Your first breakup nearly killed me.
Those first few days, I did my best to hold myself together for you. I had never seen you cry so much or so hard. I hadn’t held you that close since you first came into the world.
When you collapsed in my arms—in the moment you realized it was over—I thought I would break too.
In your breaking, I came to know one of the most painful moments of my life as a mother: my powerlessness to fix your brokenness.
I couldn’t make everything okay.
You loved him. I know you still do. I know this was real love for you—not feigned, not blind, not puppy love.
Selfless love. Genuine love.
To suggest your love was anything but authentic would be an insult to your being, to your soul.
Yes, you are young. And yes, you have many years of love and life ahead of you, but I know your love was real. I have never subscribed to the idea that love has a minimum age, anyway.
I’ve always tried my best to respect and honor your feelings, and to give you space to form your own ideas and discover how to trust yourself. Knowing that you chose this boy, wanted this boy, shared dreams with this boy, and that this love was real for you, made your breaking even harder to witness.
In the first hours and days, as the reality of the pain set in and you began to replay every text, every phone call, every date, every moment you shared with him, you pleaded, begged, and bargained—looking for assurance that you could trust what you felt, and that your love was real and thoughtfully placed.
Then came your cries for reassurance that his love would come back.
I wanted to give you the moon. I wanted to promise you his love would return, just as the sun would rise in the morning. But that was a promise I could not make.
In your breaking, I selfishly wanted you to know what I had already learned along the way: that you would find a way to survive this lost love.
I wanted you to comprehend the universal understanding of loss, without having to experience it. I hoped that you could be fast-tracked through the stages of grieving. I simply didn’t want you to hurt, and I didn’t want to hurt from watching you unravel.
I wanted you to know that broken hearts happen, even to the most beautiful souls. I wanted you to know that many first loves end—some in painfully ugly and brutally dissatisfying ways—but few with the gentle summation of yours. I wanted to tell you that you really don’t have anything to worry about, that another chapter in your story awaits.
I wanted to tell you that the sun would rise tomorrow and that other boys would be waiting under its glow for a girl like you. I wanted to tell you that you’d make it out of this brokenness alive and well.
But saying these words, even if I believed them to be true, seemed wrong, unfair, and belittling of your feelings and the love in your heart. This was not a relationship that you could just get over. I realized that as storybook as your love story was to you, this wasn’t a Disney World adventure—there was no FastPass+ admission ticket to bypass the hurt in your healing.
Neither you, nor I could rush your healing.
Being there for you in your breaking was all I could do. It was all I was ever meant to do. If there was ever any purpose to my existence on this planet, as a mother and as a person, I found it through you and your sorrow. I existed to hold space for you.
In those early moments of your despair, which may have felt to you like you were on a sinking life raft, I wanted to hold you afloat. But sinking was exactly what you needed to do.
You needed to grieve love, not so you could get over it quickly—because, quite honestly, I’m not sure you or any soul can ever fully recover from the loss of their first love—but to validate your heart’s cries, as acknowledging the grief was somewhat symbolic of the authenticity of that love. You needed to grieve so that you could feel the depths of vulnerability, so that you could eventually rise again with newfound strength.
You needed to feel the emptiness of that void, so that you could someday, when you are ready, find a way to fill it in.
You needed to process that grief at your own pace and to your own rhythm. You needed to learn how to live with the raw, uncomfortable, and stained truth of loss. You needed to sink in order to transform your experience into strength.
I needed to let you sink to allow myself the time and space to grieve the loss of your innocence. Since the day I learned that you would come into this world, I’ve wanted to shield you from knowing the hurt that can come with love. Although selfishly unrealistic, I’d hoped that you wouldn’t have to wade through the inevitable darkness that accompanies heartbreak.
But I realized that for you to find yourself again, to love yourself even brighter than before this loss, and to eventually love another someday, you’d have to know that darkness. You’d have to feel it. You’d have to succumb to that suffocating discomfort—if only because you can’t truly enjoy and appreciate the light without experiencing the dark.
You needed to do the painful work to heal your heart. Work that I couldn’t do for you. Work without Cliffs Notes or a beaten-down short cut. Work riddled with switchbacks and setbacks.
You needed to scrape by, get by, dangle out there with the water seeping ever so slowly over your head, so that you could eventually figure out how to glue together the fractured pieces of yourself—so that you could grow from your loss and move on.
I watched from the shore, life preserver in hand, just in case. But I knew you were ultimately alone in your struggle. This loss was your pain to own. It was part of your life story—just as it should be.
No parenting book can ever prepare a mother to witness her child discover the truth that we all come into this life, live, love, and leave it, ultimately alone. Even when we have the best support system, no one can feel for us, no one can fix us or make us whole, except for us. In the end, your healing is entirely up to you.
And as you sank, I could see you were not actually alone—for the sea surrounding you was full of brokenhearted girls and women of all ages, just like you, though each unique and with a story of their own. Each trying to cling to her own life raft while navigating the strewn debris of that first lost love.
I can’t fix your brokenness, but I can trust what I’ve learned from my own story and from other heartbroken souls along my path:
I trust that healing can happen.
I trust that sometimes losing love can lead to gaining something new.
I trust that sometimes in finding ourselves alone and empty, we can find ourselves connected and full.
I trust that sometimes meaning and purpose can be found in breaking.
I trust that you will find these things, too, somewhere in and through your pain.
Sweet daughter, if there is any universal truth or promise to be found in your breaking, it is that in losing love, you can be found—a different version of you, but someone meant for this world, someone worthy of giving and being given love.
And if love is true, it can’t be denied. It comes back. It withstands even the toughest conditions. It feels safe and cozy. It can be confusing and messy at times, but ultimately selfless and unconditionally brave.
It is ageless. It is not disposable.
It is a surrender of your heart to another—knowing that the other will care for it, protect it, hold it—even better than you can yourself. It’s pure, raw electricity and magic and mutual trust wrapped into sanctuary, a place where each person feels free and safe to be who they are, to grow and discover who they long to be, to be perfectly imperfect—flaws fully exposed and held without judgment, especially when everything beyond the corners of that place demands or expects something else.
It is a shared connection that you can’t imagine living without, regardless of how others try to influence you. It creates a glow that lights up the room and resonates an unmistakable, inspiring, outward energy—the kind of light and fire that makes it possible to get through any shade of darkness.
In your breaking, I trust that you will discover that fighting for yourself—fighting to pull yourself up for air after sinking—is the realest love, and always worth the fight.
In your breaking, I trust that you will discover that all love is worth fighting for, but that when two people share a one-of-a-kind connection, each will fight hard—relentlessly—for the other, even when it means going against the grain.
In your breaking, I trust that you will discover that the timing is always right for love, even when it doesn’t stay or last.
And in your healing, I trust you’ll discover that in the end, love is all that really matters.
Sweet daughter of mine, in losing love, I trust that you’ll come to see that love comes back when it is meant to come back.
I trust that you’ll come to know the return of love, though it may look different than what you’ve known, expected, or hoped to find.
I trust that through your hurt and healing, you will come to redefine love—what it looks like and what it means to you, and what shape it must take to fill your beautiful soul.
My sweet girl, I trust in you. I trust in your breaking. I trust in your sinking. I trust in your healing.
I trust that you will surface again. I trust you will rise.
It is through losing love and losing yourself that you will heal your brokenness. And it is through yourself that you will find love again.
Fight to love yourself, fight to pull yourself up.
Trust that you will unbreak yourself from this heartbreak.
Author: Julie Tower-Pierce
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina