I used to think that I’d never experienced heartbreak because I’d never loved someone (as in romantically) and had my heart broken. When speaking about heartbreak, people usually mean romantically, after all.
But only recently I realised this isn’t the case. I have experienced heartbreak, and maybe you have too, so here are my thoughts on it and how it affects us even long after the event has passed…
I now realise that I have experienced heartbreak in a near romantic way with a friend. A best friend, the closest friend I’ve ever had.
We’d been friends since we were 3 years old. We knew one another’s families. We knew secrets and fears and were always there for one another. Even when we went to different schools, we still kept in touch.
It was always as if no time or space existed; our friendship never altered.
Until one day, it did, and I don’t know why.
It broke my heart to slowly realise that we weren’t friends anymore. Not like before. She was different and I felt less connected to her. Then one day, she stopped reaching out to me. Stopped being enthused about my messages. Stopped telling me when she was home from university.
We’d drifted apart.
What broke my heart was not knowing why. There had been distance between us before but it never altered the relationship, so why now?
And losing the only person I’d ever felt a sense of belonging and true trust and love for broke my heart.
The scars this left are obvious. I feel unworthy. I feel afraid that I will never find a friendship like that again. I fear that I’m not good enough and that I don’t belong, which seeps into all other areas of my life…shame, disappointment, judgement, criticism, outsider, imposter, all of them bringing hard emotions.
I’ve loved projects that didn’t love me back. I’ve put my heart and soul into my creative work, felt good about it, and then felt broken-hearted when someone criticised it, rejected it, or ignored it.
I think that is because my work is a part of me. To criticise, reject, or ignore my work is to do so to me, too. And that hurts like hell. I still have not learned how to deal with this, but I must because it is a part of being a writer.
We put our work out into the world for all to see at the risk of being torn apart.
Disappointment in myself, my work, my partner, my family, the world… Being disappointed means having an expectation that wasn’t met.
Small disappointments aren’t heartbreaking but big ones can be. Or when we are disappointed again and again as if it’s some personal relentless torment that will never end.
My Dad died when I was 7 years old. One of my longest school friends died at 20 years old from Cystic Fibrosis. Both of these broke my heart, and continue to do so every time I think of them or the memories that we shared.
It’s that I’ll never see them again. Never know who they could have been. Who we could have been together. How I’d be different from knowing them.
The questions…they break me apart each day.
When people or environments or things in general change, it’s sort of like a death. Death of what used to be. Sometimes there’s a beautiful rebirth or newness that follows, but other times, maybe not.
This death can be heartbreaking when we tied so much of ourselves to it. Just like with my friend, the death of who she used to be broke my heart. The death of our closeness broke my heart.
The death of innocence and childhood is breaking.
When my brother moved far away for university, it broke my heart. He is someone who gets me more than anyone else. He’s one of my best friends. In the family, we’re the only introverts! I needed him. And then he moved away.
After that, our relationship was never quite the same. You can call and text and FaceTime but it doesn’t beat just knowing one another are in the same house whenever you needed them.
I felt like I’d lost a part of myself. Lost my sense of belonging and being understood.
Leaving home for uni myself felt this way, too. Hence the anxious panicking and returning back home.
What was most awful about my experiences around university was the loss of identity. I used to be so sure that university and academia was for me. It was a part of who I was and many others knew I’d succeed in it. And when that suddenly changed, I grieved for the loss of who I was (or thought I was). I still grieve for that and it breaks my heart.
Change brings with it grief and heartbreak, especially when it’s unexpected or unwelcome.
Why does it sometimes hurt so much to think about the school days or a past which was lovely and innocent and fun? Because we’re grieving the loss of it. A little heartbroken that we can never have it back.
Time shoulders on, and that’s truly heartbreaking to accept at times.
Loss of love
At the centre of heartbreak is the loss of love (literally or perceived). We can love a great many things and people and trust that it’ll always be there and then when it’s not, it hurts our hearts.
We grieve when heartbroken. Grieve over what used to be, over what we had, what we felt, and it now being gone.
“These include the loss of normality, the loss of what could be, the loss of what we thought we knew or understood about something or someone.” – Brene Brown, Rising Strong
The loss of trust. The loss of comfort. The loss of meaning. The loss of passion.
All of these are a shedding of skin that we grieve for, breaking our hearts.
We break our hearts a million times in a lifetime. But the good thing to remember is, we always live through it.
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