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Fresh Sheets After a Breakup

Brooklinen best sheets

When it comes to breakups, like all life changes, you want to take care of yourself. Our friend Ellen recently moved into a new space after separating from her partner. She followed the advice of reader Katie, who said, “My biggest breakup advice: buy new sheets. It feels good to sleep in a refreshed bed that’s newly ALL YOURS.” So here, with help from our favorite bedding brand, Brooklinen, Ellen shares what she’s learned about creating a sanctuary…

Brooklinen best sheets

1. Build a warm space to come home to.
“I was married for ten years, and we separated around five months ago,” says Ellen. “I’m renting this room right now. I have two roommates, but this room is my little sanctuary. This is the first time in my life that I’ve had a space completely to myself. I put most of my things in storage, and have only what I actually need. I wanted to start at the very beginning.”

Brooklinen best sheets

2. Make your bed the most comfortable place on earth.
“One of the most best things I did was get soft pillows and sheets, just for me. It’s important to create a cozy space, especially when it comes to your bed. I love that Brooklinen’s sheets and duvet cover have a touch of color. It creates a splash of warmth, like color therapy. Plus, these Brooklinen sheets are so comfortable.” (They also come in other colors and patterns, like glacier and window pane.)

Brooklinen

3. Keep photos of happy memories close at hand.
If you’re feeling down after a breakup, it can help to surround yourself with photos of loved ones to remember that you will feel happy again. “I grew up in Brazil, and my family is still there. So, my friends in New York have become a family to me,” Ellen explains. “They’re always checking in to make sure I’m okay. They’ve been a hugely helpful part of this process.” But it hasn’t been without challenges. “When you’re starting a new life, people always want to give you advice, and sometimes everyone’s advice is different. After a while, it started to drive me crazy. Finally, I was like, ‘No. I’m not going to listen to anyone right now. I’m just going to listen to myself.'”

Brooklinen best sheets

4. Lean into your interests.
“Since moving here, I’ve been watching more movies, and I always have side projects,” she says. “I do origami and ikebana, a form of Japanese flower arranging. Other times, I’ll go for a long walk and listen to music. It’s so important to take time for yourself.” One of her favorite suggestions? “Have a drink or meal by yourself at a restaurant. To me, it feels really empowering.”

Brooklinen best sheets

“These sheets have brought me happiness. I have this whole comfortable bed to myself!” Ellen laughs. “After five months, I’m starting to see, ‘This is my new life, and that’s exciting.'”

If you’d like to spruce up your bedroom, Brooklinen’s cotton percale sheets are crisp and soft and make your bed the most welcoming place to climb into. We also love their lightweight quilts and linen bedding. We can’t recommend them highly enough.

Bonus: Brooklinen is offering Cup of Jo readers 10% off any order over $50, with the code CUPOFJO10.

Do you have any tips for starting over after a breakup? Or favorite ways to make a room feel like a sanctuary? We’d love to hear!

P.S. 10 great reader comments on breakups.

(Photos by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Brooklinen, whose sheets we’ve loved and used in our homes for years. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo.)

  1. Megan says...

    I already love the feeling of new bedding, but especially when going through a breakup it was so, so comforting to crawl into my OWN bed, in crisp new sheets that were simply my own. I shared so much with my ex-husband that buying new bedding seemed like the perfect first step to take when creating my own home. I did the same thing when my long-time boyfriend and I split; I wanted a clean slate to wake up and go to sleep in, to be sad and hibernate in, a bed that I hadn’t shared with anyone else but my dog.

  2. Annie says...

    “No feeling is final.” What a happy thought and true. My heart’s still breaking, bit by bit as I’m feeling my way through a breakup after two and a half years together. Sometimes the worst pain comes when neither party’s being a jerk. Both my boyfriend and I were doing our best, and for me, it wasn’t enough. I don’t fall in love easily or rashly, and the same is true for leaving. The pain will pass, and it won’t happen tonight.

    • Jenny says...

      Yes, the worst pain is sometimes when none is being a jerk, I’m in the middle of a terrible breakup with the sweetest person in the world who I love more than anything. But he doesn’t anymore and we both tried our best so hard. It’s harder when there’s nothing to list as bad and think about or be angry about :(

  3. Jamie says...

    I’m away on a much needed vacation visiting London for the first time. I found myself missing COJ. I feel like I’ve found the best tribe because often the comments are as inspiring and insightful as your posts. And the first thing I bought myself was all new bed linens last year when my wife left. Painting the bedroom come spring.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Xoxoxoxo

  4. Janine says...

    Thank you great post! Would love a little tutorial on that awesome origami piece above the bed!

    • Seconded, what a beautiful creation!

  5. Thata Sumida says...

    Such a babe! Wishing you a great new start, Ellen Brown. Love you!

  6. Carrie says...

    Not long after a heart-wrenching breakup (my first adult relationship, the first partner I shared a home with), I went for a haircut. My hairstylist and I were chatting about the painfully drawn-out decline of my relationship, and he gently told me how our hair is, in many ways, an imprint of our recent experiences – if we’ve smoked, if we’ve been stressed. We decided right then and there to cut it all off, save for an inch or two.

    Three years later, I still have the same cut; it’s become such a part of my identity. Whether it was the removal of the bad or the gesture in itself, I do think it helped me move forward and find myself again, in its own quiet, powerful way.

    Here’s a short poem I wrote about it:

    You know that hair
    holds memories –
    he told me –
    recording as it grows,
    each strand a timeline.
    If that’s true –
    I said –
    then take it all;
    these reels are weights on my heart.
    So he opened his scissors under the bright lights
    and I watched in the mirror as
    the months settled to the floor like dust,
    until all that remained was
    the growth that was mine alone.

    (“sole authorship”)

    • Liz says...

      This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    • Breanna says...

      Thank you. I had brain surgery in high school, and about a year later my hair had become sickly looking (dry & dull). I asked my hair dresser, as she had been there with me through my journey (they had to shave an 8 inch strip on the back of my skull, she would pull stitches out for me as they worked their way to the surface), she was part of my journey, while few in my life new what I had gone through. I had surgery that summer and came back that fall like nothing had happened. She told me that all of the drugs I had been given stay in the hair follicles, causing this mess. So that day she cut my hair into a chin length bob, showing about three inches of my scar. Her work, gave me the confidence to not be embarrassed by my scar and my surgery. She made me feel lighter and more me, than I had felt for a long time.

    • Sarah says...

      I agree- this poem is a beautiful expression of emotion. So thoughtful. Thank you. Over and over I am struck by the sincerity, sensitivity, and intelligence of the COJ readers. And thank you for this post, COJ!

    • Beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing!

    • Karinny says...

      So beautiful, to think each piece of us tell our stories :)

    • shade says...

      Love this poem! And your story.

    • Kristian Olson says...

      Beautiful poem

  7. Meaghan says...

    This was really good sponsored content. It was authentic and relevant to the product.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, meaghan!

    • Mandy says...

      Agreed loved this post just as much as any other cup of jo post!

  8. In any circumstance of change, a bed is a haven. Though not breakup driven, any time I moved houses, apartments, dorms, etc., the first thing my mom would do is unpack my bedding and make up my bed so that, if you just can’t do any more that day, at least you have a comfortable place to fall into. I can only imagine a breakup to be akin to “changing spaces.”

  9. Brooke W says...

    This Summer I went through a blindsiding breakup, and ended up alone in the apartment we had just moved into as a couple two months earlier. After he finally left to stay at a friend’s while I found a new place to live, I texted my own friend. “I’m living in a haunted house. Everything looks and smells of him.” She told me I needed to gather anything that I could that reminded me of him and hide it in a closet. Then she said something game-changing: change the sheets and get fresh ones that only belong to you. So simple but I was in such crisis mode I couldn’t see it. The immediate weeks after a breakup are all about survival and softness—treat yourself like you would a small child. Clean sheets, good sleep, nourishing food, hugs from those you trust most. Love this post and love seeing Ellen at the exciting turning point of a fresh start.

