Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Heartbreak at Any Age

An old weathered heart can still break.
My 17-year-old is nursing a broken heart. After spending much of the summer with a certain young man, she asked him what, exactly, they were doing. In other words, was she his girlfriend? His responses – "I'm too busy for a relationship"; "It's not fair to you because I'm so busy"; "I like you but..." – has made it clear that her desire for more is not his desire. At least not right now.
And so...her heart breaks.
My daughter is kind. She's beautiful. Smart. Funny. She's also achingly open-hearted. Loyal. Guileless. Though there have been a few boys interested in her, none held her attention as anything more than friends. Until this one.
She's had trusted friends suddenly turn on her – some teenage girls can be merciless. Excluded from groups. She was stung by their cruelty. And sad.
But this is different. Perhaps not for her – she seems to be dealing with her heartbreak in healthy ways, seeking out fun with other friends, throwing her energy into school work and extracurriculars.
Nope, this time it's different for me.
Since my daughter confided her heartbreak to me a few days ago, I've felt sick. Food tastes bland. I can't sleep. I have a rock in my stomach that won't budge. I'm having a hard time concentrating on work. My heart aches. There's a weight on my chest. It feels, for all the world, like D-Day all over again.
So I'm putting into practice all the advice I'm forever offering to each of you: I've laced up my sneakers and am trying to walk my way to clarity. I'm trying to eat something – soup, smoothie, anything healthy that goes down easy. I'm meditating to make space for the feelings rather than pushing them away. I'm trusting that these feelings won't sweep me away into an abyss. That they will abate.
Clearly this is triggering in me deep feelings of loss and grief that have nothing to do with this particular boy (who, incidentally, I would like to throttle). I would give anything to spare my daughter this particular pain, one that cuts into our sense of who we are, that challenges our belief in our worth.
I remind her, gently, that she will likely go through this a few more times at least – heartbroken at being rejected or heartbroken at rejecting another. Rejection. It's a cruel word. One that speaks to our sense of feeling alone. Cast aside. Unvalued.
But we can withstand rejection when we don't reject ourselves. I'm reminding my daughter that this boy's inability to place value on her right now is a reflection of him, not her. A diamond unrecognized is still a diamond. 
And I assure her that, no matter what life dishes up, I will, as long as I'm alive, provide her a soft place to fall. But that I hope she'll continue to create such a space for herself. To be gentle with herself. To keep her heart open to all life has to offer, including the really really tough bits.
I'm heartened to see she's instinctively encouraging her own healing. She's spending time with a friend who's going through his own heartbreak – the two are shoring each other up and making each other laugh. She's launched herself into a running campaign with plans to tackle a 5K race in a few weeks. Yesterday, during lunchtime, she sought out the practice room at her school and played piano, texting me that she just thought she "needed to be alone."
In the meantime, my D-Day Revisited continues. So I try, really really try, to follow her lead.


  1. Wow Elle ... if you could see the tears running down my face for you, her ... for me and what i will probably also deal with when mine is older. As a mama i think we hurt more in wanting to take a childs pain, diffuse it and protect them from all harm. What mama bear wouldn't cut a bitch! Lol and i can see how this not only pulls your mama strings but is a reminder of your own wound thats no longer gaping sure but the scar remains. Its like a double whammy im sure and brings to surface that fear of hurt ... your alert button that screams get your armor on! Sometimes reminders are needed sucks no doubt but are needed as a gentle reminder to keep on your toes girly. What doesnt kill us makes us stronger. You have the skills and know how to navigate this and even better prepare your daughter for greatness. .. eyes wide open and I think the fact that she even felt close enough to share this with you shows ... youve made it! Boys are dumb ... men are dumb sometimes too ... we all have moments. How lucky she is to have you and good thing mama are unbreakable even when it feels like we are shattering in a thousand pieces .... i think a mani/pedi mama/daughter day is in order! In her aspect sometimes you have to not get what you want so you can see instead what you need ... deserve even. A hard lesson that repeats cycle throughout this lifetime Good luck on this heartbreak journey. .. its a tough one be kind to yourself. My grandma told me the hardest times were watching me fall, but skined knees make you tough and falls make you learn and in time make you wise. Smart lady and i miss her dearly. Xo

    1. Yeah...I miss my own mom, who was so pragmatic and would likely have something wise to say, along the lines of, pull up your socks and wipe your tears. Life goes on.

