About Heartbreak: Losing Someone Who Is Very Much Alive.


The thing about heartbreak is that it is a deep, painful, loss of a loved one. The only problem is their not actually lost. They’re just lost to you.

They aren’t dead.

I don’t mean to be morbid, but that’s really the difference here.

They’re just as alive and well as they were with you, except now, they’re just not with you. It’s a very strange loss when you could theoretically pick up a phone and be “together” again. It just lacks the finality of other losses.

Imagine being able to call your dead grandma but just choosing not to, because you’re respecting “her space” or whatever.

“Grandma, what the fuck, why aren’t you calling me back? I just want to talk.”

Don’t worry, I’m respecting “the space” and not picking up the phone, no matter how stupid I think all this is.

“Sam, it’s over” doesn’t feel so certainly over. Is it really over? Yeah, It’s probably really over, but it doesn’t feel over, which to someone who relies so heavily on his feelings is, well, not great.

It’s easy to say and feel nice things about people who have hurt you when they’re no longer among us, because they can no longer hurt you. It’s over, for real, They are at peace now, peacefully unable to fuck with you any further.

But the person lost to you in a breakup, however, can very much fuck with you further.

Mostly unintentional though, since their happiness with another person would be considered a form of “fucking with you.”

You kind of lose your sense of fair, don’t ya?

I think I have the worst kind of heartbreak — amicable, undramatic heartbreak. It’s so much easier to slap a demon label on your ex and pray to the Hindu goddess Kali, Bringer of Destruction, to wipe that evil-doer of the face of the earth. No, instead you are left knowing your ex is a decent person, and that they just don’t want to be with you.


On good days, I may even remember how much I care about them, and wish for their happiness. Just, of course, slightly less happiness than I want for myself. I’m still a human being, and I still must “win” the breakup.

Heartbreak is the end of the world, except nobody seems to notice the end is here except you.

The sky is fucking falling, people!

But no, everyone seems to be going about their day as if nothing is wrong.

The good news is that you don’t have to worry about when it happened, It doesn’t matter. Whatever month or season you’ve found yourself alone and in pain, America has done a pretty great job of making sure there’s some sentimental holiday or event that will remind you just how alone you are now. There’s Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Halloween, your birthday, and my particular favorite, baseball season.

I don’t give a shit about professional baseball, but my son’s Little League forces me to hang out with other parents for extended periods of time and it seems like they’re all happily married and raising their children. I feel like a failure for being a single dad again. Me not having a partner must say something about me as a person. My son is eight, I should have found somebody by now, right?

I sometimes remind myself that I had him when I was 19, so maybe, I’m being a little harsh on myself.

Nay! Ye must be harsh on yourself! Ten lashes!

You start to find out almost every single piece of art was either influenced by love or the lack of it. There’s ample opportunity to become a new super fan of that musician you now realize “understands you”.  It’s Russian roulette though. I choose to stay away from un-curated playlists or radio stations. Every new song will either soothe your soul or rob a little more of it from you.

Heartache leaves you so raw and defenseless, you find yourself doing things you normally wouldn’t. I looked up one day at a school event and realized I was actively emotionally leaning on my son’s step-dad, who previously had been offered up to Kali, Bringer of Destruction. The heartbreak just seemed so much more important than my resentment, and he was just another dude who’s been through enough life to listen to another dude boo-hooing over the shock of it all. We exchanged a look mid-way through with a “what’s happening right now” expression, and then went right back to commiserating.

I really just don’t understand heartbreak, evolutionarily. It makes no goddamn sense looking at it from a Darwinian stance. If we’re all just meant to spread our genes as far and wide as possible why would we have this stupid, painful response to losing a single, potential mate. The world should be populated with callous, insatiable sex monsters who can’t be bothered with attachment or longing feelings for their previous breeding partner— immune to it all.

And I should be one of them, and it shouldn’t hurt this much.


