October 2, 2012

my two cents: moving past heartbreak.

Last week, a reader asked me one simple, impossible question: How do you get over heartbreak?
And so, my short answer? You don't. You never do.

... Here's the long answer:

Every heartbreak is different, of course. One of my closest friends got over a lost love by simply ignoring the hurt until it went away. Another wrote about it, talked about it, and ached over it until the pain finally dulled. The next time her heart broke, it felt easier. Muscle memory, I told her.

My heart broke for the first time in the fourth grade. It broke again in the sixth, then the seventh, then the ninth and the tenth. Again in my first year of college, my second year of college, my third.

But if I'm being totally honest, it never really got easier. It got worse.

Several times my heart broke because I ended up in The Best Friend role — a role I'm so familiar with that I should probably write some kind of self-help book about it. A few times, it was bad timing: loves that didn't match up during the same month, the same year, the same decade. Once, it was another girl. And then it was... well, I don't know what it was. Maybe that's what made it so hard.

Heartbreak can strike in the span of a second, or it can scratch at you slowly, over months or years — a gradual etching away at your insides until you feel completely carved out. I've felt it both ways, and I'm not sure which is worse. How could heartbreak ever be better or worse?

Honestly, the "getting over it" phase has never really been my strong suit. (Understatement of the century.) I'm not exactly a feel-and-let-go kind of girl, not in any aspect of my life. I hold onto people and places and memories as if they'll float away without my desperate, determined grip. Sometimes it's a great strength, and sometimes it's an awful, miserable flaw. Either way, it's helped me learn.

I've learned that you can't dodge the heartbreak. You can't try to outsmart it or duck behind it because you have to trudge through it — through the heavy, dirty muck of it until that one strange day when you're driving down a hill, the sun's setting, the beachy air tastes like salt, and you suddenly realize that you're in the clear. You realize that you've made it to the other side, but the heartbreak isn't in your wake. You didn't leave it behind. No, you're carrying it with you, you're wearing it, breathing it, feeling it in small doses at random moments, on random days. It's become part of you.

The point is, then, that you don't get over heartbreak — you embrace it.

(Photo: Mission Bay | My Flickr)


Chelsea said... [Reply to comment]

Ahh what a beautiful and wise post. You are so right! The first time a guy broke my heart I was hurt for months but eventually the pain dims. Then a year later you're like what was I thinking going out with him anyways? Just take care of yourself!

Kayla Lynn said... [Reply to comment]

beautifully put :)

Maura said... [Reply to comment]

beautiful post, as always!

alongobucco said... [Reply to comment]

I love this–and you're so right. Each heartbreak is different, and for me, it never really gets easier. I think the hardest is the unexplained heartbreaks, where you think there might be a slight amount of hope to salvage left, simply because you can't understand how things got to where they did. Those are the worst kind, because they string you along until you find that one thing that finally makes you realize you need to move on–and it's hard waiting around for that!

The Glossy Life

Rachael {all things beautiful} said... [Reply to comment]

Wow, this post gave me chills. You put heartbreak into words so beautifully and so poignantly. And you are so right, you never fully get over a heartbreak... you just learn from it, heal from it, and embrace the feeling knowing that you felt true love and are better for it (usually at least.).

Niken said... [Reply to comment]

Well said. I never thought about 'naming' it before, but as always, you address it - embracing the pain. And I agree that every heartbreak is different. Even if it's broke by the same person.

jackiek said... [Reply to comment]

this is unbelievably wonderful. i just had my heartbroken a few weekends ago so this is just what i need right now.

Alain Robinson said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for posting this, Laura. I know it's not my first, and most likely will not be my last, but it definitely feels like the worst. Like losing a family member.

I'm so much looking forward to that sunset, salty ocean air, in the clear feeling though. And I feel it getting closer :)

Yess Carrera said... [Reply to comment]

I could not have said it better myself. I can relate with your, "Understatement of the Century". And well, your last sentence, "The point is, then, that you don't get over heartbreak — you embrace it", is exactly where I am at right now.

nishaantishu said... [Reply to comment]

I hold on to everything too, I can never let anything or anyone go, not completely anyway - I guess I'm too sentimental. Sometimes I think my emotional memory is stronger than my mental one. It's both good and bad in a way.

Sam | ashore said... [Reply to comment]

Laura, this post touched me so much today and in such a deep way. So honest and true.

It reminded me of this quote from Memoirs of a Geisha ""Grief. Grief is the most peculiar thing: we are so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open at it's own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each day and a little less, and one day we wonder what has become of it.""

Lori said... [Reply to comment]

SUCH a beatiful post!

nancy said... [Reply to comment]

this seems redundant at this point but here we go anyway: you have a magical way with words.

and you are incredibly wise. well-written. :)

Tina Byland said... [Reply to comment]

This is so true. I am glad you wrote this. I wrote something similar about an ex of mine. During that particular heartbreak, my best friend told me the most amazing piece of wisdom:

"You will learn more about yourself in the next few weeks than ever before in your life.

She was right. It's about embracing heartbreak. It reminds us we still feel.

Michaela said... [Reply to comment]

I love this post. You couldn't have said it better.

Gallane Says said... [Reply to comment]

this reminds me of a quote that i read on little reminders of love...

"One day you’re ok and the next you’re not and you long for that time when you will feel whole again. You’re looking for closure and then you realize that there is no such thing. You don’t get over a broken heart, you just learn to carry it as gracefully as you can."

Colleen said... [Reply to comment]

This is so beautiful! It's nice to hear someone else say it's ok not to totally let go of the people you used to love.

EM {Pushups with Polish} said... [Reply to comment]

this is beautiful. thanks :)