What to Do with Your Heartbreak

What are you supposed to do with a heartbreak? You can remember forever how you’ve been hurt and use that to propel yourself forward, until the pain recedes, taking with it all the good memories caught in the tide. You can choose to replay all the best moments in your mind over again on shuffle or repeat, until the nostalgia crushes you and you’re struggling to remember why you left, why it didn’t work, what broke in the first place.

There must be a reason it’s all over now because there’s a cold burning sensation holding your heart in a vise grip to remind you. Something about hanging onto anger and pain can make a person feel invincible. Nothing in the world will hold them back. They’ve overcome an obstacle and have come out stronger on the other side. This is a story to tell ourselves that reconciles a heartbreak.

The opposite would be admitting we have been temporarily weak by a world-ending, life-shattering event. Whichever way you take through a heartbreak, the outcome is always the same: you get over it. It’s basic psychology. The mind heals, which is really where heartbreak resides. The unbearable pain reverberating through your entire body is a distress call. It makes us run right back into the arms of the person who broke us in the first place, or into the next pair of arms of someone else waiting for us. The body’s instinct is to recoil from pain.

When there’s no one waiting, some of us might turn to drugs, or alcohol, or live with reckless abandonment for as long as it takes for the pressure of pain to be released. Heartbreak hurts because a good thing has been lost, real or imagined, and hope is extinguished. Hope is all we hold onto before a heartbreak. Hope that the good times will keep coming, or hope that the good times will eventually arrive. Heartbreak means disappointment: with yourself, with another person, with the world and the way things turned out.

There’s no easy way to package heartbreak. The ending of one relationship is setting you up for another. You lower your expectations for the next person to avoid being hurt altogether. You raise your expectations so it’s nearly impossible to find anyone else. You convince yourself you’ve found the one and stop looking at all. You throw yourself into relationship after relationship to keep the last one from ever catching up to you.

When we don’t feel powerful from hanging onto the hurt and pain through a heartbreak, we feel worthless, instead. There’s a middle ground somewhere between powerful and worthless. It’s called acceptance. I guess it takes a number of heartbreaks to reach this halfway point. Closure is never a guarantee and heartbreak stays an open wound. Your mind returns to these same places repeatedly, trying to impose order on chaos, and right the uncertainty.

The only way over a heartbreak is through it. After a few times, it’s like riding a bicycle. Once you learn how to do it, you never forget. The hard part is getting back on after you’ve fallen off.