    2. Amen to that ... dday and few weeks after i sobbed for my grandma in some way i felt shed make it better .... prob not but she would have been that soft place to land. Just me myself and I and well this wonderful club of women in a shitty spot but still strong and not defeated!

  2. Oh darlings...

    I'm pretty certain though that he is just busy, a commitment is hard to make at 17 when there are so many exams to pass and decisions to make.

    I think though that learning an ability to cope with heartbreak at this age will help her in the future. I was appalling at it (the sky fell on me several times). You're such a wonderful mother to her and so sensible. You do inspire me :)

    1. Okay I'm a bit overwrought at the moment. And completely aware that this has morphed into being about me and my old pain/grief being triggered. But it's also something of a mother bear response -- how dare anyone hurt my baby! And the fact that the kid is actually being pretty nice about it doesn't help! At all!! :)

    2. blast him!

      I get fond of my sons' girlfriends but there hasn't been a significant breakup yet, I expect I'll be very upset if I lose either of the present ladies. Notice I say 'I'...

      We're on the other side of all this pain, we know what's possible. I'm still new at wondering what to do about it.

    3. Yeah, me too, Iris. I think the only thing I can do about it is to be that soft spot to land. I well remember a horrible breakup in my 20s and my mother drove two hours to my doorstep to be there at 8 a.m (I had called her in the middle of the night in a total panic that my heart was, literally, breaking). She did nothing more than treat me to dinner out, buy me some new clothes and just listen while I cried. To this day, I can remember with absolute clarity what a comfort her presence was. When this boyfriend and I got back together (we had a bad habit of on-again, off-again), to her credit, she said not a word.

  3. Oh Elle!
    I only wish the man that broke my daughters heart could be nice. She was a freshman in college he was her boss in the ice cream shop. They fell in lust during a store robbery and by the end of the year she was pregnant with the first and by the end of the next year baby two came. I love both of my grandsons but this man trampled all over her heart! He offered to marry her but she was in college and would have lost her scholarship. She stayed with him for 7 years and she had the affair so he kicked her out and then she had to fight for custody. It was very ugly! He had told her for 4 years prior to her affair if she wasn't happy pack your shit and leave bitch but my boys are going nowhere!
    Ironically this was the same time my h decided to have someone different! Now he knows that was the worst thing he ever did! You would think seeing his daughter going through hell would have deterred him. At that point in his life nothing could have! The experience has changed him and of course me. hugs for you Elle! And hugs to all of the rest of us brave ladies!

    1. Theresa,
      Ugh. I shudder at the thought of the snakes out there. Can only hope my daughter is able to recognize them before too much damage is done.
      Interesting point re. your daughter's affair, though. It's a case in point that sometimes affairs are the desperate response of someone who feels completely hostage to an unhealthy relationship. Does that make her affair a smart course of action? Of course not. But it makes it understandable.

  4. Elle, I admire your daughter's strength and courage. I am sorry it has rehashed your D Day feelings. Take comfort knowing that you making it known to her that you are available if needed gives her additional strength and support to get through this tough time. As for you, try to take care of yourself and hopefully observing your daughter's courage and strength will help you through your own bad patch.

    1. Thanks Cathy. I'm following her lead and, to be honest, she's not moping nearly as much as I am.

  5. Elle what a great mother you are. When i was 16 my mom bought me a small spangled and really beautiful clutch purse that she gave in in preparation for prom--a year or two down the line-time came and no one invited me to prom, and although i was a bit upset,(i don't remember wanted the attention of any of the boys at school) i wanted to protect my own mother---and i told her i had decided not to go.
    The thought of my mom having these dreams for me, and me crushing them was TOO much for me to bare, so I hid my feelingsnd protected HER.
    I did not have the luxury to fall into my mothers arms and tell her that I felt like an oddball, a loser, unloved and unwanted. This became a lifelong pattern, I was the strong one. Ugh. On behalf of all daughters who occasionally feel like misfits and have our young hearts broken, I thank you.

