By Brittany Anne Smith

By the time I was 24, I’d had my heart broken approximately 737 times, which unfortunately doesn’t feel much like an exaggeration. With each debilitating fracture followed by its hopeful repair, I would tell myself I couldn’t possibly weather another. But then, right before I turned 25, my heart broke in such a way that the pieces fell into an entirely different pattern, one I didn’t recognize and one I certainly didn’t know how to piece back together. Death will do that. It will penetrate you from the inside out and have you convinced that your heart has lost a piece of itself. The emotional repercussions of man’s tenuity against mortality are never uncomplicated. It took me years to replace the foreign, fragmented pieces of acumen that were broken that day.

Of course, broken-heartedness assumes so many different forms. For me, death has just been the most harrowing of them all. But it seems that embedded within all of heartache’s varying forms exists a common thread: loss. And loss creates emptiness.

Maybe that’s the nucleus of the pain, the emptiness. The parting of ways, unrequited love, betrayal, divorce, chronic illness or addiction, or anything else that ransoms our autonomy, mundane jobs, missed opportunities, unreached potential, unfulfilled aspirations, vague identities, the varying vicissitudes of life.

Though it seems the hurt will never relinquish its grip on your insides, either the pain will eventually subside, or we will eventually become numb to it- which is as tragic and empty a loss as is anything else. But no matter the culprit behind the pain, it is very real, and it bruises us.

But, the exquisite irony of tragedy lies within the emptiness of the pain. Because, sometimes, if you are brave enough to examine the space in your heart that was carved by someone’s or something’s exit, often times there remains a vestige seed for something new and equally beautiful to grow. And that’s the first step to healing ourselves, I think- finding that seed and figuring out what to plant in the place of what you’ve lost. What’s interesting about the word “break” is that it has dozens of definitions. Obviously, the primal of these being “to fracture”. A few more definitions down, however, we see that it can also mean “an interlude”, and if one dares to venture even further, “an opening.”

Considering these definitions in context with a broken heart, we can apply it thus: that to harbor a broken heart means that we are engaged in an “interlude in which an opening is created”. That opening is where the remnant seedlings get planted, and new pieces of love have the chance to grow. Maybe those will beat differently than the ones lost, but they will beat as sure as the ones before them, and they will eventually fill the emptiness. You may always miss the piece of your heart that was lost to you, but you will be healed, with time, as the new love grows. And it doesn’t mean you forget who or what it was that beat there before. It just means that you now have learned how to trust your heart again, after time and time again, it fails you.

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