  10. Ellen says...

    As a fellow Ellen, just want to send you all the best as you are on this journey of rediscovery. In college, my boyfriend of five years broke up with me, and I was of course completely devastated, to the point where my dad actually came out to visit (no small feat, as I was in New York for school and my family lived in Iowa at the time). One of the first things we did together was go to Target to pick out new bedding for my dorm room: sheets, shams, quilt, the works. My boyfriend and I didn’t live together, but the room was still full of reminders and memories. The act of changing my bedding felt like the first step in redefining this new, post-breakup chapter. My sister somehow ended up with the quilt I got on that trip to Target, and every time I see it now, I’m reminded of how the seemingly small change of new bedding ended up being a gentle push to embrace being on my own.

  11. AJ says...

    Yes!!! Totally! I am 37 and have clocked up a long line of post-break-up moves (currently packing to move again next weekend). It’s unsettling physically and emotionally. But a new set of sheets every time is a really effective comfort. A fresh start. A token of self love when you need it most. A reminder that you are worth lovely things, even if it’s just for you. Ellen, you sound like you’re being so proactive and aware of your needs right now during this huge transition. Love the side projects! Wishing you loads of kindness and good vibes in your new space and new chapter x
    I’m browsing ideas for my new sheets – thinking a soft dusty pink!

  12. Thanks for sharing, Ellen! I love the colors you chose and that looks like a really lovely space! I just went through a tough break up with a partner of ten years and moved into my first solo apartment last weekend. It’s a big adjustment, but waking up with fresh sheets (a lovely gift from a friend) and having coffee in a space that’s all my own has felt so peaceful and empowering. Now I just have to brave heading out to find a Laundromat… ;)

  13. Lena says...

    Ellen, what shapes and paper are the base of that origami above the bed? It is so completely beautiful.

    • Ellen Kanamori says...

      hey Lena, it’s a octahedron shape! i custom made for my room. i made in all different colors and sizes! ;)

    • Elissa says...

      I second this — I want one! They’re gorgeous! Do you sell these? ;)

  14. Julia says...

    I met the absolute love of my life because of this very topic! It all happened in a Macy’s bedding department nine years ago. I was shopping for pillow cases when I noticed him: a big burly guy looking like a lost bull in a China shop. No one was helping him so I offered. He was going through a divorce and wanted new, masculine sheets but had never bought sheets in his life. I volunteered to help him and an hour later he picked out a sublime set of Calvin Klein 100% Egyptian combed cotton sheets. An hour after that he took me to sushi as a thank you. A month later I was sleeping between those Calvins! In a few weeks we will be celebrating our 4 month wedding anniversary.

    • Alice says...

      JULIA!!! This could be from a novel or a romantic film! Absolute cutest story ever, hope you guys are so happy together!

    • Ellen Kanamori says...

      love is all we need!

    • Sarah AuMiller says...

      This love story is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you for sharing and congrats on marrying the “absolute love of your life!”

    • Carly says...

      This is adorable!

    • AJ says...

      Omg echoing the above – this is better than any movie meet cute ever!! What a great love story!

    • Claire says...

      so sweet! thank you for sharing this story.

    • Karla says...

      Gave me sweet chills!

  15. Brooke says...

    Oh I can feel your poignant relaxing into your own space Ellen and it is so moving! I so enjoy connecting and I think longing for camaraderie is part of being human/alive BUT I do so exult in the absolute glorious juiciness of inhabiting my own life and space just as I want.

    That feeling is articulated so deeply by this poem “The Song” by Adrienne Rich that I always sit in a reverent hum after I read it:

    You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
    OK then, yes, I’m lonely
    as a plane rides lonely and level
    on its radio beam, aiming
    across the Rockies
    for the blue-strung aisles
    of an airfield on the ocean.

    You want to ask, am I lonely?
    Well, of course, lonely
    as a woman driving across country
    day after day, leaving behind
    mile after mile
    little towns she might have stopped
    and lived and died in, lonely

    If I’m lonely
    it must be the loneliness
    of waking first, of breathing
    dawns’ first cold breath on the city
    of being the one awake
    in a house wrapped in sleep

    If I’m lonely
    it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
    in the last red light of the year
    that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
    ice nor mud nor winter light
    but wood, with a gift for burning.

