It is a truth universally acknowledged that going through the pain of a break-up can be complete and utter hell.
From the torment of losing your closest companion to the fear of being alone, experiencing the breakdown of a relationship can test the very core of our being.
And while there are a number of tried-and-tested coping methods that can help to ease the impact of heartache, an artist from Singapore believes she has struck upon a universally applicable way of mending a broken heart: through the medium of comics.
Cherlyn Chong, 29, first stumbled upon the healing power of comics following the breakdown of her relationship with her then-fiancé, a man who she thought was the love of her life.
After the split she put pen to paper to chronicle the emotional stages she went through as she grieved the loss of the relationship, experiencing crushing pain, a sense of isolation and the feeling that no one really understood what she was going through.
As she began to heal, so did the character in her comic, until they both finally learnt how to move on.
Titled A Stupidly Happy Comic About the Very Real Pain of Heartbreak, and posted in full on her site Steps to Happyness, Chong’s comic struck a chord with viewers across the world.
The response was so overwhelmingly positive that she even quit her job as an assistant brand manager at a Fortune 500 company to became a grief coach, helping others to heal their broken, fragmented hearts through comics, laughter and plenty of first-hand experience.
But what is it about comics that makes them such a good tool for dealing with emotional pain? For anyone who hasn’t read one since their childhood, or counts The Beano and The Dandy as their only forays into the world of comics, it can seem a perplexing choice of therapy.
However, Chong believes their appeal lies in their relatability. Speaking to Stylist.co.uk, she says, “I personally think it has to do with how safe comics make people feel. It's comforting to have someone else come out and say, ‘Hey! This happened to me too! I got my heart broken too, and this is how I dealt with it. You're not alone! It hurts just as much halfway around the world.’
“They see their own situation reflected back at them, and they go, ‘You know what, if she could do it, I can too’.”
Chong also believes the therapeutic benefits of comics extend to other emotionally distressing situations, such as periods of depression, bouts of anxiety and self-esteem issues. She explains, “Comics can be used to introduce healing stories, techniques and concepts.
“Even very simple ideas presented through a comic can significantly change the way one thinks.”
How to heal a broken heart
Chong has devised a strategy, aptly named The Relationship Importance Algorithm, to help others move on from a former relationship. She has created the algorithm as a comic for Stylist.co.uk, below.
“A large part of why people hurt so much after a break-up is very much due to how important their former relationship was to them,” she says.
“When you put your former relationship ahead of yourself, this means you define your self-worth, and hence possibly your whole life, on your relationship. But when you put yourself ahead of your former relationship, you will start to heal.”
To people putting their former relationship ahead of themselves, she explains, “That's exactly why you're still hurting. That's why you're still devastated. And I can't go into your head and un-important the relationship for you. Only you can do that.
“I'm sure that you've heard of people doing really cool things like vigorously training for a marathon, or travelling the world after a break-up – and that's because they placed the importance of running or travelling before their former relationship. You need to start ranking your former relationship compared to everything else that is happening right now in your life.
“Insist on making something else in your life more important to you. It might just save you some really horrible days.”