It all starts with the pain—the searing, gut wrenching pain that boils inside of you and lives in your arteries. It starts in your heart and then spreads to your extremities and before you know it, your body is poisoned with pain.
It’s normally at this point that those close to you tell you it won’t last long—that the pain is a normal byproduct of heartbreak, but it will go away in time.
Don’t listen. They’re wrong.
Because every time that John Mayer song comes on that he swore would be playing when he proposed to you, you’re going to hurt. And every time you pass a silver Toyota Camry just like his in the parking lot or on the way to the grocery store, you’ll ache. And when you’re cleaning out your closet and come across his old sweatshirt that he gave to you when you first started dating, you’ll have to resist the urge to scream.
Soon, however, your crying will be constricted to the confines of your bedroom and your tears won’t be a public display. Soon, your pain will be so well hidden that even your best friend will start to mention his name casually because she doesn’t think it hurts you anymore. This, to some, is the worst stage of letting go because your pain is no longer being shared with those close to you. It takes effort to hide hurt and it can be exhausting to pretend you’ve moved on when you haven’t.
Which is why often this second stage leads to a relapse of the first. Often the difficulty of hiding your heartache leads to dramatic episodes of grief and longing that translate into messy tears and lengthy, slurred voicemails after the liquor takes over.
However, after this stage, the first sliver of hope comes. You have a moment of clarity, normally hangover-induced, where you think to yourself, “How can I still love him? I don’t even know who he is anymore!”
But be careful. Because soon you’ll realize that you can still love the person you did know, even if he doesn’t exist anymore.
Then there will be some repetition of stages 1-3, often in an erratic pattern, until one day a picture of him pops up on Facebook and you don’t stare at it for 3 minutes. And you see him in a mutual friend’s Snapchat story and don’t re-watch it 8 times to see if he’s wearing a shirt you bought him or one that you’re unfamiliar with. And you see him at a party and don’t have to turn away to hide a tear leaking out.
One day, you’ll be able to handle the loss. You won’t feel the grief and the pain and the aching. One day, you’ll learn how to let go.