Breakups can be painful, even when they feel necessary. You may feel resentment, anger, anxiety, and grief, and those feelings may come in waves, dissipate, and then come back. If you’re struggling to cope, and looking for support outside your immediate network, there are resources that can help you move forward. That’s why we created a list of our favorite books, podcasts, movies, and articles to help you survive even the most painful breakup.
Breakup books that offer insight into the world of love and loss
1. All About Love: New Visions, by bell hooks
One of hooks’ classic books, All About Love, is a beautiful exploration and critique of the way we love in our prevailing society. hooks uses her own experiences to interrogate how we can better communicate with the people around us — and why we should. The insight in this book will help you ground and nurture your existing and future relationships.
2. Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed
In 2010, Cheryl Strayed began writing for Dear Sugar, a once-anonymous, widely popular advice column on The Rumpus. Tiny Beautiful Things is Strayed’s selection of the best of Dear Sugar. It covers everything about love, loss, and the trials and errors of being a human. If you’re looking for breakup-specific advice, we recommend you read her essays “The Truth That Lives There,” and “How You Get Unstuck.”
3. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, by Pema Chödrön
In When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chödrön offers practical tools on how to heal in the face of suffering, all through a spiritual lens. While Chödrön draws from traditional Buddhist wisdom, the book is not exclusively for Buddhists. No matter how you relate to spirituality or religion, you’ll glean a lot of useful information about shifting perspective and accepting uncertainty. You can also expect to take in wisdom about love, grief, and pain — and how to grow emotionally and intellectually in spite of it all.
Podcast episodes to listen to for a post-break-up mood boost
4. This American Life: “Break-Up”
In this episode of This American Life, host Ira Glass highlights four stories about heartache. In one story, writer Starlee Kine attempts to make sense of her breakup by heading on a mission to find the perfect breakup song. In another story, an 8-year-old tries to get answers about her parents’ divorce. This episode, along with many episodes of This American Life, will provide a deeply conforming view on the way loss manages to be both extremely personal and universal.
5. How Stuff Works: “How Forgiveness Works”
We recognize that not everyone is ready to forgive. After all, people can be really hurtful, and it can be difficult to let go of painful behavior. But for those who are ready to forgive, we highly recommend this episode. In it, hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant explore the science of forgiveness, its history, and the powerful effect forgiveness can have on our well-being. This episode may change your perspective — and even give you some ideas – on ways to move forward when someone does you wrong.
6. Death, Sex, Money: “Cut Loose”
Hosted by Anna Sale, Death, Sex & Money is for anyone who enjoys hearing stories about love, sex, relationships, and grief. The popular podcast features stories about everything from manhood and masculinity, to one night stands, to abusive relationships. “Cut Loose” is an episode that features a variety of breakup stories — including an impending divorce at 25, a woman who broke up with her partner via voice memo, a family breakup between identical twins, and more. This episode is filled with the messy and very human feelings of rejection, confusion, and redemption.
7. Savage Lovecast: “Breakup Bootcamp”
In Savage Lovecast, host Dan Savage gives advice to listeners about sex and relationships. In “Breakup Bootcamp,” Savage speaks to Amy Chan about her scientific and spiritual approach to breakups. Chan then elaborates on recurring patterns of breaking up over and over again. It’s worth noting that throughout the episode, you’ll also hear about various topics outside of the subject of breakups.
8. The Modern Love Podcast: “Researching Jenna, Discovering Myself”
The Modern Love podcast, which is based on the popular New York Times column, explores the complexity of love in all its forms, be it romantic, platonic, or familial love. In this story read by Hasan Minhaj, a man desperately tries to figure out why his ex left him, and the mission to understand her motive becomes his own personal research project. This story is relatable, honest, and a little funny, too.
Breakup movies to watch when moving on feels impossible
9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
In this classic breakup film, directed by Charlie Kaufman, a recently broken up couple (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) undergo a medical procedure to rid their minds of all memories associated with their relationship. But the procedure (surprise, surprise) isn’t as soothing as it might sound to those in the throes of heartache. Since its release in 2004, Eternal Sunshine has built a cult following, and for good reason. It’s a powerful film that brilliantly describes the frustration of remembering, the power in it, and the ways in which memories — no matter how painful — shape us for the better.
10. (500) Days of Summer
In (500) Days of Summer, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) reflects on the 500 days he spent with his ex-lover Summer (Zooey Deschanel). In his reflection, he explores the disappointment and agony of loving someone who doesn’t love him back. Unlike many other films, (500) Days of Summer, like grief, is non-linear in its narrative. We recommend it for the way it thoughtfully explores the highs and lows of getting tangled up in someone else’s world.
11. Something Great
In Something Great, a music journalist (Gina Rodriguez) goes on an elaborate adventure with her best friends after abruptly getting dumped by her long-term boyfriend. Throughout the experience, she embraces the enduring nature of true friendship, specifically in the face of her struggle and uncertainty. This movie manages to feel both familiar and visceral, and it’s likely to give anyone experiencing a breakup some emotional catharsis.
Articles that will remind you you’re not as isolated as you feel
12. “The Breakup Museum,” by Leslie Jamison
In this moving longform piece, Leslie Jamison visits the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia (which does in fact exist). While there, she interrogates the impact of heartbreak through the lens of objects and keepsakes. This essay considers the universal effort to simultaneously let go and hold on to past relationships. It’s also full of beautiful prose: "Once love is gone, it’s gone everywhere: a ghost suffusing daily life just as powerfully in its absence."
13. “The Crane Wife,” by CJ Hauser
In this funny and thoughtful essay, CJ Hauser calls off her wedding and decides to go on an expedition to study whooping cranes. By observing the species, she reflects on the fall of her relationship and the wounds that came from dismissing her needs. When this piece came out in 2019, it went viral for Hauser’s poignant and relatable writing: “What I understood on the other side of my decision, on the gulf, was that there was no such thing as ruining yourself. There are ways to be wounded and ways to survive those wounds, but no one can survive denying their own needs.”
14. “Just Friends? Let Me Read Between the Lines,” by Steve Friedman
This essay was the first piece ever published in the Modern Love column. In it, Steve Friedman analyzes his ex-girlfriend’s every text, every word, and every move, in order to figure out if she wants him back. It’s a brutally honest account of rejection, self-deprecation, and the way we cling onto hope (and people in the process of doing so). We guarantee it’ll at least make you smile… or cry.
15. “This Is Your Brain on Heartbreak,” by Florence Williams
This Is Your Brain on Heartbreak is a fascinating piece on the way love changes the brain. Florence Williams describes how falling in love makes us more sensitive to joy and woe. In other words, it “puts a loaded gun to our head.” Williams then describes the effects of unrequited love and the way it activates parts of the brain linked to physical pain. If you want to learn about heartache through a scientific lens, this is the article for you.
The bottom line
Moving forward from a breakup takes time. Leaning on your support network — family, friends, a therapist, etc. — can be so important. But sometimes, just having a comforting book, movie, podcast, or article can be enough to remind you you’re not alone and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, keeping this list of breakup resources in your backpocket can help you through the hard times and move on from an ex, even when you still love them.