  1. Hi Sam. Well, this sucks and I am sorry you have to endure this. I am also glad you wrote this. Hope you don’t mind, I will share that although I’ve had many breakups, including 1 divorce that left me a single mom of a young boy (around the same time I found your mom’s books in the 1990’s – thank God), my worst is still happening. I am estranged from my mother, who is very much alive. It’s her choice. She just doesn’t like me. At one point we didn’t speak for 13 years. I reached out to her a couple of years ago and we re-connected. She cried and apologized and said she was sorry that she believed lies that others told her about me, which she found out after meeting me again were not true. I didn’t trust any of this, and I was right not to. She disappeared again after another imagined slight. I am 51, and she is 74 now. It’s not going to end well. When she’s gone, I don’t imagine I will feel any peace, only…well, I can’t really think of a good way to explain how that is going to be. Conflicted, sad, and final, I guess. No more chances to try and make something right, or to tell or hear the truth. But, I am a believer, and prayer helps. I have no advice for you, and I am not asking for any, either. I just wish the very best for you and your son.

  2. Sam;

    I’ve recently suffered a very heartbreaking loss of my partner of 6 years.
    Being in active recovery has been Both a pretty big blessing and a self appraising curse as the weeks have passed.
    She dropped me off at work on a Thursday morning, I leaned in to kiss her for hopes of a good day, and she told me she was no longer In Love with me. There was no warning, no build up, no long talks, nothing. No Emotion what so ever. She was done, and I was suddenly lost….
    She moved out, and quickly moved on to dating another, while I have been in a special kind of Hell that only a self-sabotaging alkie/addict can place themselves in. Without having any dialog from her, my mind has gone into places of past, present and future nightmares that would make a demon incredibly uncomfortable.
    Not having had a drink or drug has been only by the grace of God of my understanding, but the pain and the self destructive tendencies of my mind have been wrought with the most sincere desire to self implode.
    I took some time off from my job. I wrote dozens of letters to her and to myself. All of which were unanswered. Meetings didn’t help. Grief counseling didn’t help much ((except in trying to focus on words of daily affirmations which would start out pretty good, but end up becoming F bombs associated with the way I got dumped)), countless hours talking with friends and family about the WHY and HOW this all came about.
    After a few weeks of courting the ideas of dramatic suicide, bloody manslaughter, actively falling off the wagon and my rocker all at once, it finally came down to a whole lot of talking to the Higher Power. And that’s where the REAL party started for me.
    It’s Amazing to me that still, after 13 years of continuous sobriety, that God is usually my “Last Resort” move after a situation that shakes my tree to the core. I’ve proved to myself, countless times that I Feel Better once I drop the reigns and let the Big Kahuna step in to pinch hit me out of my predicament. (Adding to your baseball reference, I can identify). I again, dug my rut, furnished it, hung curtains and wallowed in my complacency during the first month of my heartbreak. It was like sitting in a broken down movie theater- filled with rotting lawn chairs and a tattered screen playing back every screwed up moment during my relationship as well as my life on auto repeat until it felt like my head was going to explode. And, the Best Part was, it was all. On. Me. I was the culprit of my own pain. I was the bad guy. That’s where I was the night before I finally threw in the towel and let God Step In. And, by no means was it subtle.
    See, me and my Higher Power have this amazingly twisted relationship. It’s always at my worst that He shows me His best. Most other times, when things are cool in my little world, we get along great, I see the beauty in life and all the little whispers of “God Shots” in other people, places and things. But when life goes to hell in a hand basket, usually on fire and filled with dog shit, that’s when I see the actual Miracles of His Work. And my life was recently in flames, again. And, again, the miracle started to unfold. Duh.
    I saw my true part in the relationship. I was honestly unhappy too. We definitely had more problems than growth. All of that was easy to understand. That was when my crappy movie screen suddenly became HD quality 4th step work. Once I realized that however shitty she did me in the actual breakup part at the end, I was being the evil queen that shut out every ounce of grace or hope that was trying to get me to the other side of my self induced pain. My inner dialog was consumed by nothing short of dancing through a labyrinth between the 5th and 6th layer of Dantes Inferno. All Because I was dead set on NOT wanting to see that I was my own worst enemy.
    She played a role. I played a role. For a long time, that worked for us. But, then it didn’t. And I wouldn’t own up to that fact. She took that leap, called it out without ever really saying a word, and I got hurt. But, then I stayed hurt. And then I hurt myself More. And, More. And nearly lost myself completely. I’m 43 years old. 13 years clean. And I still self destructed without hesitation.
    Anywhoo.. God has done quite a bit of work with me since that night. He, again, showed me all my broken pieces and gently placed them all in front of me like a waiter in an elegant restaurant, presenting them to me like they were all New Choices. Although they were clearly refurbished, He showed them to me in a way that helped me to understand that everywhere I’ve been and everything I’ve done is playing a role in my present, and that what I choose to pick up and carry with me towards my future selfs’ experiences will make all the difference. I’ve been taking my time with this “presentation display” before me. I’m still going over every broken piece. This is a process.
    See, my “D” day happened June 21st. Two days before my 43rd birthday. And I’m only a week in to this rebuilding of My mosaic. I have a long way to go. I have a lot of forgiving to do. I have a lot of work on me to accomplish.