    1. I was one of those daughters. And my mom was, at the time, like yours. Unable to handle my feelings because she was so mired in her own. Fortunately (see my comment above), she got sober and became my absolute rock for the next 25 years. But old habits die hard, don't they? And it's still hard for me to lean on people and far more comfortable to have them lean on me.

  6. I can totally understand your feelings. Many things for me bring up the hurt of the affair and years of betrayal. I will keep this in mind as my kids get older. As of now when they are less than grateful which all kids have their days it has sent me over the edge going back to the days of being unappreciated. Of course I accounted for work stress and other life challenges but now knowing that it was affairs and many times even the guilt hurts so bad. Even hearing stories of divorce I shutter to hear the one side of the story. No one really ever knows what goes on with other people. Look at our spouses they hid so much from us and even themselves. My husband had always told me I was his best friend etc. so I can feel the hurt you are feeling now. So challenging. I love you are using your lessons as advice to her. Sounds like she is doing really well!

  7. Elle, how is your husband handling all this… Is he supportive of your daughter? And does he know this has been a trigger for you?
    I'm guessing the answer is yes on both counts… I would simply like to hear it as I always love to hear from you ... with your amazing insight.

    1. Melissa,
      He's sad for her. And sad for me. However, part of life, right?

  8. Yes. Absolutely. Peace be with you and your daughter.

  9. Fairytale ... maybe. The new Cinderella released we all watched ... have courage and be kind ... i was struck at one part that then followed this with narration stating ... time passes ... pain turns into memory. Ah yes ... thats right this too shall pass. It will be always with me but in time hopefully wont hurt so bad. I needed that today and thought i pass along. One day at a time sisters.

  10. She is blessed to have a mom who really relates. You say how well your daughter is handling this disappointment. If you won't give yourself credit, then I will. Why do you think she is responding in a healthy way? It's you with that gentle hand on her shoulder looking forward. Just like you do for all of us. My kids hurt, I hurt. My adult kids are frustrated about jobs the I'm frustrated. My grandchildren are being made fun of then I'm being made fun of. I think this experience hits close to home more than other circumstances. The best part of your story is she felt comfortable enough to confide and share with you which is huge. Way to go mom! Well done.

  11. I really feel for you, Elle, my son's girlfriend broke up with him over the summer and did it in such a disrespectful and sudden way. It does bring all that rejection, pain and remembrance of the shock back as you read the pain in their faces. My son counted his blessings as his friends rallied round him and appreciated the sympathy and tenderness I had for him. You nailed it spot on when you said it cuts right into who we think we are. Your consistent wisdom and the walking you mentioned really helped me. I've finally started back writing, and I'm trying to face the continuing challenges with my son each day with a renewed sense that who I am is strong in the face of it, sensitive enough to feel and care but with the strength of a residual firmness from old anger that says I will battle and stand up for myself and those around me and as you so often tell us, knowing that we cannot control others but now do have the strength to make decisions if the integrity of our lives is threatened again.

  12. Hi Beautiful Goddesses, It's been a while since I've written, but I'm still here with you all. Elle, I want to say I'm sorry for your daughter's suffering because we have empathy and we know and I also want to say isn't it the one thing that joy is born from? They just can't be separated, can they? It aches and it hurts and we're not going to like it and from it, something is born inside us that can never be taken.
    Yesterday was my 10 month anniversary of D-day. It's like birthing a baby. H is not living here at the moment and it's hard and it's good. In all the things I was ruminating about for weeks and months regarding the OW, regarding my worth, regarding betrayal; this was born:
    Anthem To Me, Message To Him:
    I Am
    I Am
    A Dancer.
    I Am
    A Music Maker.
    I Am
    A Yogi
    I Am
    I Am
    The Inhabitant of a Beautiful Body
    I Am
    I Am
    An Effervescent Sparkler
    I Am
    A Healer's Helper
    I Am
    A Mother
    I Am
    A Lover
    I Am
    A Daughter
    I Am
    A Best Friend
    To Many.
    I Am
    A Birthing Warrior
    I Am
    An Appreciator
    The Elderly
    The Infants
    The Animals
    The Trees
    The Waters
    The Flowers
    The Gems
    The Insects
    The Stars
    The Moon
    The Sunrise
    The Sunset
    The Food
    The Drink
    Art In All It’s Forms
    The Dalai Lama
    The Peace Pilgrim
    I Am
    A Lover of Humans.
    I Am
    I Am
    An Endangered Species
    And I Am worthy of
    Never Settle
    A Partner
    Soul Rapes Me
    Love you all.

