Illustration by Phoebe Ouma

Dear Dr. Paper,

I just had my heart broken by the love of my life. I don’t want to go into details, but he left me for someone else. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, though. He showed tendencies. I’d caught him in a few lies. There were red flags all over the place, but for some reason I chose to ignore them, hoping that things would get better. Now I feel stupid, devastated, and alone.

Nothing tastes good. Music sounds like noise. I’ve been Netflixing all week, too scared to take calls from friends.(They’d warned me about him.) Everything is grey. It’s my first heartbreak, and I don’t know what to do.


Dear. Lonely Lover,

You’ve just experienced one of the most universal causes of emotional suffering. Love is such a messy thing, isn’t it?

To be quite honest, I am not an expert on love. Has something to do with choosing not to make space for romance in my life. Story for another day! But there is a ton of stuff in African literature about what it means to be disappointed in love, so I know just where to send you. Hopefully, you’ll find the insight you need to move forward. Remember, when used correctly, a book can heal hearts and minds.

Listen to Swim – Titilope Sonuga’s debut poetry album – while you soak in a bath of rose water and Eucalyptus oil. Burn some sage while bathing. It will open up the hidden spaces of wisdom in your heart so you can hear Sonuga’s incantations on love, heartbreak, and everything in between. Her wise words and soothing voice will help you find a way out of the darkness. She’ll tell you why “rock bottom is the perfect place for rebuilding.”

You crave isolation right now. It feels kinder on your bruised spirit. But, trust me, talking to your friends is part of the healing process. Here is Mariama Bâ in So Long a Letter: “Friendship has splendors that (romantic) love knows not. It grows stronger when crossed, whereas obstacles kill love. Friendship resists time, which wearies and severs couples. It has heights unknown to love.” When romantic love gets confusing, a good friend can be the path to clarity.

Read Americanah to prepare for the fact that this is probably the first of many break ups. But Ifemelu would tell you that it is perfectly okay to get the whole romance thing wrong a few times. Heart breaks are not fun, but the more you learn from them the better you get at spotting Mr. Right.

Warsan Shire worked with Beyoncé on the poetry in Lemonade, which, as you know, is an epic story of love and betrayal. She also wrote a poetry book titled Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, in which she explores the risks and difficulties of women loving in a world ruled by male privilege. Her words can be a protective armor as you move on to the next relationship.

There is nothing like a good romance novel to help you regain your faith in love. Sindi and Edwards in Amina Thula’s Elevator Kiss are not perfect, but their love will inspire you to take the first step towards finding love again.

And if after all this, you still feel anxious, take Flora Nwapa’s remedy for restless Capricorns. Write. Writing is the salt of the soul. It draws out festering pain and softens the heart for healing.

Hang in there Love Warrior. Your broken heart might feel like the worst thing in the world right now. But you are much closer to recovery than you imagine.