    • Ellen Kanamori says...

      omg! that’s so special! i’m going to save this poem!! thank you for sharing!

    • MH says...

      Brooke, this is amazing!! I love Adrienne Rich, but I’d never heard this one. THANK YOU for sharing :)

    • Oh wow! This poem is beautiful and powerful! That line about “little towns she might have stopped /and lived and died in, lonely” is incredible. I’ve thought of that often… how you could live anywhere, how many options there are, how many lives we could’ve had. Like the “ghost ships” quote by Cheryl Strayed on the siblings post this week.

    • Rae says...

      Thank you for posting this Brooke

    • Brooke says...

      Oh Ellen I am so glad this spoke to you! I could feel this “wood, with a gift for burning” somehow from your countenance and beautiful home and art-making. MH and Rae, you are so welcome and I love knowing that it resonated with you too. Andrea, I have had that same thought and I love that Cheryl Strayed line. Hurrah for resonant, alive, real women – on here and in the world. Its so sustaining!

    • Alissa says...

      Brooke, I’ve also read that poem many times after a breakup. A few others I love include James Schuyler’s “This Dark Apartment,” Jan Richardson’s “Blessing for the Brokenhearted,” and “Girls” by Nicole Blackman.

  16. Arielle Parker-Trout says...

    Only on Cup of Jo would a sponsored post and the comments about it make me so emotional. I cherish this tiny corner of the Internet!!

    • panayiota says...

      Couldn’t agree more… Love to all the beautiful souls out there…

    • margo says...

      Yes yes! my thoughts exactly. Nowhere would I cry reading comments b/c they included a poem that touch my heart. @BROOKE – thanks for sharing

    • Brooke says...

      Margo, so moving!! Isn’t that poem so YES. Thanks for sharing your resonance.

    • Jenny says...

      Yes!!!!!always love reading the comments and this post was one of my favourite as I’m going through a very difficult breakup at the moment. Thank you cupofjo!

  17. Kelly says...

    This is a great tip and I’ll add two more:

    1. Buy yourself some nice new underwear – for YOU. Pick things that you feel fabulous in. Don’t save them for a special occasion – wear them!

    2. Rearrange your furniture. Shake up the energy by moving a few things, even if it’s just swapping out one or two things – you’ll feel the shift! (And buy yourself some houseplants – water and watch them grow).

  18. Hannah says...

    After my divorce, I felt the need to replace a lot of my personal items. It was just too painful to hold onto things that I associated so much with HIM. New bed, linens, cushions, blankets, lingerie/underwear, a lot of new clothes and pjs and a robe and jewellry. I even got new professional family photos of myself and my daughter taken! It was not cheap and it took me a while to do this but I remember one day, looking around at my new home and thinking “ah, it is just me and her now.”

  19. Gayle says...

    I went full on Pottery Barn from sheets to duvet cover to Euro shams and bedskirt. AND a $37 throw pillow! Very therapeutic.

  20. Emily says...

    I have been curious to try Brooklinen. I occasionally have night sweats. Can anyone recommend which set to get if I’m looking to stay cool at night?

    • Joanna says...

      As someone who is known to “sweat the bed,” I found the classic percale sheets to be incredibly comfortable- they manage to feel simultaneously cool and cozy. I got the classic core set around a year ago and the sheets only seem to improve with each wash- one of my best post breakup purchases!

    • Katie says...

      My favorite part about my Brooklinen sheets is that they stay cool! We alternate them with another (older, less nice) set, and I always overheat with the other ones and look forward to the Brooklinen ones. Maybe I should buy more :) I think I have the standard ones… searched for the name but I think my husband ended up buying them for us so it’s not in my email.

    • Jennifer says...

      Emily, we tried the linen sheets from Brooklinen and they are so cool and comfortable, though it took a couple of washings to make them super soft. This hasn’t eliminated my night sweats or hot flashes, but at least I don’t wake up in the night panicked that I’m going to overheat and die. The linen isn’t as cool to the touch as freshly laundered cotton sheets when you first climb into bed, but it stays consistently cooler throughout the night, I think.

