It doesn’t matter if it’s been a day or a month or three years. It doesn’t matter if you’re still drowning in your own pain or you feel as if you’ve been whole again for a long time. Sometimes, the breakup hits you with a force so strong that it feels like waking up from one of those falling dreams, where your stomach drops and your balance is off and you’re convinced for several seconds that you’re tumbling down a dark hole, until you blink several times and realize you’re still in bed.
Sometimes the onrush of memories comes from a scent that immediately transports you to a different moment from the one you’re in. Sometimes it’s something someone says, that either sounds like something they‘d say or something that just reminds you of them. Sometimes, in a heart-stopping moment, you think you see them across the street on your way into the grocery store. For a moment, you’re convinced it’s them, regardless of whether they live down the block or across the country from you.
It could have been mutual, or not. It could have been amicable, or not. Sometimes it was something you cried over for weeks. Or it could have been something that you wanted and something that you knew was for the best. Either way, no matter how sure or how unsure you were about it, it had and still has an effect on your heart and your mind and your soul and always will.
They drift into your mind, sometimes sneakily, sometimes on purpose. You’ll be slicing an apple or checking the mail, getting drunk with your friends or hanging out with your new significant other, and they’ll burst into your mind. An image of them laughing, or looking at you, or touching your face. You’ll hear their voice as if they’re murmuring something right into your ear. Sometimes it gives you goosebumps. Sometimes you simply stop speaking or moving or seeing for a moment, temporarily lost in the alternate plane where you and them still exist together.
They still have an effect on you, whether you miss them dearly or are doing pretty okay or are even completely in love with someone else. They’re always there, nestled into a part of your memory, laying in a hammock, never planning on leaving. You wonder – especially if you’re okay now and you’re content and you’re even possibly happy with someone else – you wonder why certain moments when they pop into your mind can hit you like a ton of bricks.
And then you remember what the breakup was like, what the aftermath was like. It tore a piece out of you, it tore out a version of yourself. Some part of who you were with them will never be part of your whole self again.
It doesn’t mean you’re incomplete without them. Maybe you feel or you felt that way for a while, but time heals those feelings. But when you go through a breakup, it does mean you experienced a certain version of yourself with them that you will never truly experience again. We’re all pretty much a bunch of chameleons, changing ourselves constantly to adapt to what kind of company we’re in. And when we found someone, for a while, that we loved and cared about, someone we felt that we could be ourselves around, we became a version of ourselves that only they could bring out. Maybe we laughed a certain way or talked a certain way or wondered a certain way with them that we don’t anymore.
That part of yourself disappears, and the breakup makes you feel like you’re wandering around blind for a while. You’ve lost part of yourself and now you’re figuring out how to fill that space again. You re-learn how to enjoy your own company and how to laugh and how to feel happy. You learn how to become whole without another person. You say goodbye to them, and you say goodbye to that part of yourself.
But they’ll always come back, one way or another. In your dreams, in the smile of someone who looks like them, in the cologne of a stranger walking by. The moments are sharp and suffocating and unexpected. They are sometimes paralyzing. When you’re alone, you drown in them for a few seconds. Sometimes you drown in the moments even if you’re not alone. Someone’s speaking to you and you don’t hear them, because you’re thinking of that September morning when the two of you laid in bed and talked about insignificant things and were ignorant to the fact that one day you wouldn’t be doing this anymore.
These moments, where your old love comes back to you, sting sometimes. They catch you off guard. Sometimes they confuse you into thinking you have to do some kind of reevaluating, especially if you’re completely in love with someone else and you can’t figure out why your ex keeps popping up in your mind.
But I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. I don’t think it’s anything you need to analyze or obsess over or drive yourself crazy over. These moments will happen a lot in the beginning, especially when you’re still mourning the relationship. And then slowly, they’ll start to happen less frequently. They may eventually come few and far between. But if you truly loved this person, I think these moments will always come. That person meant something to you, and even if they eventually become more of a fuzzy, hazy memory, they’ll always live in a part of your mind. These moments are just your heart reminding you of its capability to love, its capability to be hurt, its capability to put itself back together again.
Maybe the moments are there to reunite you with that part of your old self again, just for a second or two. They’re there to transport you for an instant in time, to remind you of where you’ve been and where you’re still going.
They’re unexpected and captivating and all-consuming. You can’t plan around them, and most of the time, you just have to give in to them, even if just for a second. You can’t analyze them or try to figure out what they mean. Sometimes, you just have to take them as they come. Think of them as gentle little reminders, there to make sure your mind and your heart never forget how capable you are of loving, and hurting, and surviving, and loving again.