In the work that I do I often come across heartbreak. Women who’ve been through a break up, a rejection or a loss that has shattered everything they thought and felt about love – and maybe even themselves – and left them broken and unsure of how they can ever move forward.
And while some people will roll their eyes at your “dramatic response”, give a condescending pat on the head and a glib comment that there are plenty more fish in the sea, that’s something you’ll never ever get from me. Because I’ve been there, I know that pain.
Do you remember the very first time you had your heart broken? I do.
He was someone I’d been good friends with, and then friendship turned into something else. We were unofficially together, on and off, for four years and… well it’s a long story, but needless to say it came to an end. (Actually it came to an end two or three times, but that’s a story for another day.)
And when it did my heart broke good and proper.
It certainly wasn’t the last time I’d have my heart broken, but it was the first. And shit it hurt.
I remember talking to someone at the time and telling them that I couldn’t understand how I could be physically in pain; I honestly thought someone could’ve broken every bone in my body and it still wouldn’t be as painful.
And then there was the other stuff: I couldn’t bear to be alone, especially at night, and although all I wanted to do was sleep, I’d lie there for hours on end staring at the ceiling and wearing my brain down as I contemplated time and time again what I could’ve done differently; I had no appetite and even the smell of food would make me feel sick; I couldn’t bear to listen to or watch anything that reminded me of what had been (and believe me, after four years that was A LOT).
And yes, when people told me there were plenty more fish in the sea I knew that was the case. But I didn’t want those fish. Even if they would be the ones to treat me better and give me everything I deserved, right then they wouldn’t be able to fill the gap in my poor broken heart.
In the aftermath of the actual event I remember a good friend telling me that she got it; she’d been there too. And her advice was simple:
Just keep breathing. Keep getting up every day and keep doing the things you have to do.
And day by day it’ll hurt less and become easier. Then one day this pain won’t be the first thing you think of in the morning, until you realise you’ve gone a whole day without thinking about it, and then a whole week, and so on.
So that’s what I did. The next day I got up and did what I needed to do, and the day after that and the day after that. And bit by bit and day by day I realised that as awful as that broken heart was, it didn’t kill me. Hell, it didn’t even define me.
And that knowledge – as simple and obvious as it seems in retrospect – was huge in terms of future relationships, but also in terms of life in general. Because once you recognise you can make it through the painful parts of life, you start to realise that you can make it through anything. And isn’t that the most important lesson to learn about yourself?
If I’m honest, that experience was probably the thing above all others which led me into this line of work. And for that reason, and the power that knowing I could overcome pain gave me, I will forever be weirdly grateful for it.
So if you’ve gotten through a broken heart – no matter how long it took – then take a moment to pat yourself on the back and realise just how strong and brave you are.
And if you’re going through it now? Well take my friend’s advice. Just keep breathing, and know that day by day this will get better. And that you don’t have to do this alone.