    • Jacqueline says...

      My husband is a huge night sweater and our luxe sateen set have held up well. They don’t stain or smell and are still soft. I will say ours have a few small holes from wear and wash after 1.5 years of weekly alternating use but overall happy with the quality for two people with opposite body temperatures!

    • Taylor says...

      It seems like I’m in the minority here, but I don’t like my Brooklinen sheets. I got two sets of linen sheets for my bed about 8 months ago. Both sets ripped within a month of owning them. I contacted the company and they sent replacements (which I appreciated) but now those sets have ripped as well. I think that RH and Eileen Fisher Home have better quality sheets, although they’re a bit more expensive. Also, I found the Brooklinen sheets shed terribly. The sheets that I bought from RH and Eileen Fisher never did.

  21. Rachel says...

    I love lighting candles when I get home from work. It has become part of my routine after hanging up my keys and putting away my coat. Nothing fancy, Walmart and Target do just fine for me. I’ll move the candle around based on what I’m doing that day, working in my office or cooking in the kitchen. And here’s a tip if you have a deep candle that you can’t reach the wick–use a dry piece of spaghetti! Like the end of the spaghetti, and then use that to light the candle wick. It’s so much easier than burning my fingers.

    • Claire says...

      That’s a good tip, thanks Rachel!

  22. Stacy says...

    Bless you, Ellen, in this next season of life. After my huge breakup, the word POSSIBILITY started echoing in my head and resonating in my heart.

    • Ellen Kanamori says...

      hey Stacy! yes, we all did that because we believe in LOVE! ;)

  23. elise says...

    Ellen, all good thoughts to you. And my good words for Brooklinen. I have used nothing else since first reading about the company on CoJ. CoJ is my window on the world.

  24. Sherry McLaughlin says...

    I am what is called a Renaissance Woman, a single divorce woman in her years and found that when I got divorced and had to live alone, it scared the hell out of me after over 30 years of living with someone. Since that time, I have come into my own, I am stronger, smarter, prouder of who I am. A new bed, new sheets, new pillows, new state, new place to live and new life, no longer afraid and so thinking this is wonderful. Being alone gives you time to discover who you are and what you can face in life and accept the decisions to move on with grace and dignity. Would not change it for the world as now I can explore, so going to Paris this fall for a week and alone…….so excited!

    • Aideen says...

      A Renaissance Woman, love it!

  25. Sarah says...

    I remember after a major breakup feeling a bit of triumph when I no longer had any sexy underwear or bras that he’d seen. Almost like getting that piece of intimacy back to myself! At the time I couldn’t toss everything out and start from scratch, but if possible, I highly recommend it!

  26. Blair says...

    This post and the comments remind me of one of my all-time favorite poems by the incomparable Sandra Cisneros. I love how after the man leaves, she’s content, almost relieved, to be alone again in her own space with her own thoughts. No sadness or regret. Plus, I just love the imagery of a man or relationship getting stuck in your sheets/life like cracker crumbs!

    A Man in my Bed like Cracker Crumbs
    Sandra Cisneros

    I’ve stripped the bed.
    Shaken the sheets and slumped
    those fat pillows like tired tongues
    out the window for air and sun
    to get to. I’ve let

    the mattress lounge in
    its blue-striped dressing gown.
    I’ve punched and fluffed.
    All morning. I’ve billowed and snapped.
    Said my prayers to la Virgen de la Soledad.
    And now I can sit down
    to my typewriter and cup
    because she’s answered me.

    Coffee’s good.
    Dust motes somersault and spin.
    House clean.
    I’m alone again.
    Amen.

    • I had never heard of this poet before but I’m looking her up! Love this poem. Thanks for sharing!

    • Elena says...

      Sandra Cisneros moves me every time. Thank you for sharing! We can all use more poetry in our lives. Every time I read a poem I think, “Why don’t I do this daily? ”
      Poetry is medicine.

    • willa says...

      i love this so much. i’m married with two very little daughters, and that feeling during those precious moments when i’m home alone and can shake, punch, dust, clean, then sit in the quiet with my coffee are so precious and savory.

