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Breakup Bootcamp: For when ice cream and crying isn’t enough

LISTEN: Breakup Bootcamps and coaches for when ice cream and crying isn't enough
(Photo by Nicolas Raymond, CC Images)

Breakups suck. They are sad, they are cliche, they are living romcom movies. You cry alone. You cry to your friends. You drink and you eat ice cream. But for some people, tackling a breakup requires professional help.

“Five years ago, I was dating a guy who was the love of my life and I thought I was going to marry him,” Amy Chan said. “When the relationship fell apart, I completely fell apart. I spiraled into a depression. I stopped eating. I had panic attacks, contemplated suicide. I tried everything to get better. I did psychics, reiki, therapy. But there was nothing quite focused on the type of pain I was going through.”

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Chan eventually made it through her breakup. A longtime relationship columnist, she knew she wasn’t the only one who needed more than ice cream to get over a breakup. So she started Renew Breakup Bootcamp in February. It’s a women’s weekend retreat at a luxury farm in upstate New York.

“We take a scientific and spiritual approach to healing the heart,” Chan said. “That’s why we have everyone from a behavior nutritionist with a PhD, to a life coach, to a chef who has a background in nutrition. Tantra to yoga to meditation. You basically come, you check in your digital devices so you can’t stalk your ex. You really surrender to this process where we have a mixture of talks, exercises, from physical to written, to burning letters in fire.”

There are also a few rules.

“We don’t offer advice to each other,” Chan said. “A lot of the times when we go through a breakup, we have very well-intentioned friends and family who offer really bad advice. They don’t know any better. So I really reiterate to them that they’ve paid to come to this weekend and to trust the healing facilitators who are there for them.”

Last weekend’s retreat welcomed women ranging from 27- to 60-years-old, from all across the country. Chan says it’s important that people wait until the initial devastation — the most intense period of the breakup — has passed to attend. When they are more clear headed and their breakup brains are ready to receive information.

“They’ve done scans of the brain and the same part of the brain [affected during a breakup] is actually activated as a cocaine user feigning for their next fix,” Chan said. “So you’re physically in withdrawal. If you don’t know this information, you might think that you’re going absolutely crazy, but you’re not. This is completely normal. In a matter of time, those chemicals start to die down and those neural pathways starts to weaken and you do start to feel better. So there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Breakup coaching

Natalia Juarez is the founder of Better Breakups. She’s a Toronto-based breakup and divorce coach who also found the field after an excruciating breakup and a transformative recovery.

“I thought, ‘I cannot believe how hard it was for me to find this information and I wish I had access to this in my 20s,'” Juarez said. “So I just started sharing. Five years ago I became a dating coach. I went through the training and then opened my business.”

Natalia coaches people post breakup, but she also helps people who don’t know how to end their relationship. And sometimes this includes helping them find a new place to live.

“It’s such a huge piece,” she said. “There was someone who I worked with, she was in her early 20s, and it turned out her biggest challenge was that they had moved in together and she felt obligated. I told her, I said, ‘there are ways to end your lease, you can find a subletter,’ all that. So once I helped her through that, they broke up.”

Juarez says people are surprised to hear that the majority of her clients are men.

“Women generally have a bit more of a support network, they may be more willing to see a therapist or get a breakup book, and most breakup books are written by women,” she said. “Right now my practice is 70 percent men in their 40s.”

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