Going through a tough breakup? You need to hear Drew Barrymore’s wise words on the intensity of divorce

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Anna Brech
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Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore has spoken openly about the pain and fear of failure caused by her divorce from Will Kopelman four years ago, in a candid interview that may help others going through a relationship breakup. 

There’s no doubt about it, breakups are tough. In fact, the impact of heartache is such that it can affect us physically – triggering a range of physiological symptoms related to the body’s stress response.

So all credit to Drew Barrymore, who pulled no punches in recalling the visceral pain of her divorce from fellow actor Will Kopelman recently. 

The couple were married for four years at the time of their split in 2016, and have two young daughters, Olive and Frankie, together.

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Appearing on NBC’s Sunday Today show at the weekend, Barrymore told host Willie Geist, “I really did not take divorce well. I took it really hard”.

“I don’t think I would have been able to talk about it as openly at first,” she said. “[…] It’s like something closed, and it stayed closed.”

Will Kopelman and Drew Barrymore, pictured in 2015

Barrymore found fame in ET aged seven, but a chaotic childhood marred by drug addiction and a suicide attempt meant that she had legally divorced her parents by the time she was a teenager. 

“I know from not growing up with any family whatsoever that that was the last thing I wanted to do for my daughters,” the actor told Geist during an emotional interview. 

“I was, like, ‘Oh, the ultimate promise I wanted to make with you and for you was to have this amazing family. And I found them. And there’s something not working that isn’t livable.’ How tragic is that?”

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In their divorce statement four years ago, Barrymore and Kopelman acknowledged that “divorce might make one feel like a failure”. 

“But eventually you start to find grace in the idea that life goes on,” they said.

It seems the couple have done exactly that, as both have since picked up the pieces of their respective lives and carried on – while fulfilling their pledge to be dedicated co-parents to Olive and Frankie (“2 healthy girls… Will and I continue to marvel at what we made,” Barrymore wrote on Instagram in 2018).

The Scream star says now that it took the past four years for her and her ex “to speak with strength, articulation, perspective, hindsight, and see everything we did right”. 

“When we were getting divorced, it felt like everything was just wrong,” she says. “I think it applies to everyone who thinks that something will be forever and it’s not.”

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Barrymore’s honesty is so important for anyone caught in the wreckage of a difficult breakup, with no idea how to break free. As she says, feeling guilt, frustration or remorse is all part of the journey: but that doesn’t make the decision to split up – or the subsequent pain that you feel – any less valid.

The experience may even shift your entire life outlook; as Barrymore notes, “I don’t think I’ve recovered [from divorce]”. But you just have to have faith that, with time, you will find a route though to a new and different way of being. 

 “It’s amazing that my kids and I are happy,” Barrymore says now. “Because there’s been a lot of times I really did question, like, ‘will we be happy?’ and we are. So that chokes me up.”

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.