  27. may says...

    New sheets for sure!
    In my dating days decades ago… it makes me laugh now…new, fancier the better, underwear after a breakup. Put down the tissue and bee line to the lingerie store does wonders for one’s heart and ego woes.

  28. katie s. says...

    yay it’s me!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YAY KATIE!!! THANK YOU!!!!

    • Carrie says...

      All the best to you Katie! Your space is really lovely.

  29. Anne says...

    Love this idea! Good for you! I’ve now been married almost a decade however the memory of a morning after a bad hook up still stays with me. I can picture my friend and I shoving all my sheets and duvet cover in a washing machine and choosing the highest temperature available. Had I been able to afford it at the time, new sheets would have been much better! Although that memory does help when suffering middle of the night calls for water from my two boys. It’s fun to know I’ve lived a little :)

  30. Sarah says...

    Beautiful space and best wishes to you, Ellen! I also recommend (a) buying new underwear and (b) “This is The Story of a Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett. Both of those things helped me greatly after my worst breakup.

  31. I am so surprised by how much I love this color combination! Beautiful styling.

  32. Ginny says...

    Ellen, did you make that origami piece above your bed? Because i LOVE it.

    • Julie Wilding says...

      Also wondering about the origins of that beautiful origami piece!

    • hey Ginny! Yes! I am so glad to hear you liked them. Thank you :) I custom made them! i make in any color! ;)

    • Ellen Kanamori says...

      Hello Ginny! Yes! I am so glad to hear you liked them. Thank you :) i custom made them!

    • Akshita says...

      Ellen, do you sell these custom origami pieces? I think they’re so beautiful!

    • Sarah Petit says...

      I was wondering the same thing – it’s beautiful!

    • Ellen Kanamori says...

      yes i do sell them!
      i make in different sizes and colors!
      in my instagram @ellenkanamori, i show a big one that i’m making for an installation!

  33. agnes says...

    When I broke up after an important 8 year relationship, I bought myself a new bed and PINK bed linens. I loved them. And yes, I felt my bedroom was, more than a sanctuary, a fun and happy place. I quite miss that bedroom (I’m in a happy stage of my life but sharing a bedroom is not the best part of a relationship, I think).

  34. Lele says...

    I second this, after ending a long relationship in June, I went out and splurged on some verrrry expensive sheets, and now sleep starfish style in the middle of the bed every night! I also purchased 2 sets of Brooklinen sheets and adore them as well. I love it and am embracing my singlehood with my very best friends. Life is good!

    • Jade Lees says...

      One of my favourite things about being single is sleeping starfish style in the middle of the bed.

  35. So agree with everything here. I bought everything but new sheets when I moved out of the house I lived in with my former partner (about 1.5 years ago) – new bed frame, mattress, comforter, pillows… I realized a few months ago that I was still using a sheet set from before (that was one size too big for my new bed – oops!) so I finally bought new sheets. Nothing fancy, but it felt so good, emotionally, to have everything on that bed completely my own. Surrounding yourself with things that make you happy, and replacing things that were shared is a really cleansing part of breaking up.

  36. Rapo! Ellen! You look great in your new bed. So happy to see you happy! I know you love eating by yourself in restaurants, but take me with you next time, ok, friend? xxx

    • Ellen Kanamori says...

      ok! i will for sureeee!

  37. Rachael says...

    When I was younger I moved into my first place after leaving my parents house, and very shortly after (like maybe the next day) I broke up with my boyfriend and then went home from his house and changed my sheets whilst listening to “Change the Sheets” by Kathleen Edwards. I can’t remember if I put on that song on purpose, but man does that memory stick out in my mind…9 or 10 years later? It felt SO GOOD.

  38. Kate says...

    Thank you for sharing… I just ended a 13 year relationship and making my apartment feel like “my own” has been a really important part of working through my divorce. It’s a big investment to change furniture and linens, but so far it has been worth it. Hugs to Ellen for making her sanctuary a priority while she starts this new chapter!

    • Ellen Kanamori says...

      yes, i have learned that our individuality is our priority and the flame of any relantionship!