In the days and weeks after, I described it as the moment the ground opened up and swallowed me whole. As he spoke, it was as though I could feel pieces of my heart shattering under the weight of his broken promises.
I rushed away before he could see me cry. I had a million questions that could all be summed up with why, why, why, why did you break my heart when you promised you wouldn’t?
My heart had been broken before, but in that moment and countless moments after, it felt shattered. Pulverized. I was sure I would never recover. I was sure I was doomed to live with this hole where my heart should have been. I thought back on the past and analyzed my every word, my every deed, and took 100% of the blame for the crumbling of that relationship. I made a list of the things I did wrong and should have done better, never considering for a moment that I didn’t need to shoulder all of that blame. That some of the blame also rested squarely with him.
It took a long time but I did recover.
This happened almost seven years ago. It feels like a different person. I can remember the loud way that I cried, calling my sister and trying to tell her what happened through gasping breaths. I remember not being able to eat or sleep or study for my finals. Awhile ago, a friend asked if I was still sad about that thing I’d never get over, and I could confidently say, “no.”
They say you can’t remember pain. If you break your leg, then after the fact, you can’t recall the pain in the same way. I can recall how my dislocated elbow caused my whole arm to shudder, but I don’t re-feel it. The pain and my reaction to the pain is imprinted in my memory, but the actual pain of it is in the past.
I think it’s the same with our emotional pain. You can recall it, remember that it hurt, but you don’t feel the pain in the same way again. You get over it, so to speak. I remember that break up, but it doesn’t bring me to tears anymore.
What does it mean, anyway, to “get over” something? I’m not sure I like the phrase. To get over something means to climb that mountain and come out on the other side, and… what, exactly? You can’t go through that kind of heartbreak or pain or life change and not be affected. I learned so much about myself, God, and love through that break up. I’m “over it” in the sense that I’m not sad about it anymore, but the scars are still there. They just don’t cause me much pain, and I really only think of them when I recount the story for people – which is extremely rare.
Believe me, some days it surprises me too.
Maybe the goal shouldn’t be to “get over it.” Maybe the goal is to embrace the pain and learn how to live around it.
Some day I’ll write about my uncle Randy and the trauma of the circumstances of his death, but that is something I will never “get over.” My family will never truly get over it, and we’ll never stop missing him. But we’ve managed to keep going with our lives. We’ve learned to live around it. Our hearts have healed around the overwhelming grief we felt in those early weeks and months, but we are changed. Forever
There are other things you think you’ll never get over and days you think you’ll never survive, but you will and you can. I have lost people, and I’m sure you have too. I’ve lost many friends along the way, but I’ve learned that I can survive. What’s more, I can thrive. The pain of those experiences has helped shape me into who I am today.
I thought I’d never survive a broken heart over and over again.
Until I did.