Hot tears sear your eyes, and you try desperately to swallow the knot that’s been stuck in your throat for what feels like forever. You feel sick to your stomach. Your cheeks are shiny, with the sheen of tear tracks having etched themselves into the apples. Memories play through your mind like a film roll, each scene glossier than the one before. Your mind both moves a million miles a minute and stays frozen in time. Confusion. Anger. Hurt. Pain.
Heartbreak comes in many forms. A whirlwind month and a half situationship, a three-year relationship with its four-year mark approaching in a matter of weeks, an emotionally intense three month liaison that was doomed to fail. Marriage. Divorce. Affairs. The list goes on.
First, what ifs overpopulate your brain. What if you’d been more accommodating, less demanding, more compassionate? What if you had listened more, done more, been more? What if you accidentally, in your rage, forgot all the good they had done?
What if you had just not fought that last time? What if you’d been too rash? What if all you had needed was to press pause, but instead you ended the movie? What if you had compromised?
What if you’ll never find someone you can wholly love again?
Some part of you had seen it coming, though. Looking back, the unresolved fights seemed to have had an apparent resolution. The intensely disjointed miscommunication. The red flags you substantiated with what they used to be rather than what they had become. And the hope that they would revert to the person they were at the start if you tried hard enough. The times your friends stayed on a call with you while you cried, assuring you that you deserved better — no, begging you to leave the relationship. Your pillow has been wet for quite some time now.
Because you sent paragraphs over text that dominated the screen and got patronizing one-liners in response, you poured your heart out for a simple “ok.” You were deliberately misinterpreted to sound like the villain, to trivialize your problems, to be “overly emotional,” to be overreacting. To reach stalemates instead of compromises. Apparently, putting effort in a relationship should come naturally, and the second you need to put in work that feels like work, it’s a ship worth jumping. You were made to believe the concepts were mutually exclusive.
Over time, you realize that maybe you did do enough. Yes, you made mistakes. Sometimes you were unnecessarily angry or emotionally manipulative or passive-aggressive, and with the benefit of hindsight and distance, you know you weren’t perfect. At first, you freak out: were you the problem? Would you have done things differently? But some part of you knows that even if you were to turn back time, you would have done and said the same things because even with hindsight, you can’t change circumstances. Sometimes, fundamental incompatibility masquerades as an enticing charlatan called love.
Even with the knowledge that you may have done enough to attempt to float a ship with a gaping hole, the sadness still comes crashing in waves. It hits you when you pick up on a familiar smell. When you watch a movie you both loved. When an anniversary comes around. When Google Photos decides to create an entire photo montage of your relationship and send you an aggressively oblivious notification.
And, of course, on Valentine’s Day.
But your heart keeps beating. You spend the first month or so grieving. You immerse yourself in TV show binges where all the seasons and episodes blend into one (and, later, you wouldn’t be able to explain the plot to someone even if you tried). You’ve ordered at least five different tubs of ice cream. You lose track of time scrolling through social media until your eyes glaze over. You rant to anyone who will listen.
Your heart keeps beating. Suddenly, you hit a productivity spike. You force yourself out of bed. You start working out. You start drinking water, sleeping better, eating better. Your YouTube recommendation is suddenly full of TED Talks. You’re on a self-improvement kick. You take on internships and job opportunities and postings you hadn’t imagined you’d get. They still cross your mind frequently, but it’s no longer all-consuming.
Your heart keeps beating. You create schedules for your day. You start following timetables and cleaning a closet that you should have tackled months ago. You start a self-care routine. You start actively curtailing your phone usage. You start calling old friends and reconnecting with them.
Your heart keeps beating. Your laugh has stopped sounding forced. The number of times they’ve crossed your mind every day has diminished to passing thoughts. Someone tells you that they think you’re “thriving.” You agree with them.
Amidst all the love letters you sent and received from them that you reread in grief, you forgot the process that deserves the most love. You found a way to pick yourself up and reimagine love — by valuing yourself. You found a way to pedestal your growth and move past an event that devastated you. You eventually found healthy ways to channel grief until you were no longer doing them to cope but rather as part of your lifestyle. Because your new habits aren’t part of your life as a distraction, but as a facet for joy.
Here’s some recognition for how far you’ve come.
A love letter to heartbreak.