Heartbreak /ˈhɑːtbreɪk/ (n.): overwhelming distress; crushing grief; a feeling of great sadness.
It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced heartbreak & I hope it will be a long time until I do again. Although I haven’t felt my own heart break in a few years, I am still surrounded by it, in the news, people dying, watching relationships end, friends unable to see themselves in a positive light.
This post will focus specifically on romantic heartbreak, as that’s the one I’ve had the most personal experience with.
I’ve had my heart fully broken once. Completely. Utterly. Shattered.
Other times, I’ve had little bits chipped away, piece by piece, harder this time because I’m stronger; smaller pieces this time because, perhaps, those were the only parts of my heart that were involved in the situation. I wasn’t fully there.
The first time I had my heart broken, I was 15. It’d been coming for a while; I’d had a taste of what the final result might be like but when it happened, it was unlike anything I thought it would be. I was alone, in my room, and had just been dumped over text message. Yes, text message, from a boy I’d been with for nearly two years. I was quiet. I read the text, dry-eyed, texted my best friend to tell her and then I went to school. I was in a static state of shock.
I hadn’t seen in him in 8 months as I’d moved halfway across the world – and I’ve never seen him again. The last time we ever looked in each other’s eyes, we’d promised the world. I thought it would last forever. He said, ‘I’ll see you soon.’
It’s been 8 years.
I had placed my entire world into this relationship, and it took me two and a half years to get over it. There were months I didn’t think about him, as new relationships formed, I had another first kiss, I went through a long period of feeling my heart mend but when something knocked me over, my heart took the brunt of it, shattering again because it had never fully healed. I hadn’t given myself time.
I had rebounded, dived head first into another relationship. I had lied to myself, told myself I never loved. I rushed through all the emotions, convincing myself I was okay. I talked bad about the person, bigging up my own ego with false truths.
The second time I went through a breakup, my heart breaking but in a different way, I pressed pause. I stopped, slowed, breathed and reflected. Who was I? What had happened these few years? Who am I going to be now? Where do I place my value? How do I actually mend this broken heart, the one that never really healed?
It was something I should have done the first time.
I completely changed during my second breakup. That’s because I was honest with myself. I didn’t try and control the situation. I let myself cry, I let myself grieve, I let myself go back in time, I let myself be happy, I let myself be sad. I just let it happen. And that’s what everyone ought to know about heartbreak: It’s yours.
YOU WILL FEEL YOUR HEART BREAK.
It’s called heartbreak for a reason. It’s not brainache, toothache, footache. It’s heartache because you feel it in your heart, the same place you felt the love. I remember waking up in the morning and having chest pains, feeling like someone was clutching onto my heart with their fist, squeezing it tight, wrenching it around in my body. This has been proven as expected, according to an article by Gigi Engle.
“When you get your heart broken, though, all those lovey-dovey chemicals wash right out of your system, leaving you victim to stress hormones. Your brain pumps your body full of cortisol and epinephrine.
An overabundance of cortisol tells your brain to send too much blood to your muscles, causing them to tense up, ostensibly for swift action. But you’re not leaping anywhere, and as a result, you’re plagued with swollen muscles causing headaches, a stiff neck and an awful squeezing sensation in your chest.”
It’s a horrible feeling but it will pass, like most pains. Unfortunately, like a cold or the flu, you have to let it go through your body, live there for a while you do the right things to fight it off, even it doesn’t lessen the symptoms.
THERE’S ANOTHER SIDE TO THE STORY
I remember bad talking about one of my boyfriends when we broke up, saying the typical things like, ‘He was a jerk. He treated me badly. I deserve better. I never liked him.’ I was feeding myself these false truths to feel full again. My sister said to me, casually and kindly, ‘I hate when people always talk badly about their partner after a break up when they never did that before.’
It struck a chord. She wasn’t any older than 14 at the time and her words and tone were coated in wisdom. I stopped and I tried to never said something that wasn’t true about them again. Instead, I used phrases such as, ‘I felt ____ when he did _____ to me,’ or ‘When he _______, I couldn’t believe it. I felt so _______.’ Those aren’t lies. Those are truths but they’re not sweeping general statements.
It’s important not to insult them for many reasons (you might be friends again one day – or even get back together, they may find out, it’s not good for your own healing, it doesn’t solve anything, it won’t make you feel any better in the long term) and one of the big ones is that they had intentions and motives, too. They went through something, too. Although that might not always justify why something happened the way it did, and it certainly doesn’t excuse abuse, cheating, and things along these lines, but it might give you an insight into the underlying pain they might have experienced.
Like I said, I was dumped when I was 15 and
I was shocked and shattered
. I spent over 2 years in waves of bitter anger and a lack of understanding. However, when I was 18 and stuck in a very unhealthy relationship with someone I couldn’t see a future with and I made the decision to end things, I was struck with forgiveness for the boy who broke up with me. I finally understood.