    I have so much more to say. But, I think I’ll leave things right here for tonight.
    I’ve read quite a few of your blog spots. I’m also a big fan of your mom. And I bet you hear that a lot. But, I know you are too… so im sure you can forgive this last little paragraph.

    Keep doing what you do, please. It’s worth it.
    And, take good care.

    From a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere, Nevada.
    But, at least I’m NOT where I was. I finally allowed the God of my understanding to help me drop the shovel, toss me down a rope so I could do the footwork and get myself out of my rut.

    • But…you didn’t tell us about the part where the inexperienced and much wiser and womanizing ass hole in the recovery group told you to “just get over it.” Well this guy whom I really dislike in the group has come down with cancer and he talks about his woes at every meeting now because, he’s the only one in the whole world with such a problem, except my brother in law took two years to die of a collapsed lung, died two days ago. I suppose I should talk to Mr. Womanizer but I really don’t like his attitude which could be my problem. The main reason I dislike him is because he’s an old timer in recovery and he’s been a womanizer and when he chairs a meeting he has no problem saying…”Yeah, I fucked a lot of women in my time!” My thought is always, but…have you loved anyone but yourself all these years? See we are supposed to become self less and he pretends he is selfless because in his cancer treatment he is weakened but has just volunteered to be District Rep and will therefore prove he is still strong although he complains all the time
      See it bothers me that I’m not allowed to mourn and “not get over it” because guys like me are weak and he is strong and full of shit.
      I’m also sure I’d be all smug as an asshole if I talked to him. He sort of senses that I dislike him because he’s come up to me and sort of hugged me from behind and patted my shoulder…that’s not like him so I think he knows I think he is an asshole. Big problem for me I guess.

  3. Reading comments. I like you guys. Thank you again, Sam, for sharing and allowing a little dialog here. Let’s all take care of ourselves.

  4. This my first time on Hello Humans and I got to say Thank you Sam for sharing your story . I know it’s not always so easy to talk about your broken heart . When I read what you wrote it hit closed to home. I hurt from a broken heart from 2 young men that I love unconditional . I spoke of them proudly we were close but then it happen I mean one day we are celebrating my birthday and my son’s cook dinner and had a cake for me. . It was a great night and then the next day we talk on the phone and my son gf mouthing In the background and i swear to you it felt like he just grab my life Line and cut it . December tjis year will be 3yrs since I’ve serm or talk to them and to this very day I still do not know why. I cry everyday it’s like mouring someone that died. But they are alive and one lives 5miles north of me and the other 5miles yo the south of me. But I will not let go and i won’t . They are my son’s. .my family and I will not abandon them like they did me. I truly feel I will die of a broken heart .

