The 11 Most Painful Things About Losing The Person You Love
Love's sharper edge.
We recently ran an article about falling in love that a lot of people enjoyed. A few suggested we write another post about an element of love they felt was crucial: what happens when love falls apart.
Romantic relationships don't always last forever, no matter what the movies and songs tell you. Sometimes love just falls apart. Sometimes people leave without ever saying why.
It's always worth taking inventory of what it feels like when something as huge as a breakup happens in our life.
By doing so, we recognize the universality of the experience and that can lend us just enough perspective to make us remember that we are never really alone.
Here are 11 of the worst things about breakups.
1. The initial shock.
Even if you're the "dumper" in a breakup, the sudden realizations that immediately follow the breakup can be crippling.
You may suddenly feel like you've just made a terrible mistake, or, if you've just been dumped, that your entire world has just been turned upside down.
The small things can be the most painful. You realize that you won't be texting them later to see what they're doing tonight. You realize that they won't be kissing you goodnight. You realize that this is it: no more holidays together, no more inside jokes, no more notes left on the counter, no more "I love yous."
The shock of it never comes at once, but in waves.
Just when you think you've gotten used to it, something comes along to remind you.
2. The realization that you cannot be comforted by the source of your pain.
Chances are the person you've just lost was the person you turned to for a majority of your emotional comfort. The sudden awareness that you can't call them and be comforted is made even worse by the fact that the reason you can't is because they are the ones who've hurt you.
So you turn to your friends, but you know that there's nothing that becomes quite as old as quickly as someone else's grief and there's not really any comfort in hearing someone tell you that he or she doesn't deserve you.
And that sucks.
3. Wondering why.
It's the question that is at the tip of your tongue, even if it never leaves your mouth.
"Why?" is one of the most painful parts of a breakup and there's no answer that will satisfy you, no answer that could ever really reason away the pain you feel and the insecurity that you're left with.
You wonder if it was something you did, something that you could change if they would just tell you.
You wonder if they betrayed you, and if they did, how they could do that to you because you'd never have done that to them.
You wonder why they seemed so perfect. You wonder why they'd throw away what you had together. You wonder if they ever really loved you.
You might feel stupid or ashamed, as if it's your fault for loving someone so much and being hurt so badly.
Don't. It's not your fault.
Sometimes love just falls apart.
4. Wondering if any of it was ever true, ever real.
It's natural to wonder if any of the time you spent with someone you're no longer with was ever what you thought it was. A breakup will leave you wondering if their affections were sincere, if they meant what they said, if they ever really loved you.
After all, at some point, all lovers dream of a future together. Where did the dream go?
It feels like the person you loved has mysteriously transformed into someone you don't even recognize; like your significant other has died and been replaced by some cruel person who has done irreparable harm to your heart. They're a stranger now and worse, they treat you like one.
5. Your stuff. Their stuff.
If you live together, you're now suddenly faced with the awfulness of either having to move or having to watch them move.
In the midst of this, all you can do is steel yourself. You try to become as hard as possible. You try to maintain your dignity as the boxes pile up and you go through your relationship's business inventory – the shared bills, the dishes, the books and appliances – as you're hit with the realization that your love has just been reduced to life at its most mundane.
Alternately, you may only be faced with the pain of having your beloved reclaim his sweater or come by to pick up the things she left in your apartment.
Her hair no longer on your pillows.
His toothbrush no longer by your sink.
Her perfume no longer lingering in the air.
His shirts missing from your closet.
That stuff hurts.
When it's said and done, you're freshly and acutely aware of the space that their stuff has left behind. You're reminded again of the space that they've left behind in your life.
Put the pictures away. Buy new dishes. Take long showers. Pamper yourself.
Grieve at your own pace. Loss moves at its own pace and you cannot control it.
6. Social media.
If your relationship was "Facebook official," there's the pain of suddenly being publicly single, but worse than that, there's also the irresistible urge to see what your ex is up to and to search for clues that might explain your devastation.
Are they dating someone else? What about that girl at his work: Is she responsible for this?
There's nothing you want to see there. Unfollow them. Don't pick at the scabs that is trying to form over the wounds or you will scar yourself. Don't announce your agony on your Facebook status or Twitter. Hold onto whatever you can of your dignity.
7. The insult added to injury with "...but we can still be friends."
At some point, your feelings toward your ex – and you'll get used to saying "ex" to yourself – go from longing and pain to anger and hostility. It's your heart's way of self-preservation: anger, as The Terminator once said, is more useful than despair.
Depending on the circumstances and your maturity levels, it is possible to remain friends with an ex, but usually not right away. Friendship and romantic love exist on two separate planes and it's hard to make that transition.
If your ex says that they still want to be friends, the hope for it decreases exponentially because it feels like such an insult.
8. Happy couples.
Your broken heart wants to know how love, which is obviously a giant lie told by people to destroy others, still exists in the world.
You see happy couples doing all the cute things that you were just doing a few months ago and you think "it won't last" or "I hate them." You read articles about falling in love and you wonder how the hell anyone can believe in it anymore.
And who the hell are these people announcing their relationships and engagements on Facebook? Don't they know that the world ended?
After all, love only leads to pain, right? That's how it feels. Love itself is at fault.
9. Feeling like you're destined to be alone forever.
No matter what your friends tell you about how it's your ex's loss, a breakup leaves you feeling like you might be better off joining a religious order, becoming a nun, signing on with the French Foreign Legion, taking a vow of silence, or moving to Manhattan or Hollywood to show your ex that you don't need them; that you don't need anyone.
Your well-meaning friends will bombard you with platitudes about "plenty of fish in the sea" and "getting back out there," and so perhaps you give in. That brings us to another awful part of breakups.
10. Singleness and dating.
It's worse if you start dating too soon. You find out very quickly just how lonely dating can be. There's something about the thought of going through the whole "getting to know you" process that makes becoming a monk or nun seem like a perfectly reasonable alternative.
Did you really just lose two hours of your night listening to some guy wearing a gallon of body spray talk about himself and chew with his mouth open?
Did that random guy really just try to hit on you?
It is perfectly reasonable to spend date nights with Netflix, a bottle of wine, and an adorable kitten or puppy.
11. The resilience of love.
Our fragile species would have died out a long time ago were it not for nature wiring our brains for love.
Just when you think that your heart has finally ossified into an impenetrable, love-proof fortress that dedicates every effort to the office and the gym...
Love will find you when you least expect it.
A new pair of eyes. A new voice. A new person you have to talk to before you go to bed every night. A bright new ember in your heart that grows and burns and catches fire.
Yes, cynics, you will have your hearts broken again.
You will be vulnerable again. You will risk your heart again.
And yes, you will be hurt again.
But you will also love and be loved again and again.
For all you know, you already are.
Cover photo via giphy screengrab.