Why Do People Grieve When They Suffer Heartbreak?

I was having a conversation with a group of friends on our way home from a wedding one evening and naturally the discussion in the car was centred on weddings, love and all the mush that comes with it. It so happened that Joel, one of the guys in the car who was also the…


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I was having a conversation with a group of friends on our way home from a wedding one evening and naturally the discussion in the car was centred on weddings, love and all the mush that comes with it. It so happened that Joel, one of the guys in the car who was also the youngest in our midst was finding it difficult to let go of his relationship that almost happened but never quite took off. Theirs was one of those situations where one isn’t really looking for anything but it just happened; conversation was more than great, there was that instant connection, they always hung out and sought to be around each other at the slightest opportunity, it was awesome, until it wasn’t. The oldest person in the car told him that he’s worried about how the breakup has affected him; he’s worried that he’ll shrink back into himself and it’ll take him too long to try again. You see, Joel isn’t a social butterfly and isn’t at all a risk taker in the matters of the heart, I was also worried about him and about myself because I know a thing or two about taking too long to do it again.

When new relationships lose momentum, it’s usually because one of the lovers has suddenly turned back to familiarity, maybe to what is comfortable for her/him and can be controlled. Turning our back on love does more than reject another person, it robs us the opportunity to free our greatness to the world, our impact is contained and the love becomes unrealized.  Regardless of how long we dated another or how deeply involved we had gotten, there is always something to grieve when a relationship ends.

Discussing relationships and heartbreak that evening made me wonder a lot about the grieving process and exactly what it is that we grieve when a relationship goes south. When people break up, what does it really mean? Especially for those who lost a new somebody, what truly breaks the heart?  The person that was lost? Or something else? Sometimes the feelings of hurt that we harbour after a relationship ends isn’t something that we’re proud of, we assume that we’re pathetic for crying over something that was lost so quickly or even at all depending on how long it lasted, especially if the hurt lasts for too long. This leads me to think that what we grieve, once we can admit it to ourselves, isn’t always the history we had with someone or even the person but what they represented, what their presence in our lives meant to us and what we hoped she/he would be an answer to.

We often have this sense of failure when we lose out on love and sometimes it feels like a rug was suddenly pulled out from under us; I think the reason is that what we truly grieve is not the love itself but its concept. The possibilities that love had for us to be involved in something greater than ourselves, we grieve a lost potential, a lost companion with whom we can achieve great things, serve God, or figure life out. It could be the loss of an opportunity to experience a love we are yet to know or have never known, a new awareness that brings a sobering loss of naivety and sometimes we ask: “if I can’t trust her/him who then can I trust?”, we grieve our own learning, our hopefulness, and the added fear that we may never be enough to secure a lasting love or devotion from another. Our hearts break from thinking that we have suddenly fallen back to where we began and we have lost our future, we become afraid that we are missing out on a grand experience in love’s equation and we will never be able to hold onto the security that should shield us from loneliness and that should be our relief.

It could be all or one of the reasons above, but one thing that is certain is that heartbreak is something everyone has experienced at some point. I think that we don’t always take the time to identify the reason we grieve when a relationship ends, we focus so much on the person who left or we walked away from that we fail to ask ourselves what that loss meant to us, but maybe identifying it would help us understand what our need truly is and if that need is what someone else should or can fulfil, or what we can and should give to ourselves with a little deeper sense of self. On one hand may be hurt and betrayal while on the other could be growth and self-discovery – what it did to you and what it meant for you; then we can be free to start something new or different with better clarity. This isn’t only limited to heartbreak, I think looking at disappointment or any negative circumstance from a dual perspective will go a long way in helping us to not only handle the circumstance better but also help us fall into a more positive outcome.

What other reasons do you think people grieve when their hearts are broken? Please use the comment section.

Image via Classic105



    1. Priscilla Joy
      lol that is some combination, I think The Toolsman can help with your smoothie, your comment is still required tho.
      1. Seriously...
        I find it a really nice combo. The pineapple is a natural sweetener and the zing of the ginger will help chase away the rainy season bugs. Healthy enjoyment!

        For me, I think one mourns the loss of a dream. If you thought “I can love this person for my whole life” and you gave your heart completely to him/her and had your dreams built around a life with that person, it is only natural to mourn the loss of that. You feel literally, like your heart has been broken and like it might never mend.

        As said, part of it might be you mourning the loss of a part of yourself. The part of you that loved another person completely, with all you had. No matter how deeply you full in love later, you fear that you might never be that wholly, completely in love with another person.

        1. Priscilla Joy
          Aii, maybe I’ll try it soon but I don’t think there could ever be an issue with rain this year cos it’s so much better than the heat and scorching sun we had before.

          The loss of a dream, I like that. It seems like women are the ones who build a dream around a relationship most and if we’re to go with @TheToolsman’s last post, we really need to stop with the dreaming and learn to be as practical about relationships with the opposite sex as possible. Thanks for your comment.

          1. Seriously...
            Hear you on the rain! I am a die-hard pluviophile myself.

            Completely with you on @Toolsman’s last post.

            Not so sure the loss of dream thing is specific to women though. I might be wrong, but we have guys walking around who never quite recovered from THAT heartbreak. They, like their female counterparts have “moved on” but a piece of them seems to be missing. They love but never with the same restraint. The promises that they took at face value with the “one that got away” are now suspect coming from another person, even when that person is literally killing themselves to prove their love.

            Love and relationships ehn…

  1. Kismet
    Met the Mr online,

    Conversations via mail, Skype, phone calls. Oh, the budding excitement towards the first meet up.