    1. That sums up most all of us and I think you are very awesome V. Thank you for your words!

    2. Wow. Beautiful indeed. Thank you for sharing that.

    3. V. You have touched my heart. I feel you. I feel me. Thank you.

    4. A gorgeous piece, V, thanks for creating something so beautiful for all of us out of your painful experience.

  13. Oh Elle I so feel for you. We are never happier than our most miserable child.

    I think you and your daughter are doing everything right. You are a great empathic mother. Of course you feel her pain. Of course it sends you right back to your own most painful time. Of course you don't eat or sleep or feel the heavy weight on your chest. You're normal!!!!

    Your daughter is doing the right thing. She's alone when she needs to be alone. She needs to sort this out by herself sometimes. You remember. How wonderful she has a fellow to confide and cry with just like we do. She feels rejected. What an awful feeling.

    But just like us somewhere in all the hurt, disappointment and pain there is a HUGE learning and growing lesson in all this. Of course the boy isn't to blame. And I somewhat respect for being hones that he doesn't want to be in a relationship yet. Oh if our own husbands had been that honest!!! This lesson will hone your daughter's picker. I wish I'd have been heart broken at 17 rather than at my age. I'd have come out of it much wiser especially having a great mother like you.

    Be there for her but you know she has to work her own way through this right? I know it makes you deal with your past hurt as well. That's the gift of infidelity. As much as we believe, think, convince ourselves we are better and "over it" the scar will always be there and opens up oozing all the memories and pain right along with it. You've had 1,000 steps forward and now 500 back. Just feel your pain and grief and give it a deadline.

    How about planning a really fun girl weekend with shopping and all the girlie stuff we love to do. A funny movie. Fattening hamburgers somewhere. Just a little peek that life is good.

    I'm sending hugs and prayers for all of you and your family.

  14. Elle,

    Your daughter sounds like a very grounded, sensible young lady. It sounds like she has had an excellent role model in you. Clearly you've done a good job standing by her side watching her live life, rather than sheltering her from life's lessons. Under the circumstances you could easily have chosen the latter. Instead, you chose to guide. Well done.

    It is so true that while we may have lived through and healed from great sadness and pain, the scars will never leave. I tend to think of them as a gift. Scars have deep meaning and an uncanny ability to teach us valuable lessons, even when we think we've learned all we can.

    I have plenty of personal experience when it comes to daughters. My daughter is married, in her mid 30's, with five children. I have watched her live through so many things over the years. Her happiness is my happiness; her pain is my pain. We are very close and there is no subject we cannot discuss.

    Sometimes it takes everything I have to keep from saying too much. (She may very well say I don't have a very good success rate. Sigh...). As much as we want to save them from mistakes and heartache, we can't. Without them their lives would be deprived of valuable experiences.

    The most difficult thing for me is to watch my daughter and her husband navigate marital struggles. I strive to be a good listener and sounding board, to be fair and balanced. However, on occasion when she confides his heated words in an argument, not only does it evoke my own personal triggers, but it also summons my protective instincts, as well. Sometimes it's hard to set my own emotions aside so my daughter can discover her own truths.

    Yes, it can definitely be tough at times. In your case, the young man in question may very well be history and you'll never hear his name again. In my case, he is my son-in-law, whom I need to love, respect and empathize with as he (oftentimes quite awkwardly) navigates his life with my beloved daughter. A little secret...sometimes I find it hard to greet him with hug, rather than strangle him. ;-)

  15. F*%#!! I've just returned from coffee with my 17-year-old son's ex-girlfriend. Apparently he cheated on her this summer! I'm reeling. I'm in the midst of 'dates' right now - September used to be my favourite month, now it's my most dreaded. My son doesn't know his Dad had an affair two years ago. I can't even look at my son right now, I don't know what to say to him, how to handle this. Help!

    1. Cat,

      Wow, this is a tough one. I'm so sorry. This must be taking you back to square one in your own healing journey. Triggers come in all shapes and forms, that's for sure. I'm sure this is painful for you on so many levels.