When I was breaking up with my new boyfriend, it hurt so bad to know I was hurting someone else. It didn’t mean I didn’t care for him; it didn’t mean I didn’t have love for him; it didn’t mean I didn’t want him to be happy. It just meant that I couldn’t handle it anymore. That isn’t selfish. I was weakening, strength by strength. I suddenly had an understanding of what it might have felt like for my first boyfriend, all the way on the other side of the world, alone, watching opportunities pass him by, feeling like there was more than a long-distance relationship in his early teens that was sucking up all his energy, no matter how much love he had for me.
Breaking up with someone forced me to realise why I was broken up with.
And that healed my heart.
Had I realised that sooner, I might have been happier before I was. I might have missed out on a lot of things that hurt me deeper than I already was.
If you are going through what feels like an unfair breakup, with reasons lacking and closure left wide open, take a moment and try and understand what they might have had to go through to reach that decision. Maybe even talk to them about it. Whether they wanted to make the decision or not, their pain might have become too heavy to carry. And that’s okay.
IT TAKES TIME. PACE IS IMPORTANT & THE PACE IS YOURS.
Like I said, I rushed my ‘healing’ to the point where I later found myself not healed at all. I ignored the feelings; I formed new relationships; I lied to myself. What I needed to do was let my heart break even more. When I thought about all the things we’d gone through together, all the things I felt, I could feel my chest tighten, the tears come, the sobs begin – and then I would stop myself.
‘You’re fine. You’re okay again. You have a new person now. Stop.’
The truth is, ‘It’s only the heart that is willing to break that healing flows from.’
‘Run into the arms of Love in your pain.
Nothing else is more important.
Nothing else is more transformative.
I know how hard that is.
I know how much it hurts.
I wish there were another way.
I wish it weren’t in losing our life that we find it.
I wish there were Resurrection without crucifixion.’
These words absolutely changed me, and I only read them a few months ago. But when I am reminded of feelings of heartbreak throughout my life, whether that be from relationships, losing a loved one, being a victim of something scary, et cetera – because yes, even now, they still like to surprise me – I remember this, and I do this very thing. I stop. I have a cry. I write. I pray. I talk to someone. I create something and I remind myself that it’s okay to hurt because although the wounds heal, the scar is still there. And it might always, so we might as well learn to find it beautiful.
Please, please, please, do not rush yourself through your heartbreak. There is no time limit on it, no beep to indicate that it’s finished, ready to be disposed of and for you to encounter the next step.
Yes, you can move on. Yes, you can continue walking. Yes, you can form new bonds. Yes, these things all might happen during a time that overlaps with the heart breaking, but please, do not ignore the feelings when they stir, expose themselves, demand your attention. They’re speaking to you because they need to be settled again. Time and time again.
This is the most important thing to remember on your really bad days.
Someone. Someone understands. It might not be the person you expect. It might be your mum’s friend (for me, it often was!). It might never be your best friend. It might be the very person who broke your heart. It might be a stranger on the train. It might be your mum. To be honest, it will probably be your mum.
But, at the end of the day, if it’s not your mum, your mum’s friend, your friend, your friend’s mum, or that stranger on the train… Art will understand.
Art? Yes, art.
All these things that are available to us for free, at the click of a button, right on our knee, as we cosy under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. There will be books showcasing characters who undergo such a similar journey to yours, movies that depict that pain you feel in your chest, shows that break apart the build-up and destruction of love, songs that speak to your soul unravelling, paintings that sketch out the way your face dropped when you heard the line: ‘let’s just be friends’, podcasts that advise and comfort you through this time.
These were the things that saved me, kept me sane. I turned all of my pain into something to do with music. During my first breakup, I found songs that made me feel like I wasn’t alone and I made a music video to them, putting my own storyline over the sounds and words.
During my second breakup, I wrote so many songs. Dozens of finished ones, hundreds of snippets. Putting your thoughts into complete works or even relating to complete works is proven to be psychologically beneficial, a form of therapy.
Eating ice cream and watching Netflix will hold you when you’re too tired to heal but it won’t actually heal you. Transforming the pain into something you can hold and feel and look at and touch and watch – that will make you feel alive again, bit by bit.
There are many, many more things you ought to know about heartbreak but I haven’t finished my first novel yet so I’m not starting a new one at the moment. (lol)
Just know that you aren’t alone, you aren’t crazy, you aren’t over-reacting, you aren’t going to be stuck like this forever. You are open to change, you are only one side of the story, you are beautiful and worthy, you are talented. You can heal, you can take your time, you can create and consume creation.
And, always, no matter if there’s romance in the picture or not – you are loved.