    I finally meet the Mr, very happy that at least 7 items checks off my list. No one is eager to get home.

    2weeks later parents can see the excitement
    Mum:Kismet what’s the good news?
    Kismet: I met this guy *insert Cheshire cat grin*….(proceeds to tell whole story).

    2 days later.
    Mum: Erm Kismet you cannot date that Mr.
    Kismet: Say what!
    Mum: I see something negative.

    4months later, this constant struggle can’t continue. Goodbye Mr (Kismet walks away feeling not so heartbroken).

    1 month later, Kismet can’t sleep without thinking of Mr.
    Imagines seeing him everyday.
    Zero concentration at work.

    I need help.

    1. Priscilla Joy
      aww so sorry Kismet hon, did your mum say more than “I see something negative”? Guys, can somebody help Kismet? I think you should give it time, it’s normal to see random things that would remind you of him quite often especially as the loss is still fresh, but with time you’ll get back your focus and you may not think about him as much. Time and what you do within the time it would take you to get over him. Maybe ask yourself why his absence in your life is affecting you so much, you may discover a thing or two about yourself you didn’t know before.
  2. Jennyeverypenny
    This is a nice piece .
    For me I think it all boils down to what led to the break up . I recently just broke up with someone and as much I like to think the break up was mutual and very much needed , I was hurt and just like you said , I was hurt because I thought about all that could have been , all we could have done together and then the realization that this person might not be the right person for me actually hurt .
    I think the reason for a breakup determines the grieving process .
    Nice peice. It’s quite timely 😊
  3. Og
    We all grieve for different reasons. Could be the person or the good times and more, or even all the above mentioned. It could even be egotistical, asking yourself questions like if you weren’t enough or stuff like that.
    1. Priscilla Joy
      Aha, our almighty ego that has us asking how she/he dared do that to us, not minding how awesome and fabulous we know ourselves to be, how couldn’t they see that? hehehe. Thanks Og
  4. Exclusive
    Or it could just be because your faith in love, the real kind that completes you, gets that teeny smaller after a break-up.

    And you mourn that innocence that gives your heart free rein.

    1. Nnanyielugo
      Nice reply, quite accurate.
      Unfortunately however, I’m too much of a realist to catch proper feelings so that mourning phase doesn’t really happen. I’d rather sit down and analyze (on the off chance that I’d even want to do that).

      But I totally understand where you’re coming from.

      Posted from TNC Mobile

      1. Priscilla Joy
        surely the feelings you had, no matter how tiny, improper or unreal generated some hurt, I think it’s actually the hurt that drives one to analyse and this is coming from a realist like yourself, at least I think I am but I get what you mean.
    2. Priscilla Joy
      Sigh, I know what you mean . I really do, but try and not loose faith or cynicism might creep in and prevent you from recognizing and enjoying the real love when it comes along. Thanks for your comment
  5. Abi
    A part of u dies at breakup. Especially if it was a serious relationship, one most likely built a future & life that suddenly dies. all the promises and plans you both had halts suddenly. Heart break physically hurts lol #truestorytho .. You ask yourself who died but it’s a part of you, or and your planned future
    1. Bambz
      LOL! heart break physically hurts. So, so, so true! And here I was thinking I was the only one who felt the pain of my heart really, trully breaking..

      Posted from TNC Mobile

      1. Jennyeverypenny
        Lol . When I’m hurting I have a chest pain . Like I literally hold my chest because I can hear it beating in pain .
        Heartbreak hurts braaaaaa!!
      2. Abi
        haha! Not just u!! The first day I spoke of this, it was to a frd. my friend’s eyes opened in excitement , oh man, we were both happy to know we were not crazy 😂😂
    2. Priscilla Joy
      Lol I can so relate to the physical hurt, sometimes it feels like it’s pinching your skin especially on the arms, I can remember sometimes I’ll just hug myself or massage my arms as if I want to knead the hurt away.
  6. Abi
    I enjoyed reading this. This is something I have had to think about and deal with. The good and self growth we can take from break ups
  7. Nnanyielugo
    Madam Priscilla, the truth is that most people do not ask themselves why exactly they are going into a relationship for, what they are looking for in the prospective partner, and their own weaknesses. If they did, they’d be familiar with topics like compatibility, personality differences and over familiarity.

    Love on its own is never sufficient, especially if you do not understand why exactly you are tripping. And if you get heart broken, try to understand what went wrong and move on. I bet the other party isn’t fretting about how they broke your heart and how that would instigate world war 3.

    The time outside a relationship could be used to undertake a rather delightful exploration of self.
    Now that, is priceless.

    Nice article by the way.

    Posted from TNC Mobile

    1. Priscilla Joy
      Lol I’m hardly a madam, I’m a young woman pleasee. you’re right about knowing the purpose for going into a relationship but the thing is there are people who started off with a clear purpose but still broke up, people, desire, and needs change so even as it’s good to have a clear purpose it’s also important to keep in mind that nothing is ever set in stone especially when it has to do with humans.

      Love on its own is never sufficient – so true. Thanks for your comment

  8. Bomboy
    I dunno why I’m reading this article at this point in my life.. The number of “red lights flashing on my dashboard” are just simply dizzying. Maybe I’d just scribble down some healing pills from here and keep my fingers and toes crossed..
  9. Exclusive
    Joy, LOL. Thank you, dear but I wasn’t talking about me. I’m a die-hard believer in love and I don’t see that changing. Plus I guard my heart like a lioness and am very careful with my investments.

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