July 6, 2018

Heartbreak or Death—which is Worse?

I’ve been blindsided by breakups, and I’ve witnessed my dad take his very last breath.

Which was worse?

Obviously the latter—right?

Well, not so fast.

But hold that thought for now. We’ll get back to it in a bit.

First, let me admit something to you—after 25 years of searching, striving, and suffering with depression, disappointment, anxiety, feelings of being lost, and not being enough—I have won the war with my mind.


Which means, finally, I can help others do the same.

And when people contact me feeling absolutely eviscerated by a breakup, they usually start off with an apology.

“I’m sorry Gabe, I know you talk to people with serious troubles and my issue is so small in comparison, but…”

This is when I sharply cut them off with, “I’ve dealt with hardcore heartbreak and a tragic death of a loved one and I have to tell you, I’m not exactly sure which is worse.”

Often, that’s all they need to hear to feel a bit better. Not because it takes the pain away, but because it legitimizes the pain they’re feeling. The thing is, they know they don’t have cancer. And they know they’re not hovering over someone who does. So, intellectually, they don’t think they have a right to feel like they’re dying.

But they do.

Because losing love, by breakup or death, hurts like hell—and our hearts can’t tell the damn difference.

Which brings us back to the question. The question we’ve just answered.

Which is worse?

As silly as it may sound to someone sitting comfortably on the outside of either situation, in the moment, seeing your ex on Instagram with someone new is just as crushing as struggling to remember what your dad’s voice sounds like.

Our hearts simply can’t handle either, nor can they tell the difference.

One isn’t better or worse than the other.

And with that, it recently occurred to me after re-watching “La La Land” why losing love hurts so much.

Obviously, they’re not there anymore so we miss them terribly.

But it’s not just that we miss being able to be with them. I think what hurts the most is that we have so much love for them and now that they’re gone, either really gone or going out with someone else, our love has nowhere to go. And it sits inside of us and searches. Like a lost dog looking for its home. And with no destination, it turns to poison and literally makes us sick.

What would I advise a person who’s suffering from this sickness?

I’d advise them to do nothing.

Do nothing but breathe and be kind to yourself.

No one has the ability to think their way out of this. There are no feasible steps to follow as the self-help books say.

But I’ve learned, through heartbreak, how resilient the heart is. And in due time, on its own schedule, it will allow love to flow again.

And if you resist getting in its way, it may flow even more authentically than before.

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Gabe Berman

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