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.
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