A while ago, I had a friend going through his first major heartbreak. This is what I told him to expect:
First, you’ll feel like a crazy person. You’ll have this fog that you’ll be swimming through, and it’ll be like you’re wading through a thick water that’s filled your head, and you don’t know how to get it out so that things can be clear again.
An old friend once said that, after his heartbreak, it was like a concussion. You think you’re normal right after, but the next day you feel much better and realize that yesterday you weren’t very normal at all. And then the same thing happens the next day. And the day after that. And the next week. And the week after that. And sometimes a year after that.
You’ll feel like your world is falling apart. That’s because it is. Love is the only truly creative force in the world, and even imperfect love creates a world anew. The loss of love is also the death of a world.
You’ll wonder whether things will ever be normal again. They won’t. Things will never go back to the way they used to be. You’re different now. And even if, for some reason, you end up in a relationship with that person again, it won’t be the same. It will have to be something new.
And you will have to be something new. You’ve been ripped into pieces, and now you have to put yourself back together. But you’re not going to be able to find all of your old pieces, and as you start rebuilding yourself, you’ll realize that some of the old parts of you don’t fit in the way they used to, or even at all. And you’ll pick up new things and try fitting them into you, and be a bit surprised when they do. Every death can bring about a new creation, and you can be that new creation.
But for a while, possibly a very long time, it won’t seem like you’re building anything. Fits of anger and grief will suddenly come upon you. Chaos and death will come at you again and again and again, and you’ll feel overwhelmed by it all. You won’t be able to take it all in or respond to it, because it will come upon you too quickly and too rapidly, like you’re trying to contain the water flooding out of a fire hydrant, and all you’ve got is a little coffee cup to hold it.
You will make mistakes. You will not respond to it all well. Because all you have is a little coffee cup, and a little coffee cup is not equipped to contain a fire hydrant. So let it all rush upon you. Don’t try to contain it. Let yourself be overcome by it, ask for help, and know that, at some point, the water will slow down or the fire department will show up. It just might be a while. It might be a long while.
You’ll ask yourself, “Was it all a lie?” The answer is: yes and no. There’s no real answer to that question. Let yourself ask it, but try not to cling to it. It’ll make you crazy.
You will badly want others to tell you what to do. They won’t be able to. This is chaos. There’s no “right” solution, no “right” thing to do, no “right” approach to take. And they can go through this with you, but they can’t do it for you. You’ll ask me what to do, and I’ll tell you that I don’t know. All I can tell you is what I’ve done and stories of my experiences and some things to expect.
You will wonder whether it was all your fault. Some of it was. But not all of it. Even if you were the main reason for the break, it wasn’t all your fault. Accept your responsibility for your part of it. And remember that the other party is responsible for some of it too.
You’ll wonder whether something is wrong with you. Well, of course there is. There are many things wrong with you–me too. But you are not unlovable. You do not possess some secret fatal flaw. You do possess many secret flaws, secret even from yourself right now. But you are capable of discovering and overcoming them. You are capable of growth. You are growing now, deepening. This is a thick time for you. Do your best to make the most of it. Be broken by it, but do not be defeated.