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The worst day of the year, bar none. (Image: Tina Tiller)
The worst day of the year, bar none. (Image: Tina Tiller)

SocietyDecember 21, 2023

Help Me Hera: Should I go away with my ex this New Year’s?

The worst day of the year, bar none. (Image: Tina Tiller)
The worst day of the year, bar none. (Image: Tina Tiller)

He broke my heart and I’ve just started feeling better. Will this send me back to square one? 

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Dear Hera,

My ex broke up with me a couple weeks ago. It was a shock for me and the process was pretty messy, so it left me in a not-so-great headspace at the time. He’s since moved out and agreed to go no-contact, and since that date I’ve started feeling better. I’ve slowly graduated from not being able to eat and crying every day to eating like normal and crying only most days. I’ve even managed to halve my sad Taylor Swift song consumption from approximately 10 hours a day to five or six.

But now I have a dilemma: a friend of ours has invited us both to his bach down south for New Year’s. The plan will be to spend two or three days down there with a group of about 15 people. I really want to go because a lot of our mutual friends who I don’t get to see much are making a big effort to be there, and the place is pretty sweet. 

But I’m terrified of seeing my ex again. He’s not mean or anything, but I feel a lot of my progress has come from intentionally trying to keep him out of my mind and my life (so that I can slowly go about the process of forgetting and moving on), and I worry that seeing him again will set me back to square one.

I’m torn. Do I go to the New Year’s party or not? Part of me says I shouldn’t go, so that I can continue my healing process. But another part of me says that I’d regret not going, partly because I want to see my friends (and I might not have a chance to do so for a long time after) and partly because letting it affect me this much is setting me back.

Please help me work through my dilemma,


A line of fluorescent green card suit symbols – hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades

Dear Conflicted,

Once again, spring has ravaged the country like an ancient plague, leaving nothing but a trail of emotional devastation in its wake. 

Why does everyone break up in spring? Is there some insidious airborne pollen which causes everyone to collectively lose their shit? It’s particularly fatal in the Southern Hemisphere, where it coincides with the looming, backwards shadow of Christmas and New Year, another statistically proven relationship sinkhole.  

I’m sorry you got dumped. You sound like you’re doing all the right things by limiting contact, fulfilling your basic nutritional needs, and feeling appropriately sorry for yourself. 

Is it a wise idea to go away to a small and secluded area, on one of the most auspicious nights of the year, with the person who recently broke your heart? Of course not. Should you go anyway? Personally, I’m leaning towards yes. 

Most right-thinking people are probably going to disagree with this advice, and for good reason. It’s definitely not the sensible thing to do. Your heartbreak is too fresh! It will be painful to see your ex, especially in a party atmosphere. Once you’re there, it’s going to be near impossible to leave. Throw in a lot of alcohol and it’s basically a recipe for disaster. You’re almost certain to have a horrible and psychologically auspicious time. 

On the other hand, having a horrible and psychologically auspicious time is kind of what New Year’s Eve is all about. 

New Year’s Eve is the worst day of the year. It falls like an unwanted referendum, a horrible cocktail of thwarted nostalgia, misplaced optimism and an increasingly desperate quest to end the year on a high. It’s mercurial, and full of weird reversals. You can go out in high spirits, and end up howling like a cat in a dustbin-clogged alley. You can plan to have a quiet night, and end up on an orthodontist’s party yacht. 

New Year’s Eve: pretty much guaranteed to be shit. (Image: Getty)

It’s like a test you can’t prepare for. It’s more haunted than Halloween; more romantically loaded than Valentine’s Day. It has the same charged, psychological intensity of Nicholas Cage playing King Lear in a school pantomime. It’s a fundamentally evil day. Which I know, because it’s also my birthday. 

I’ve come to appreciate being born on New Year’s Eve, partly because it’s so numerically satisfying, and partly because having a birthday outranks any obligation to go to someone’s cousin’s barbecue. But in order to have anything even closely resembling a good time, I’ve had to accept that New Year’s Eve is not for enjoying yourself. It’s for having a psychologically intense experience, for dragging 2023’s baggage like a deer carcass into the frigid light of a new year. 

I think your concerns about this party are entirely realistic. You’ll probably have a much better night if you stay home and watch movies. But getting over a broken heart takes forever. It’s tempting to think you can expedite your recovery by taking good care of yourself. But the truth is, it’s tedious, miserable, and there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no such thing as “square one”, because progress isn’t linear. If you feel better one week and catatonic the next, that’s not a set back. That’s just the way things go. You don’t move past a bad break-up by forgetting. All you can do is ride the feeling out. 

If I were you, I would go away on holiday, confidently expecting it to suck. My reasoning is:

A) You shouldn’t have to give up things that are important to you, just because you got dumped.

B) You’ll probably have a horrible time. But you’ll probably have a horrible time whatever you do, so you might as well have it amongst friends.

There’s a lot to be said about the importance of distance when getting over an ex. But having a community of close friends is equally important. Distance gives you space to heal and reflect. But friendships are what bring you back into the world, especially when you’re not feeling great. Seeing your ex is going to hurt. But I don’t want you to miss out on all that love and community, either.  

There are things you can do to prepare. Make sure a few of the friends you’re going away with know the situation and have your back. If you need to talk, or take a walk and clear your head, there should be a handful of people looking out for you. 

Don’t drink yourself into oblivion. Don’t drink at all, if you can help it. That’s easier said than done on New Year’s Eve, but alcohol is always the catalyst for the worst emotional meltdowns, and being sober is one of the best ways to protect yourself. 

Mentally prepare yourself for your ex either trying to get back together, or conspicuously hooking up with someone else. I would strongly advise against the former, or using this holiday as an opportunity to hash out any unfinished business. 

Trust your gut here. If you’re truly feeling wretched and you’re just not equipped to handle it at this exact moment in time, there’s no shame in sitting this one out. There will be other weekends away and other parties! But if you’re torn, and the decision is between having a horrible time alone and a horrible time surrounded by friends, I know which one I would pick. 

Best of luck, 


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