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Read me when the breakup tries to break you.



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Months ago, I went through a really tough breakup. Like, extremely tough. I’m still feeling the effects of it, and I feel like I’m stuck in a loop of feeling fine and then being hit with those breakup feelings again. How can I focus back on myself and my future instead of staring back at the past? 

All love,


Dear L,

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. That was it. That was the summer my initiation into the Broken Hearts Society took place.

I’d spent months leading up to that summer trying to play God to my own circumstances and keep a four-year relationship going off the strength of two kids who used to call out “forever” to one another like a first name. He and I had reached the point where we knew it was over, that it was time to stop trying to put one another back together again. Goodbye would have to mean something different this time. Something more permanent. Goodbye had to mean we would forget the taste of each other’s chapstick. 

My best friend and I went through the same kind of breakup in the very same week and I am still thankful, 10 years later, for that. I remember meeting up with her and unlocking the door to her mother’s dance studio late one night. We kept all the lights off and we laid down in the middle of the room with a box of tissues beside us. We decided we were going to cry all the un-cried tears until we felt good, and fine, and strong again.

We didn’t say anything for a long time. We just let the hot tears stream down our cheeks as we both tried on this idea of being alone. Single people. No longer texting someone to say goodnight. No longer kissing someone goodbye. We were trying to adjust to the fact that it only takes a split second for you to go from two people down to one. 

I could change this, or I could do this better, I thought in my head. He’d take me back. He’d take me back. 

“How long is it going to hurt like this?” My friend whispered in the darkness, interrupting my inner negotiations. 

“I don’t know,” I said back. “I really don’t know.” 


We wanted an expiration date. A day to mark on the calendar when all the tears would shrivel up and we’d be whole again. I think it was one of those realizations for both of us that love isn’t a seamless kind of thing. It was that first realization that sometimes we give ourselves to somebody and then we learn to live with the fact that we aren’t getting all the pieces back. 


Darling, there is no real way to wash away the pain of missing someone you learned to love with your whole body. What you are experiencing right now is a death. That might sound dramatic but that’s really what is happening at this moment— something died. Something beautiful that two people built died and you are trying to figure out how to bury it. How to push it down. How to pray it away. 

Go on through, girl. That’s all I know to tell you: go on through. The only way out is through. This isn’t the sort of thing you can hide from. You can spend years suppressing it or not facing it but I promise it will come back up. So I wouldn’t tell you to bury all the feelings. I would tell you to feel them. I would tell you to allow them without scrutiny. I would tell you to let every feeling flood your tiny human body and make you feel small with the bigness of it all. Whether you see it or not, this is your initiation. Your initiation into a society where you now hold a lifetime membership. As a member of this club, as someone who has gone through it, you will now be able to nod your head to and say “me too” to the next person who arrives at your doorstep with a broken heart. You will know not to turn them away. You will know how to sit with them. You will have sat with that feeling of the broken heart before and you will be able to say, one day, “I went through it. When every ounce of me wanted to escape out of it, I went through all the way.” 

You will get the chance to initiate someone else into the Broken Hearts Society where the population is never zero as long as we speak up and out. 


In moments like this where the pain is still thick and raw and tangible, it’s easy to ask for practical advice. I don’t have much of that when it comes to the territory of a broken heart. Practically speaking, I would tell you not to drive by their house if you can avoid it and not to go all rage cage and burn all their belongings to a crisp. I would tell you to wait. I would tell you to sit still. I would tell you to write their number on a piece of paper and give it to a trusted friend. The deleting feels too dramatic but the keeping of the number might be disastrous on a night when you’re feeling a little too raw. 

I would tell you that Netflix or drinking won’t help the problem, they will only stall the feelings. I would tell you not to feel the shame if you drown out the sorrow with too many drinks of evening and regret it in the morning. I would tell you that learning to sit with yourself, in the middle of circumstances you would give any dollar amount to change, is going to make you powerful. It’s going to make you brave. It’s going to make you ready for a love that lasts.

What is happening right now is your heart is becoming durable. It’s becoming resilient. It’s getting an extra coat of polish. I know you cannot see it right now but I promise this is going to add up to something one day. The chiseling tool of absence is ridiculously painful but the results are stunning.  

You may never be able to meet up with them in person again and be okay. You may never get to the point where you can listen to that song again. You know the one. You might always think of him when you go to that restaurant or read that book. That doesn’t mean you are doomed to be haunted by ghosts of love’s past. It just means someone was “hands on” in the process of making you who you are today and there is evidence all around you of that time in your life.

There is evidence that you loved hard. 

This isn’t a punishment. It’s preparation for a greater love. 

Years ago, I would have told you-you needed to go full on and delete every aspect of that person from your life. I would have told you that because I tried to do it for so long. I stuffed the feelings and I claimed I was okay. And then one evening, right before I moved to Atlanta, I saw the boy who made me understand love at the age of 17 when every adult told me I was too young to know what that meant. I looked him in the eyes and we made small talk like it was normal to reunite after 5 years. And though my heart had healed, and I’d gone on to love again, I still went home that night and cried my eyes out. Because I saw the truth in his eyes that he was no longer mine. That we’d both grown up and become different people and I could see all of that in his blue eyes. And finally, finally, I was okay with the person I had become without his help. I could open up my hands and release the ghosts of “what could have been” for good. 

Your memory cannot be erased, darling. You know in the deep of you how you were once loved and your heart will forever know the absence of that love. It’s okay to cry for the people who made you who you are today. And it’s okay to get to the point where you are able to say to God, “A part of me will always love him. Not how it used to but there will always be the faint memories of love. I pray you to cover him and bring him a great love. Give him someone who knows how to love him better than I once knew how.” 

And babe, don’t be afraid to ask for that great love, too. You are deserving of it. And one day, all the tears will make sense. And the wanting to burn things will make sense. And the raw anguish will make sense.

In the meantime, don’t close up shop. Will you do me that favor and don’t close up shop? Someone is coming. They are getting here as fast as they possibly can. And they might hit roadblocks and they might stall and the same might happen for you. But they are coming, and chances are they’ve cried in their own pillows at night, and the pieces will come together and you will know why you weren’t meant to love that other person forever.

You will find a greater love. And most of it will make sense. You will find a greater love. In the meantime, allow yourself to grieve and mourn and spit and cry. Maybe say to yourself, one more time, “I will go through this. I will get to the other side. Even though every ounce of me wants to escape out of this, I will keep walking to the other side.”


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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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