Heartache… is an inadequate word.
It doesn’t describe that perpetual stinging feeling. The dread. The vase that’s too broken to be put back together. The sobbing inexplicably. The burning in your lungs until you can’t breathe, as if a ghost from the past is chasing you and you can’t draw enough air in, and you’re tired, and your body is giving out, and you just can’t anymore.
Inconceivable pain. Tiny pins puncturing your heart a million times over. On a scale of 1 to torturous, getting your heart broken is a solid “absolutely dreadful.”
It turns people into country singers.
I have been thinking a great deal about it – what it means, what it takes of us, how it feels when it’s forced upon us.
The shedding of something, and then the discovery of something else. When you experience heartache, you discover there is no place more intimate than your heart. And if you’re honest, you know there is really only one heartache that is strong enough to break your heart, and it is large and not easy to bear. The visionary poets knew this. The poets also knew that heartache kills the wellspring of all the meaning-making that makes life worth living.
When you’re in the middle of heartache, you can’t expect anything to happen. You just wait. And the waiting, after a while, starts to become deep acceptance, even if you don’t want to accept things. But the really challenging part, let’s be honest, is when your inner voice becomes audible. It can bring you to a tipping point.
Coming to terms with something being “over” is something I’ve never liked. I’d rather something taper off until one day I’m like, “Hmm. How did that end?” or “Strange, I haven’t talked to that person in a while.” But I suppose “The Taper” is really just what cowards do to avoid the inevitable.
So, call me cowardly.
I read online that Americans are likely to have their hearts broken several times in a lifetime. In fact, they average five. And some good doctor somewhere said that it’s good to experience at least one nasty heartbreak because the pain is special. (Special??) And unlike anything else, it exposes one to vital lessons about life.
My heart was broken recently, and if the “vital lessons” are grief, guilt, shame, sadness, and desperation, I earned an A+. What came at me was swift and comprehensive … and it came like the wind. I did not see it coming. And, naturally, my research about emotionally devastating heartbreak shows five distinct stages of grief follows: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I heard some people have even reported more stages. It seems grief is as unique as we are.
I went through the five stages, but I circled back to revisit anger and bargaining.
My m.o. is to cut ties; to convince myself it’s better to go it alone than to do the work it takes to resolve conflict. I find it difficult to apologize when I hurt someone, but I find it harder to forgive someone who has hurt me.
We are all flawed. But I’m not just flawed; I’m also a coward. I should keep this at the forefront of my mind when deciding who to keep in or out of my life—and how to respond to those who no longer want me in theirs.
I know it will be up to me to initiate reconciliation, if reconciliation ever makes it to the table, but I also know I need my anger to taper off. Some problems may be irresolvable, but there are also relationships that don’t need to be lost forever.