people online, there will be someone that will listen. Respectfully use their time offered – after all, they might need someone to return the favour some day.
4. Avoid making any rash choices (Natasha, War and Peace)
When Andrei leaves his new fiancee Natasha for a year in the army, she’s devastated. Naive and worried about the future, Natasha can’t help but feel as if it’s the end for their courtship, and in her vulnerable state, falls prey to serial womaniser Anatole. They almost elope and Natasha’s demeanour changes entirely, as she becomes angry and even more devastated. The pain isn’t because of Anatole really – it’s because she was still dealing with the loss of Andrei.
After the end of a relationship, it can be tempting to make big, rash decisions as a distraction from the current uncertainty. However, as with Natasha, a regular state of mind isn’t happening right now. Decisions that were never considered previously may seem like the only answer but it’s important to remember that big steps will comes around again at some point – waiting until that fog has passed means they can be taken on with full strength.
5. Discover your independence again (Jane, Jane Eyre)
Jane Eyre fights her way through a tough upbringing and a brutal boarding school but when she settles at Thornfield Hall, Mr Rochester’s imperious demeanour is constantly trying to best her own little slice of confidence. She falls for him, and all seems ok, but when things fall apart, Jane escapes across the country. Making new friends, after some time she sets up a school for poorer girls in the village and creates something to be proud of.
Once the fog begins to lift – and like Jane, this can take a little time – it can be useful to use that new lack of commitment to really embrace a passion. Now is the time to take on something that’s always been in the pipeline – after all, when someone has been brave enough to get through the toughest part, it becomes easier to harness that strength and create something brilliant.
Fictional characters always have a lot to teach us, learning the kind of lessons that we’re glad we don’t have to, or following a path to aspire to. Sometimes they’re going through something we recognise in our own lives, although admittedly, we’re probably living without the elegant costumes. Using their stories can be restorative.
With that in mind, which life situation can period dramas help us with next? Thoughts in the comments please!