I have gotten dumped plenty of times before. I know how it goes. I know the sudden emptiness, and the days of recovery. I know the adjustment period while you realise that that boy is no longer in your life, even if he may still run through the thoughts that flicker across your mind, or through the air you breathe, or through your daily routines.
Most of the times that I’ve been dumped, it has been by people who I did not truly love. There was the boy from Valentine’s Day for whom I cried in the restaurant about, and felt sad and confused about the next day, but my heart moved on quickly and my mind relaxed as it realised that he was not a true love – never was and never would be.
There was the boyfriend who left me for another girl after 9 months. I knew what he had been doing behind my back. Others were telling me, too. And I would shrug and not mind, because we weren’t truly in love and I lived so freely without him. Eventually we let each other go and there were no hard feelings, no heartache, no questions left unanswered.
There have been sudden break-ups, long & slow break-ups, ugly ones that blew up in a mess, and ones that were full of love and gratitude and feelings of ease. There have also been the ones where the person vanishes and you learn to love yourself even more despite their silence.
And then there have been the ones that have broken my heart.
My last boyfriend, J, is definitely what I would call “my first love.” It was there from the very moment we met – a chemical energy than ran through our veins and connected my conscious with his. And I still love him very much, even though my heart has since healed from him, no longer aching.
It is hard to know when J & I broke up. There was the time from the moment he began using drugs again when he was no longer there. Sometimes I count that as the moment. My heart was broken but I was too distracted by hoping for him to be well again to truly focus on just how broken I was. There was the time he disappeared to rehab without telling me. Two weeks without contact. People would ask if we were still together and my mouth would swell with air and not a single word would come out. And then there was the time when he actually left. Disappeared. That was that. And my heart was truly broken as I was left empty and with so many questions.
How to heal a broken heart?
I spent weeks dreaming about J at night, waking up covered in sweat and tears and not knowing truth from fantasy. All of the time I wanted to be able to tell him all the reasons that I loved him. All the reasons that he was perfect and admirable and fair and sweet and good. And as this was going on, I was also working on improving myself. I was working to gain back the 15 pounds I had lost. I was working to do better at my internship, where I had walked out crying on several occasions in the prior months. I was working to find a job, as I had graduated college just a month before. I was working to repair relationships with the friends who had ostracized me for dating an addict. I was blogging furiously, writing and sharing stories and pictures and trying to find delight once again.
Typically people say that the key to healing a broken heart is distraction. Distract yourself into not thinking about them. Distract yourself into a routine in which their presence is not deeply felt. But I don’t find that this works.
Even some 8 months after we had broken up, I still missed J. My heart was still broken. Even though I thought of him less and my life seemed full, there was always an emptiness inside me.
I just had a conversation with a friend of mine who had his heart terribly broken many years ago. He had left the country after it. He had picked up a whole new routine. He made art and new friends and created a whole new life. And he is thriving. But he is still heartbroken and has still not been able to move on.
Distraction is poor advice in the face of a break-up.
And I am here again. Some four years after meeting J. More than 2 years after breaking up with him. Many many months after speaking with him again. Several months after dating him again, allowing us both to seek closure and realise that being in love with someone does not mean that they are what’s best for you. All this time later, I fell in love again. For a few fleeting months. And now the process starts again – how to heal a broken heart.
I am desperately distracting myself. Painting. Sewing. Reading. Writing. New friends. Traveling. Thinking about new careers, new routines.
But most of the time my heart is bursting for my mouth to be able to talk with him. To tell him how much I love him. To tell him all the reasons why I love him – his eyes and skin; the way he laughs and rubs his hands together with joy; the excitement in his voice when he’s talking about things he loves; when he goes on really long rants about things that don’t actually matter; how perfectly I fit into his arms when he’d hug me, or when I’d fall asleep in them while watching a movie; how I felt safe and secure and like a functioning piece of this beautiful world when I was with him; how I found new excitement for the infinite opportunities and experiences and joys that life has. And I’m at the stage where I still wish that there were mornings when I’d wake up early and watch him sleep. And days when I’d be really busy at work and look down at my phone to see his name on my screen, just asking how I am with a kissing emoji.
And despite all the distractions, I wish that I could be sharing them with him. To be telling him about the things I want to do, professionally. To be telling him about the books I’m reading or the stories I’m writing. And to tell him about some of the bad things too. About the friends I’m having trouble with, the challenges at work I’m facing, the things in my daily life that still frighten me. And I wish that I could still be hearing about all of these things from him, too.
Distraction is not how you heal a broken heart. I don’t know what is. I don’t know what magical thing healed it for me last time – but I know it wasn’t distraction, and I know it wasn’t time. I think it was sharing space and life together once again. It was talking through our hopes for one another. It was seeing how the shadowy corners of addiction still live on in sobriety. It was visualizing all I want for my life and seeing how this person didn’t fit in to even most of it. It was seeing that, despite being four years later, he had not changed – and it was for the worse. And I told him all the things I loved about him. I told him all the reasons that to me, he was perfect, and why we worked and all the potential that he holds. And over time, I could wake without wanting him to be there. I could go through a whole day without thinking about him, or wanting to talk to him, even though I had every opportunity to. And I realised that my heart was healed.
So now I wake each morning wondering how to heal a broken heart. I muse over it on coffee breaks, or when I cannot focus on work. I make it my intention in my yoga practice. And I fall asleep every night hoping that my heart will be healed. How to heal a broken heart?