Introducing: Cruel Summer Book Club
Reading through the pain!
I’m Jillian, a writer in New York City who’s going through a rough patch. Today, I’m launching Cruel Summer Book Club, a free weekly newsletter exploring grief, loss and heartbreak, and how we get through it. Every Tuesday I’ll share personal stories, things that have cheered me up and the books I’m reading, and I’ll interview authors, psychologists and other people who’ve been through the worst life has to offer and made it to the other side. This is your digital shoulder to cry on.
Subscribe below, share with sad friends, and read on to learn more.
Are you having a cruel summer? So am I.
The most meaningful relationship I’ve yet had ended in June, for reasons that will likely always elude me, and every day has been varying levels of difficult—from “I have to leave the party early or I’ll sob into the guacamole” to “I’ve taken up some light chainsmoking”—since then. It’s not quite the Hot Girl Summer I anticipated. As the truest adage goes, with the passing of time, I’m feeling better. But I’m still sad. And I suppose I will be for some time.
This ain’t my first heartbreak rodeo. I’ve suffered different kinds of grief and loss, as we all have. I lost a childhood friend and my maternal grandmother. When I first moved to New York City on December 30, 2011—fresh off (another) breakup, living in a not-great part of Bushwick, and working at a full-time, unpaid internship—I experienced a deep depression for about a year. Rocky relationships with family members have haunted me and held me back from experiencing life as a whole person (until I went to therapy!). But through all of that—and, yes, I am aware that I’m exceedingly lucky compared to many—breakups have, by far, emotionally affected me the most in my life.
My mom likes to say that when I love, I love hard. And when I lose that love, the crash can be abysmal. Long after I’ve rejoined the world of the living and once again feel stable and satisfied on my own, I feel deeply connected to my grief. With every person I’m forced to excommunicate from my heart, I learn more about the inherent strength and goodness I possess, and just how resilient I am.
Those lessons come from many hours of journaling, working out, walking in Prospect Park, long phone calls, meditation, and deep reflection—the only way out of heartbreak is directly through, and I know how to take care of myself. But they also come from talking to my friends and family about their own experiences with loss, and a lot of reading. In the time since my split, I’ve ravenously listened to podcasts, googled “how to get over a breakup,” devoured tragic memoirs, and read self-help books full of glittering promise. I take what I need and leave the rest, and always feel a bit more enlightened, a step further along the path to reclaiming my life as my own.
But this time, I don’t want to do my healing alone. I want to do it with all of you. I’m a journalist who’s long wished to be braver with her writing, more personal, and who’s long considered starting some sort of support group for all of the sad souls I know are out there. The conversations I enjoy most in life revolve around the challenges that make us who we are. So, today, I’m starting Cruel Summer Book Club. It’s not just for people going through a breakup (though, hello dear friend, you are certainly welcome here, please allow me to hold you to my misery-filled bosom), but for anyone who’s having a sad summer, knows it, and needs support.
Every Tuesday, this newsletter will reach out to you, a digital shoulder to cry on. Every other week, you’ll hear from me. You’ll read a story of my past, a hard-learned lesson, some jerk who broke my heart, a time I fell in love. Then, I’ll tell you what I’m currently reading to help me get through. I’ll include a link to something that cheered me up, some support I received that you may need to hear, and maybe a cheesy inspirational quote for good measure. Us Sads will take joy where we can get it!
On alternating weeks, you’ll hear from someone else about their personal Dark Misery and what they learned from it. I’ll interview the authors of the books we’re reading or psychologists who are experts on grief, or I might share an essay from someone breaking down their own Cruel Summer. Plus, I’ll share any reader feedback about the book we’re reading and how it helped them. I want to hear from you!
Cruel Summer Book Club is meant to be a a glint of light in a long, dark night. It’s designed to sustain you long past September 21, when the seasons will change, and we will feel something completely different from what we feel today. Though heartbreak is one of the loneliest feelings in the world, it is one of the most universal. I will get through this. And so will you.
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You are not alone!