      Our kids are so important to us. We love them like no other, which complicates things sometimes, doesn’t it? It's really hard for me to listen to my daughter's marital problems without feeling triggered, especially when she tells me some of the things her husband says to her when they are arguing. I have to check my heart at the door to be really mindful in my responses. I try not to project my pain onto her because of what I’ve been through. As hard as it is sometimes, I try to remind myself that this is her journey and she needs to find her own truths along the way.

      Under the circumstances, addressing this must be really difficult for you. I’m sure it touched a nerve at the very core of you. I don’t have the answers. I can only share what I try to do with my daughter. I’m sure my daughter would tell you that I’m nowhere near perfect in these things, but I do my best. Even though it’s hard, I try to remember that practical wisdom gained by suffering the natural consequences of our mistakes is priceless. Given the opportunity, I'm sure I would want to discuss the matter and pose some important questions for her to ask herself, like why she felt the need to do this, what other options would have been better, and even how could this behavior contribute to building good character. In the end, though, she would have to figure out for herself that this path is one which leads to heartache for everyone involved--especially for her personally.

      An important thing I have had to remind myself numerous times over the years is that the behavior and choices of my daughter are not a reflection on me or my parenting. I listen, guide and teach as best I can along the way, but as she moves forward in her life, her choices are hers alone. She is my daughter and our bond can never be broken, but she was also a separate individual from the moment she was born. Her life is hers alone to create and mold for herself.

      I’m sure your son is a good young man at heart who made some bad choices along the way—just like all the other kids in this world. Luckily, he’s young and making his mistakes while they are still affordable. I know you love him and will be there for him as he figures out how to pick up the pieces and move on from here. He will make the right choices and learn from his mistakes. It’s hard for us as parents to watch, but these are lessons your son will carry with him from this point on.

      From one mother to another, heart is with you. xoxo

    2. Cat,
      I think it's important to recognize that your son is 17-years-old and likely doesn't have the maturity or emotional language to communicate what he might have been feeling when he cheated. While I think a conversation about integrity and honesty in relationships is important -- and certainly a recognition on his part of the pain he caused his ex-girlfriend -- this can become an important part of his emotional growth. It can be a chance to help him see how easy it is to give in to impulse despite the cost. It can be a chance to help him recognize when it's time to leave a relationship BEFORE cheating. It will be tough for you to have that conversation and tough for him, but it can also help him see that, while you object to what he did, you still love him. Perhaps this is the time to just be curious about what he was thinking and why he went down that path. Help him understand the story he was telling himself.
      I can imagine this is hard. With what my daughter is going through, I find myself wondering how I'd respond if she was cheated on. Hadn't even thought of what I'd do if she was the cheater. Though I hope I would do what I'm suggesting to you. Let her know that there's a cost to innocent parties when someone cheats...and then help her try to understand why she violated her own integrity.
      Good luck. Keep us posted re. how you handled it.

    3. One more thing: Would you husband consider talking to your son and owning up to his own cheating -- without telling him who he cheated on (son can assume it was before he met you)? Might be a chance to both of them to do some healing...

  16. I'm much better today. Your input helped both me and my husband to think more clearly, and talking with our son yesterday helped a lot. We had planned for my husband to lead the conversation, but his disgust and anger with himself and his own actions threatened to spill over, so I took the lead. I was emotional, but not overly so. I (un)fortunately have family history (Dad, Grandfather, Aunt) to explain my reaction to our son's actions. Our son is truly heartbroken and devastated with what he did, how he destroyed a truly special relationship with his girlfriend, and how much he hurt her and himself. He didn't talk a lot, but there was no mistaking his emotion. Somehow, seeing his pain caused my 'parent' brain to kick in and I was able to speak as a loving, caring Mom, not a crazed and betrayed wife. Oddly, it's also brought me closer to my husband - I think because I've been able to lean on him for support to ease my pain, without him being the cause of my pain. A time of painful growth for all of us. Thank you so much for your support!

    1. I think growth is always painful. It's a matter of degree.
      Sound as if you both handled it beautifully and that your son has learned a hard lesson about personal integrity. Better he learn it at 17 than later, right?



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