In the cartoons that we watched when we were younger, a broken heart is dramatized by a jagged line. The two halves split apart and sometimes fall to the ground, symbolizing two people going their separate ways. It’s simple. It’s clean. It’s nothing like reality.
In reality, a broken heart is made up of muffled sobs and hot tears pouring down your face. It’s made up of deep shuddering breaths and wiping the back of your hand across your nose, uncaringly smearing snot across your cheek. It’s made up of red, swollen eyes and deep breaths that end when another wave of hurt crashes over you like the slap of the ocean on a windy day.
In reality, a broken heart is made up of memories of the good times. It’s remembering that one time on that one Saturday that he made a stupid comment and you both laughed and laughed until your sides hurt and the best kind of tears streamed down your face. It’s feeling the sensation of his hand still intertwined with yours, feeling safe and cared for and warm as you strolled along the beach. It’s hearing his car pulling into your driveway, looking into the mirror one final time to make sure that you look perfect, and flinging open the door before he can knock.
In reality, a broken heart is made up of words. The “hi” that he spoke when he first walked up to you. The “miss you” that followed an extended period of time without seeing each other. The reluctant “goodnight” that came at the end of every phone conversation. The “like a glove” phrase that become an instant addition to every successful parallel parking job. The exaggerated “oh yeah” he drawled as you changed outfits, showing him a glimpse of skin.
In reality, a broken heart is made up of fights. The serious discussions that ended with resolutions that made things better and relieved embraces on the couch. The play fights that ended with you getting your ass kicked but refusing to accept defeat. The battle of wits that took place every time he tried to prove that he was smarter and you told yourself you just let him win.
In reality, a broken heart is made of touch. The slap on your ass when he was feeling frisky. The tender kiss on your forehead when your head was on his chest. The long, tightly gripping hugs that happened when you walked in the door. The passionate kisses that fanned the flames of physical love. The playful squeeze on his biceps to let him know that yes, you notice his workouts, and yes, you like the results. The secret thrill when he reached for your hand and your fingers intertwine perfectly.
In reality, a broken heart is made up of what could have been. The joyful anticipation meeting of his mom where she, of course, would love you and tell him in private that “that’s the one”. The vacation to Hawaii that would have been your first real adventure together. The nervous awareness of him meeting your parents in the future. The proposal and wedding that was crazy to have been thinking of already but you allowed yourself glimpses of because you knew in your heart that this was the guy you wanted.
In reality, a broken heart is made up of silence. The blank cell phone screen that won’t show his name, no matter how many times you look at it. The endless occasions you tuck a moment of the day away to share with him later, only to quietly push those moments to the side when reality strikes again. The stark absence of your best friend when a crisis happens or when you nail your goals.
In reality, a broken heart is made up of hurt. The desire to hate him for leaving, yet not being able to because you still love him too much to want to hurt him. The crumbling realization that you were not enough. The ache that comes with knowing that it’s truly the end, and no amount of convincing or begging will change his mind. The screaming pains that initially hit you, even when you know it’s coming.
In reality, a broken heart is made up of change. The weekend routine that suddenly ends. The awkward response when some asks “hey, you still dating that guy?” The unwelcome reality that no longer can use your status as a way to curve unwanted attention. The moment when you find a perfect book for him but slowly place it back on the self, your fingers lingering a bit longer than normal.
In reality, a broken heart is made up of the knowledge of healing. The understanding that someday, your heart will not hurt for him anymore and panicking at the thought of not caring. The awareness that someday, someone else will take his place and feeling physically sick at the thought of loving another.
In the end, a broken heart gets shattered because it is fully given. No jagged line can encompass the pure pain of completely surrendering your most precious possession to another, only to have it tossed around for a few months and then given back. The heart wants what the heart wants, but it cannot do anything but yearn when the other heart stays closed.
Eventually it will heal, and it may even forget the pain, allowing itself to be fully given again, in good faith and with the same wide-eyed innocence and trust as the first time around.
But that’s in the future. And in the now, it still lies there; bloody, raw, bruised. It still wants to be healed by the person who broke it in the first place. It craves the warmth it has gotten used to. It misses its companion heart, still beating, yet so far away.
And so, allow yourself to fully feel. Sob at the memories. Shudder in the waves of pain. Scream in defiance. Punch something in frustration. Something broken must be acknowledged to ever be fully healed, and as much as it feels like you will never rise from your crumpled, pathetic spot in the dust, your heart is stronger then you think, braver than you feel, and even at its most broken, capable of so. much. love.