Some day you’ll forget how it felt being with him. You’ll laugh with your best friend about the times he made you cry. You’ll be able to hear his name without your heart beating so fast. You’ll pass by him at school and smile at each other— nothing more. You’ll hear from a mutual friend about a new girl he’s dating and feel happy for her and for him. You’ll go the morning and then a half day and then a whole day without thinking of him. And you’ll begin to slowly forget him— over time losing the memories you swore you’d never let go of.
But right now, you haven’t even begun healing. It feels like a family member died from your life. You switch between feeling emotionally numb to crying so hard you can barely breathe. All the words he labeled you with in the heat of the breakup are seared into the forefront of your mind, and they entrap you in insecurity. You lay awake most nights till two, three in the morning thinking and thinking and leaving your room when the crying gets too loud that you’ll wake up your roommate. You can’t conceptualize a future where you’ll ever feel yourself again, without him as a part of you. Right now, you’re in the beginning of the mourning phase and you’ll stay here for a long time. It’s good that you’re here.
It’s been a couple weeks and nothing has changed. You think of him the moment you wake up and then all throughout the day. A song lyric, the way someone phrases something, a quote he sent to you, a promise he made— brings him back into vivid consciousness. You see him in so many crowds. Every guy with a blue hat or dark hair seems to be him. You pass by him so often on your campus and lingered eye contact, a few seconds of the sound of his voice… triggers so many emotions. You have a playlist of dozens of songs that remind you of him and you torture yourself listening through the music, analyzing lyrics and replaying memories, holding on so tightly because you don’t want to forget any part of him.
You’ll agree to meet up to give each other closure and it will cut you open even more. When he’s walking away, you feel this urge to call after him and tell him to turn back and stay with you longer. But instead you turn away and walk back to your dorm alone. You cry yourself to sleep that night. The day it ended your best friend gave you chocolate and stroked your hair while you cried. She’s been with you every day, but it’s not helping. You’re always surrounded by people, but you feel lonely. They don’t understand the depths of you like he did. They can’t get to the parts of you he hurt.
For months after you’ll want to reach out to him, tell him all of how you feel. So you write out texts and letters and messages that you never send. You practice conversations in your head of what you’ll say the next time you see him. But you never reach out, never acknowledge because you’re scared of hurting him even more. You’re scared he doesn’t want to hear from you. And a part of you believes so strongly he wants nothing to do with you, that he’s already stopped caring, that he’s rapidly forgetting.
You try to stay away from him, because everything hurts. And you utilize so much self control to never reach out to him, to avoid events he’ll be at, to not bring him up to your friends who know him. You desperately want to see him, talk to him, but you need to protect yourself. This one song he played one time when you were together brings back every emotion of him so strongly. It comes on the radio way too often and you always force your friend to change the station.
It’s been 6 months and you still cry yourself to sleep. The breakup comes over you like waves. You’ll go a couple weeks and feel over him and healed, but then it’ll hit you all over again. You feel tangled up in him, like you couldn’t move on even if you wanted to. He knew these depths of your soul you’d never shown anyone else and you grew together and he changed you. You still can’t separate yourself from him and that’s okay. That’s good. It’s beautiful how much you cared, how much you still care.
You miss him terribly and you’re up late one summer night, googling and reading through chat forums discussing if sometimes you go through a breakup and never end up healing from it. You read stories of people who 5, 7 years later are still hurting and missing the person and it’s terrifying— what if that’s you? What if you never heal? At the same time, you can’t imagine ever forgetting him. You don’t want to. You don’t want to move on. You want him back and you know you’ll end up with him in the end. You have to.
It’s been a year and he says he’s over you. But so many times when you’re crying about something, you still have the urge to reach out to him, like you still want him to be strong for you. You pray for him a lot and you think so often how in Heaven none of this will matter, all the hurt will be healed and you can be best friends with him again. You’ve gone on dates, talked to new guys and they interest you and it’s fun. They make new parts of you feel understood, but none of them are him. Half of your favorite songs remind you of the relationship. All the new music you listened to while you were together, you deleted from your iTunes, but you connect memories of him to so many songs you listen to. He’s been out of your life for so long, but he’s still there. Friend after friend tells you to “just move on”— to stop talking about it, stop thinking about him. But your heart isn’t that simple.
It’s been two years and you realize one day you haven’t thought of him in a while. Most of your best friends now, you didn’t even know when you were with him. You have new mutual friends who never knew you as a couple. You still can’t talk to him without being awkward and stuttering on your words, so you don’t approach him. You still feel attracted to him when you see him and it’s annoying, but you know it doesn’t mean anything. You start talking to a new guy and don’t immediately compare him to your ex. He’s a lot different and he embraces the parts of you that your ex wanted to change. He reminds you that you’re supposed to be outspoken and bold and emotionally intense and he likes that about you, because he’s the same. You feel understood just by listening to him. And you’re not scared of being hurt. Your connection with this new guy is so simple, and you feel now what you lacked with your ex. You’re not insecure anymore and you go back to loving and growing the parts of yourself that your ex labeled as wrong.
It’s been three years and who you were when you were with him was a completely different person than who you are now. Looking back, that’s what moving on from him came down to: changing and growing. You only got over him, when who you were became too far away, too different from who he knew you as. You’ve cared so much about another guy and you understand now why it couldn’t have worked with him. And you’re glad it didn’t. But one day you wake up, engrossed in a dream that he was in. It was vivid and it felt so real. Your heart is beating so fast and you think back at the past few days, wondering what triggered it. You think of him for the first time in weeks and on your morning run, you listen to a song that was out when you were with him. All the emotions are gone, but you can still remember some parts of him. And you’re grateful.
He changed you. He made you into someone more humble and gentle and open-minded. He changed your theology and philosophical beliefs far beyond what was comfortable, but he was right about so many things that you only realize looking back. He understood parts of you better than you did. And at the time he made you feel understood and known in a way that no one else had. He made you laugh when you were crying and he showed you different ways to look at the world. He loved you so well and even though it was chaotic and imperfect, it was a beautiful relationship and you wouldn’t take back any of it.
You’re back at your old college now to see some of your friends graduate, and he’s graduating too. You pass by him in the hall and don’t feel anything. You just exchange greetings and keep walking. And it feels right, that there’s nothing there anymore. During the ceremony, your mutual friend tells you his plans for the future and you smile and laugh and feel happy for him, because it’s so him, so him.
And it’s comforting to you, that some parts of people never really change. You’ve known for a while that you’ll never go through a breakup as awful as it was with him. You were chaotic together and he was your first love. There’s nothing left to say anymore, because you’ve processed everything. He was really important to you in the past. And that’s all it is now. All that it has been. He’s been dead in your life for a long time, and it just took way longer for your heart to catch up with reality.