Yes, Amy Chan is an organizer. When she speaks about the logistics of starting a business, scaling up, and writing a book, her voice feels charged with excitement. However, there was one thing Chan couldn’t plan for: the end of her relationship.

Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Rewiring Your Heart

Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Rewiring Your Heart

Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Rewiring Your Heart

$18 at Bookshop
Credit: Dey Street Books

She describes the split — with a boyfriend of several years, who Chan was convinced was the love her life before he cheated on her — as a harrowing experience, one that threatened the success she’d made climbing through the corporate marketing world. She admits she only survived the whole ordeal through friends who would remind her to eat and make positive life choices. And it was throughout that process that Chan began to find a silver lining, realizing that her life was stalling and she needed a new direction.

That direction came in the form of channeling her own pain into helping others through their relationship woes. Chan’s breakup was hard, but she knew she wasn’t alone in figuring out how to navigate the heartache. Now a relationship-advice columnist for more than a decade — with bylines in the 24 Hours newspaper, The Huffington Post, Thrive, and Darling magazine — Chan is also the founder and editor in chief of the lifestyle website Heart Hackers Club and the author of Breakup Bootcamp, the culmination of her own life experiences and deep research that serves as a must-have guide for anyone who finds themselves struggling on the other side of a breakup.

But Chan’s mission isn’t complete. In thinking about how she could expand her life’s work of helping others through heartache, Chan recalled the solid support system that came to her rescue when she was at rock bottom. Now, she hopes to re-create that sense of community through her new relationship venture, Renew Breakup Bootcamp.

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Like an adult summer camp for people of all genders, her weekend retreats — which run from $3,000 to $4,000, but for those who can’t afford to attend, Chan also offers web coaching, a Bootcamp workbook, and even a forthcoming podcast — take a holistic approach to healing hearts, from serving nourishing food to presenting speakers who look at the mental, physical, and spiritual sides of moving on after a split. They are spaces where you can go to specifically process the grief and intense feelings that come with losing someone close to you, while also learning how to reset your relationship patterns, strengthen communication, and figure out what you really want from a partner. But to hear Chan tell it, despite her passion, getting into the business of helping others heal almost didn’t happen.

“I was climbing the corporate ladder, and I was too afraid to leave,” she recalls. “So, I just kind of procrastinated by perfecting the idea until finally one of my friends offered to partner together. So, we did a small [retreat] with six people. I thought, ‘I’ll invite some friends that I know that have gone through a breakup so it’s a little bit less scary.’ Because they know me. I remember this moment. It was on a Sunday after the retreat, and people just came up to tell me they had such a positive experience. And I was just like, ‘Oh, my god, I did it!’ At first, I thought it was just going to be a side passion project. But after I hosted the first boot camp, I saw how impactful it was for those who attended, and the concept got a lot of press. With that, more inquiries came, and I had to quickly plan another one.”

While the boot camps are meant as a springboard to further change, Chan admits that she often finds herself working against popular societal messaging. “From movies to the fairy tales, they’re telling us this narrative of what relationship and love is, and it’s not rooted in reality,” she says. It’s difficult to help someone move on when the moral of every rom-com seems to be that your future happiness is dependent on a new Prince Charming suddenly appearing.

The good news is that with the events of 2020 forcing people to reevaluate their emotional states and the proliferation of everything from TikToks on mental health to an abundance of online therapy resources, mental health care is becoming increasingly normalized. With that, more people who experience detrimental breakups are realizing that, sometimes, it’s not just something you can power through without professional help. Chan notes that she’s even seeing an increased demand from men looking to attend Renew Breakup Bootcamps — something she never expected to experience when she launched the idea in 2016.

“It’s just seen as such a sexy thing that you are looking inside and reflecting,” says Chan. “It’s really amazing how it’s changed so much in just a couple of years. But I still think that there is this approach of heartbreak where you’re encouraged to ‘just to get over it.’ If you break your leg, you go to the doctor; you put a cast on it. You don’t run a marathon — that’s very obvious. When you break your heart, it feels horrible. And your friends are like, ‘Well, they were a narcissist anyway’ or ‘You can do much better — why are you so upset?’ Why isn’t this met with compassion? Take care of your heart like you would if you had a broken body part.”

While this might paint an intense picture of Breakup Bootcamps, Chan assures that’s not fully the case. Yes, you will hear from licensed relationship therapists, personal coaches, and even a dominatrix. But there’s always a surprise guest, which in the past has included comedians and photographers to take post-emotional glow-up portraits. Life is never one thing, and as Chan explains, it’s important to celebrate the emotional journey in all its complexity, and maybe even find some joy in the process.

“That’s part of, like, the experience of grief and of being human,” she says. “You can feel very sad about this one thing in your life. You can also feel excited about another thing and laugh. And you can feel a multitude of these different emotions all at the same time. And I think when it comes to breakups and heartbreak, we can feel like we’re just stuck in this one lane of emotion, of sadness, of darkness — like everything’s going to be dark and terrible forever. But that’s just not the case. Part of this experience is shifting your relationship to emotions and not shaming or blaming yourself for feeling or not feeling something. It’s all just part of the emotional journey.”

Laura Studarus is a Los Angeles-based travel writer who has contributed to Fast Company, BBC Travel, and Thrillist.

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