I feel weird writing about this. It feels weird because my purpose is neither Alanis Morrisette (Jagged Little Pill Era) nor inspiration poet. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to write this. I don’t know that I have a right to. At 26, I know enough to know that I don’t know shit. It feels laughable for such a young person to write about heartbreak.
I know heart pain as a young person. I encountered it in ways that are still hard to talk about. I know it as someone who didn’t have the tools to call heartbreak what it was when it happened. I called it rage, anger, unfairness. It was those things—those were the secondary emotions, the sounding alarms, the warning sirens that something deeper was broken.
Two months ago, I experienced my first romantic break up. Everyone called it my first heartbreak. With all due respect to my ex and the space she held in my life, this was not my first heartbreak. My clarification isn’t meant to diminish what our relationship was. She meant a lot to me for that time. But my heart had been broken so many times before that.
As an aside, break ups are ruthless and precise learning tools. As y’all know, i am no expert. But the points below are tips people gave me. I hope you find them useful:
⁃ A breakup is the neurological equivalent of drug withdrawal. Your brain is experiencing a loss of dopamine and oxytocin. When my brother shared that with me, everything made sense—my brain wasn’t figuratively hurting. It was literally in agony. Sometimes, it’s helpful to break from the emotional cyclone and acknowledge the biological and chemical components that influence us.
⁃ Block your ex. This sounds harsh. It is. I didn’t block my ex because I wanted it hurt her. I did it so we both could heal. We needed that distance. I also deleted some (not all) pictures of us on my social media pages. I never wanted to erase her. I honor that she is a part of my history. I needed her to occupy less of my digital real estate. It had nothing to do with her and everything to do with me reclaiming my space. You can’t get over your ex if you’re constantly looking at them or purposefully engaging in their content.
⁃ Go to therapy. Process that shit with a professional. The emotional carnage of a break up demands to be processed.
⁃ Focus on progress not distraction. I’ve tripled down on self care in the last two months—especially the necessary self care. My apartment is clean. I’m ahead on paying bills. I grocery shop, stocking the cart with nutrient dense foods. I immediately enrolled in a fiction writing class. I applied for a Master’s Program.
⁃ Don’t focus on being “cool” with your former partner. You can be kind and not friends. That is ok. That is healthy and is not a sign of cruelty to avoid making a Lazarus of something meant to be buried.
⁃ Don’t immediately add dating apps—I did this. I wanted to put a band aid over my bruised ego. I went on dates. I felt like a dumpster goblin and sought external validation rather than engaging in my feelings. Dating apps are a distraction, not a solution. Other people should not be the collateral damage for my processing, and I have complete control over that.
⁃ Journal—purge your feels. Get brutally honest about yourself. Get honest about what didn’t work. Get honest about what hurts within you. The more candor and grace you can provide for yourself now, the more awareness you will having moving forward.
⁃ Opposite action— you know how I’m a sap? Great. So when I’m hurting, I love on everyone in my life hard. I never regret it.
⁃ Don’t over analyze your former partner’s behavior. Don’t check up on them. Respect their healing. There is love in letting go.
- Cry—There is cortisol in tears. Scientifically, that means crying in a stress reliever.
⁃ Turn on some Lizzo, and remember that the most important relationship in your life is in tact—the one with yourself.
Every time my heart is broken, I grieve. I shake. I am a fragile human, but I’m also grateful. I’m grateful because as long as I’m not dead, it will be ok. That’s the story of life. That’s the story of all of us. What is more incredible than the human heart—that has the capacity to grow every time it breaks and never shatters? The heart either increases or decreases in size—it never shatters. It feels like a joke that we can feel dead with a heartbeat and brain activity. But heartbreak is something that unites us all.
Heartbreak is a natural disaster. It strips everyone raw enough to notice what really matters. It humanizes us enough to dwarf our egos down to our abilities. Pain humbles us, wears us down to the rawest parts. There’s something cleansing about the destruction of excess, something that assures you that you can stand on your own two feet even after the wreckage.
Everything in my little world hums in homeostasis right now. I’ve been raging and racing my whole life. Suddenly, I’m still and I relish it. I cherish this stillness as I remind myself that my mom was 2 years younger than I was when she lost her father. My mom witnessed AIDS ravage her beautiful and vivacious brother before her eyes when she was my age. I know that there will be a day I know loss like this. I’m grateful I’ve been spared that particular heartbreak for now.
I know that life is blindfolding me from pain ahead, and I choose blissful ignorance. I choose it because I would rather live big than walk on eggshells as an overture to impending doom. What I fear controls me. I refuse to shield myself from the juiciest parts of life because of an impending fallout, and I know, I know this means I’m subjecting myself to more wreckage than most. Maybe I’m also subjecting myself to more joy than most. I don’t know the answer to that, but I know what choice I’m going to pick. You know me, reader. I’m not writing from a high horse, a stance of superiority. I don’t fault people for protecting themselves. Life is hard enough without people being each other’s critics.
I write about heartbreak knowing that it is a certainty of survival. For as long as we are alive, we care about things. We care about people, and inevitably, tragedy finds us. But we find each other. Our job in finding each other is never to fix our pain. We have better business in being alive than being bandages for one another. But we can see each other, validate our difficulties, and invest in this collective growth.
I’m not a religious woman, but my upbringing was all stained glass and hymns. They say god is with you in your suffering. They say God does not abandon you. And maybe heartbreak is one area where we can play God and it’s ok. We cannot heal each other but community reminds us that that we aren’t alone. Heartbreak is the most human of all conditions. So is connection.
This isn’t me romanticizing what sucks. Heartbreak burns, stings, pops, and prods at us well into the night. It feels too heavy to keep moving, but we do. Doesn’t that suck?! You still have to show up for work and drive to the market and look people in the eye when you’d rather assume your true form of a blanket cocoon on the couch. You can cry. Cry because it matters and your feelings matter. Weep and curse and scream. On the other side of that banshee howl, the pain is still there. With hoarse voices, we must reconcile. Placing one foot in front of the other. Face forward into the fires of brutal seasons, we march. We stumble. We fall. But that season fades, and suddenly, we find ourselves in a peaceful reprieve. All the dissonant forces of us find their way home. Vagabond hope returns. The sun is shining, and you are beneath it. And it is a new kind of ok.