Trying to describe heartbreak is nearly impossible. It is invisible and yet it is a physical pain that can be felt as palpably as a broken arm – only its right there in the center of your chest – an ache that cannot be healed.  The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay once soulfully mourned, “time does not bring relief, you all have lied who told me time would ease me of my pain!…”

The first I knew of heartbreak was at the death of my Grampa when I was seven. I could not imagine the world without him in it and there was surely a hole in my heart filled entirely by my sadness. Leon Bloy said, “Man has places in his heart which do not exist, and into them enters suffering, in order that they may have existence.”  I certainly believe that very thing happened to me on that day. 

All of us have them – those places in our hearts that come about because of heartbreak. Mostly it happens when we lose those we love. When my dog, Lollipop, died suddenly – leaving me without warning after she had walked me to the other side of an empty nest – that place felt windswept and barren.

Sometimes heartbreak happens when our dreams are shattered or we lose our way.  That happened to me as a young girl of seventeen. The pain of it was almost too much to bear.  I would swear I could hear the sound of fine crystal breaking into a million pieces and there wasn’t enough glue in the world to mend all that brokenness. My heart was never the same. I wondered at times if my heart was no longer the traditional red machine pumping to keep me alive but instead was lying bruised and purple inside my chest, just barely doing its job, threatening to give up at any moment, and I was only alive on the outside carrying on as if it mattered.

I have often imagined that heartbreak smells like wet leaves in Autumn.  And perhaps it looks like purple lariope blooming and sadly singing the end of summer.  Or perhaps like broken eggs in an abandoned nest – surely Robin’s egg blue.

Heartbreak is intangible and yet it is a real thing.  And that thing can feel quite substantial, certain, and perceptible. Physiologically speaking the stress hormone cortisol can actually flood the body and cause that heavy, achy feeling in your chest.  Also there is a for real diagnosis called “Broken Heart Syndrome” which the Mayo Clinic reports is temporary, treatable, and further claims that the syndrome usually reverses itself in days or weeks.  But I suspect that whoever came up with that medical diagnosis, et al had never had someone break their heart. My favorite actress, Bette Davis, proclaimed, “Pleasure of love lasts but a moment. Pain of love lasts a lifetime.”

The real danger of heartbreak is BECOMING the heartbreak itself.  I think that happens to people some times. Remember Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’ novel, “Great Expectations” – the old spinster, once jilted at the altar, who lived for years in her yellowing wedding dress surrounded by her moldy wedding cake and cobwebs?  As I languished at seventeen I envisioned that I would become something like her.  Fortunately, I survived and eventually recovered – although it drastically changed the trajectory of my life.  But isn’t that the way of all things?  Every single thing that happens to us in life influences our decisions and the road we take. I took the pain of my heartbreak with me for many years and I think ultimately that worked out best for me.  I have been left to agree with the poets Teasdale and Tennyson.  Sara Teasdale penned these words: “It is strange how often a heart must be broken before the years can make it wise.” And Alfred Lord Tennyson reminded me often: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”


  1. heimdalco says:

    You have an amazing gift … story telling, relating true experiences, describing ‘life’ as it has & will happen … but THIS has to be your best piece so far. While grief is the most difficult of all emotions to describe, you have done it perfectly with this post. While I read it I thought of losing my mom & what a huge percentage of my heart went with her & the grief that followed. I remember when she was ill she asked me if I expected her to live forever. My response was, “I’m counting on it,” because I was. I thought about my divorce so long ago, having my heart broken several times along the road to maturity. I thought about August 2016 when my husband & I lost our 19-year-old cat to kidney failure. While these examples of my grief are in different categories, the grief has been just as deep & meaningful & difficult with each loss. As we move forward because we HAVE to if we are to survive, we find positives along the way. My second marriage has been the delight of my life & I was so fortunate to have had the mother I had – the benefit of her love & wisdom that have sustained me throughout my life. In some way grief heals us, no matter how difficult. This is a lovely post. Thank you for sharing this personal part of yourself that we all share in one way or another.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Linda. This response was incredibly touching. It brought tears to my eyes. And when I read it to my husband he had tears in his as well. You are right – grief does heal us – although it doesn’t feel like that in the beginning. But eventually it moves us onward and makes us wiser than before. Thank you for sharing your own journey as well. I suppose it is just another thing that unites us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. heimdalco says:

        Awww, thank you so much, Linda (& your husband). Your post touched me deeply. And yes, it is another thing that unites us.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It seems we may be sisters in spirit

        Liked by 1 person

      3. heimdalco says:

        Or at the very least, conjoined twins separated at birth … LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan Gordon says:

    I am sorry for your pain.
    No one should have to bare that burden.
    So many thoughts I dont have the skill to share. Your pain is not yours alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As my friend, Linda Smith, said, “grief heals us” and I believe it also makes us wiser than we were before. It leads us into a place that we could never know without it. It allows us to truly appreciate joy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dan says:

        Glad you found something positive out of your pain. I hope you experience lots of joy!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. fabfourfriends says:

    OMLORT!!! My feelings in words!! 💔❤️‍🩹🤔

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Celia Hales says:

    Thank you, Linda.

    Liked by 1 person

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