9 April, 2019

Struggling in the aftermath of a messy breakup? The founders of a new heartbreak concierge service explain why splitting from someone can be the prompt you need for positive change

The first cut is the deepest 

Unbreak my heart

Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts

Our song lyrics are rife with the searing pain of a relationship breakdown – a giant fistful of tears and soulful warbling.

And films don’t fare much better. According to Hollywood, heartbreak will either leave you binge-eating in a duvet (Bridget Jones, Legally Blonde) or deranged and homicidal (Heathers, Kill Bill).

This melodramatic arc leave little room for a third option: that a breakup can actually help you achieve personal growth.

Lindsay and Mika, co-founders of Onward

It’s this sense of renewal that forms the basis of Onward, a new “breakup concierge service” founded by childhood friends Lindsay Meck, 34, and Mika Leonard, 33 (above).

“We both wish there was more of a cultural narrative showing that breakups aren’t throwing stuff out the window or drowning sorrows into Ben & Jerry’s,” says Lindsay.

Instead, she says, splitting from someone is “an opportunity to pivot forward, for both folks to leave with grace and integrity”.

Moving on from a break-up

Away We Go - 2009

Onward provides its users with a network of emotional and practical support in the wake of a breakup, to “make this life moment less derailing”.

New Yorkers Lindsay and Mika see themselves as the Ghostbusters of the break-up world: “We want to be top of mind at a moment when you need us. We are the folks who come in, triage, and problem solve – be it finding you a new apartment, moving or storing your stuff, setting up your furniture or coordinating someone to walk your dog.”

Read more: How Tokyo Disneyland cured my heartbreak

“Lindsay’s late mother had been a divorce attorney for 33 years in our hometown of Ohio,” explains Mika. “So we had grown up around this idea that breakups were okay to talk about. Rather than being shameful or a failure, they can be an opportunity to live a better life.”

The two women came up with the idea for Onward after both suffered a major breakup within months of one another.

“Mika was first – and had to navigate all these challenging logistics on her own – moving out, setting up her new place, getting furniture, while also having to manage her stress, her sadness, and her career,” says Lindsay. “I then had the same experience six months later.”

They were struck by the notion that a “friendly service” could make the whole ordeal easier to handle.

Emotional and practical support

Onward provides a tiered solution of options for breakups, depending on whether you simply want to “reboot” with physical rehousing help, or “recalibrate” with a hands-on approach to therapy, finance, legal advice and more.

Read more: Happiness and how to live in the moment

The support plans Lindsay and Mika have devised last up to three months, and cover everything from affordable apartment tips to online mindfulness courses and a therapy matchmaking service.

They are currently developing healthy practices to manage “social media uncoupling”,  and all the baggage that comes from shared posts, or far-flung Facebook acquaintances being unaware of a split.

Flashpackers drinking tea in the Morocco hills

Self-care is at the core of the two friends’ approach in handling breakups, too.

“There is so much to do, so quickly, and it is easy to live out of suitcases for months while in survival mode,” says Mika.

“I do think forgetting self-care – getting sleep, eating right, exercising – was an easy one that fell by the wayside in my own break-up. We are very conscious of that working with Onward folks – to remind them to take care of themselves and to be kind to themselves.”

Onward’s resources include tips on meet-ups, yoga classes, acupuncture and more, to encourage healing and recovery. “This is a major juncture in people’s lives. They need to process it thoughtfully, in order to file it away and move forward,” says Lindsay.

A framework for empowering change

When it comes down to it, Onward plays the role of an empathetic friend: albeit one with endless availability, and a neutral distance from the situation at hand.

“I think folks who have stretched their friend circles thin over the course of a tumultuous relationship really like going to a neutral third-party, who isn’t going to take sides and is a bit anonymous,” says Mika.

Read more: Solo travel fuels this major happiness habit

“We’re somewhere between the best friend, the secretary, and the fixer. Onward is going to champion you and also make sure you get through this process as seamlessly as possible.”

By lifting the weight of a typical break-up, the hope is that people can move forward more quickly. With grounding support in place, they’re better able to use the split as a foundation for positive growth.

“I think it is very brave to breakup — you have to be quite strong to forge ahead and begin a new chapter,” says Lindsay.

“We both feel re-framing the experience as an active choice can help with some of the less-than-great feelings that might come — heartbreak, sadness, and maybe a sense of failure.

“There is a lot of research to support the idea of breakups as a time for growth. It’s about building resilience and life skills, and reinvesting in yourself.”

So far this approach has worked, and the pair have hopes to expand their service from New York City to other US locations soon.

“Folks tell us we did thinking for them at a time when they couldn’t, and that we took charge when their life felt overwhelming,” says Mika.

“Since the nature of our business is so closely tied to the way in which we helped each other through out breakups, it is very personal and something that is deeply important to both of us.”

Need help and support with a break-up? Find out more about Onward’s NYC-based concierge service on their website


Heal from a breakup with these three great escapes

“Post-breakup, Mika and I embarked on a lot of group and solo travel, as an amazing opportunity to meet people, get away from our routine, and see parts of the world we’d wanted to explore,” says Lindsay. “Simply getting out of your personal comfort zone can be really invigorating.”

Hike the Himalayan peaks

Escape the demands of everyday life and grab some much-needed head space in this nine-day ramble through thin air in the Everest region of Nepal. We’ll be heading off the mainstream route and into a hidden world of forest-coated slopes and towering peaks. Trek in the shadow of some of the world’s most famous mountains as you acclimatise to life 4,000 metres above sea level, with Sherpa villages, hanging bridges and fluttering prayer flags all around.

Head for the hills

Stretch yourself in South Africa

When you’ve been knocked down in life, a challenge or three can be just the ticket in restoring your self-esteem. This thrilling trip to South Africa is brimming with them, from learning to surf off Knysna Lagoon to paddle-boarding the Cape Peninsula and an abseil down Table Mountain in Cape Town. Oh, and did we mention a safari across the shimmering Eastern Cape?

Farewell comfort zone

Come partying in Brazil

Need a reminder of life’s sweetest highs? Don’t miss this soup-for-the-soul escape to South America’s party capital. We’ll start in Rio de Janeiro with a joyous fix of samba dancing and sunset caipirinha making. Then it’s over to the pretty coastal town of Paraty for island-hopping on a day-long private boat trip. Hello, beach days and sunshine.

Happy days ahead

Images: Flash Pack, Onward, Shutterstock, Movie Stills Database, Dawid Zawila and NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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