  5. I’ve been listening to your story on podcast and decided to check out the website. Reading about the recent breakup and ensuing heartbreak inspired me to write.
    Most people think the worst emotional pain is the loss of a child. Unimaginable, they say. Believe me when I say the darkness is complete. A long journey back. Yet, after the ending of a long relationship with the imagined love of my life, I suffered comparable, sometimes even worse misery. Like you said, dead is dead. There is a finality and a wall that cannot be breached. When the ex is textable, phonable, stalkable on social media, around the bend kissing someone else, well… the pain is mixed with survival hope. Maybe I can improve enough to be loved. Maybe I can manipulate, beg, push buttons. The anguish is a raging infection. The longing becomes trancelike. I pulled up and out after a long battle with my own demons after the gift of surrender. My interior was a war zone. The damage seemed unmanageable. Yet, step by step, I picked up and cleaned my home, my heart. I look back and know I had to go through it all. Suffering is optional but only after embracing and soothing the pain that is so real.
    I only share because I have grown to love your honest heart and unique perspective. Hang on. For me and those who smile as they relate to being a human on the same planet as you.

  6. Wonderful and rings so true, thank you for bringing awareness to ambiguous grief. I think so many of us are grieving this way, processing the loss of our beloveds–as we once knew them. It may be loss to divorce, dementia, abandonment, or even life changes like a graduation or cross-country move. I don’t think closure is actually possible in any form of grief, but especially not when the grieved one is still living, or the grieved thing still existent. I hope we grow in acknowledging this form of grief and sharing it with each other, thank you again for opening a door.

    • Zoe, LIfe is strange! When my wife of 22 years just disappeared one morning my mind broke and my brain changed literally, I’m not the same person I was two years ago. A strange part of it is the x wants to call me and talk with me, last time she made sure I had her number because as she said, “I’m different from your first wife! Well I’m not sure which one hurt me the most, seems a tie sort of. First wife just had so many lovers it was embarrassing and then she finally told me to get lost. Fuck her! Second wife listened to her first husband who is a so-called priest in a goofy church. He convinced her to leave me and she did without notice, or a fuck you, she just disappeared.
      I’m still changing and I think I owe some women an apology because it seems I attract some women and sort of lead them on then they get embarrased or something and stop talking to me because I won’t ask them out. However when I’ve asked women out after they’ve asked me to, they seem to forget we had a date and don’t show up to our meeting place. Has to be me because it’s to consistent, but now I’m aware of what I’ve done and simply don’t make eye contact with any women. I’m a very confused old man now. (69) It’s even more confusing recently because a married woman approached me after a meeting (alcohol recovery) and told me she stares at me a lot and doesn’t want me to think she is being creepy but she thinks I’m good looking…and so I don’t mind…very confusing for me also because I like women and talking with them but don’t want a relationship but do want some closeness…I could go on but the point is my mind seems to be ok, my brain is causing me to be defensive which may seem offensive…according to my therapist anyway. One woman put it this way after her husband disappeared on her…”After two years of this mind fuckery…” Made me laugh because that’s what it is.

  7. Hi Sam. Your moms book, Operating Instructions, guided me along my initiation to motherhood and discovering my new born son, James. Then my world blew up. It was as you say. 30 years later I still feel ouchy when I think about it. You don’t get over it, you move through it. Sometimes forever. Its a piece of your heart. Just a piece. There’s still lots of room for more. I wish you well.

  8. You might enjoy the book Why We Love by Helen Fisher. It’s a nice science-based book on that Darwinian question you posed. Unless your question was sarcastic, which is ok too 🙂 I’m sorry to hear of your loss. I just read your recent Marry Me post. Made me laugh. I’m glad there are people in the world who can see the complexities and follies of the world and make light of it all even when there’s darkness surrounding them.


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