When it’s over, when the love is gone, when eager lips are no longer locked in an epic kiss and fingers are not braided sweetly together—what does it sound like?
What does heartbreak sound like?
Is it loud and chaotic, like the cracking and popping of muscle and sinew in bodies moving to a blaring boombox on busy city streets streaked with grit, endless noise and neon green graffiti?
Or maybe it’s painfully still, like a bone-chilling day in the dead of winter, when the snow is falling hard and even the forest floor is empty and lifeless, save for the gentle sound of a lone deer walking softly through the snowflakes.
When it’s over, when the love is gone—there is only silence.
The soft, feathery sound of two hearts separating; the long, drawn out footsteps of two souls slowly walking off into different sunsets, different destinies.
And then, silence.
A silence so big, so thick, so menacing, it seems like it could bloom into an evil Venus flytrap and swallow you up in one monstrous munch.
All you hear for miles is the tender scrunching of your puffy eyelids, the sour stabbing of knotted tension in your stomach and sharp, quick inhales through your mouth as small, moaning cries escape your dry lips.
Your tears fill the painful quiet, but only a little bit.
Because the silence is more than silence; it can’t be filled. It’s emptiness—the acute awareness that something important is missing, the heavy knowing that something as familiar as your own skin is no longer present.
And yet, you reach out for this other, for their heart—out of habit, out of pure hope—and you come up short, empty-handed.
Hurt rattles through your body all over again, like a shock of strobe-like lightning.
Heartbreak is quiet. It’s quiet enough to hear the palpable, humming absence of a sweet voice you used to know so well; quiet enough to hear the sticky madness of your own whispering thoughts.
Memories pulse through your mind in the form of vividly colored flashes, adding a quick, tornado-like drumbeat to the agony-dipped quiet.
First kiss. First date. First “I love you.” Last kiss. Last “I love you.”
First Christmas spent together, with a small, crooked tree and shiny red candy-cane ornaments. Kissing with snowflakes in your hair and cold sweat on your lips. Making love by the pale light of the full moon.
These memories are devastatingly precious; they sound like home. They taste like warm gingerbread cookies.
And so the memories echo and echo, as though you’re walking through a mile-long hallway lined by tall wooden bookshelves stacked carefully with all the lengthy volumes of a love that’s no longer breathing.
Soon, your ears fill with the soft thwap-thwap-thwap of your fingers flipping hungrily through the pages. It’s like looking through scrapbooks filled with glitter and construction paper and a deep, wistful longing. You page through the years, the days, the moments, the experiences shared, all the musty chapters, seeing the things that you never wanted to leave behind—and some things you can’t wait to be free of.
It’s gone. It’s all gone; these precious moments of frozen time exist only in the tender hollows of your dreams, the bittersweet chapters of your heart.
What happened? What went wrong? Where did the love go?
Emptiness tugs at your bones. Grief stabs into you.
Here, in the deep throes of heartbreak, there are no answers. There is only silence. It sounds so hollow and hopeless, permanently dark, like the sun will never shine again, like—maybe—you’ll never laugh loudly again.
It won’t be okay—it already is.
Because you’re still standing. You’re still alive.
And yes, you’re still crying, but as you exhale through the parade of raining tears stinging your eyelids, something subtly marvelous is revealed to you:
Only here, in the murky depths of undiluted solitude can you hear the beautiful sound of your own heartbeat.
Close your eyes and listen—
You smile a faint smile, because even though your heart aches so miserably, it still beats with ripe strength; it beats with passion, with purpose, with fire, with wisdom, with brave beauty.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
As you listen deeper, you hear the excited pulse-pulse-pulse of your abandoned dreams, like fireflies. You feel the gentle, electric pull of your soul’s sweet calling, the fluttering sound of your sticky wings begging to fly.
There is no quick-fix to escape the lonely, wintry silence of a freshly broken heart.
But that’s okay.
Because right now, in this moment, heartbreak sounds like hope: the painful birth of a new beginning.
The silence feels sacred, filled with fluttering truths.
So you breathe it all in—the shock, the loss, the fear, the beauty, the vast emptiness.
You curl up in front of a crackling orange fire and listen gently to the beautiful stirrings of your broken heart, the powerful longings of your luscious soul.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Silence fills you, loneliness coats your body like a thick, purple blanket—and hope caresses your cheeks tenderly, like a tiny feather.
And you exhale.
And you listen.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
And maybe, just maybe, you will look back fondly on this grief-filled day, remembering it as the day you learned to love silence.
And maybe, just maybe, you will remember it as the day you learned to love yourself.
Author: Sarah Harvey
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: you/me at Flickr