Brace Yourself: Your Child's First Heartbreak Is Hell


The first time I got my heart broken I was in seventh grade. His name was Jason and he let me down easy one Tuesday afternoon next to my locker. I skipped art class and cried in the girls’ room on my friend Jenny’s jean vest.

It took me a long time to get over that boy. His husky voice, the way he held my hand in between classes, and how he always smelled like Tide gave me butterflies long after we parted ways.

There was no amount of Madonna, slumber parties, or blue eye shadow that could cure my love-sick heart.

I took it hard and told him so five years later over a steak dinner at TGI Friday’s. We laughed really hard about our love affair that night. Mostly from embarrassment, which is silly because we all get our heart broken, but I still remembered that pain. You always remember your first heartbreak. That feeling of being punched in the stomach is so powerful and raw.

It’s been said heartbreak is the second worst pain you can feel next to a loved one dying. You physically hurt. You feel vulnerable. Your mind won’t stop racing with thoughts of shame, blame, guilt, and what-if scenarios. You can’t seem to find a moment’s peace. You can’t eat or sleep. You are useless for a spell, and rightfully so. The one who has made your heart full leaves you. And it takes time and space to heal.

And for most of us, we go through this process more than once. As we get older, and we are more selective and able to give more of ourselves — physically, mentally, emotionally — to our partner, the pain of heartbreak intensifies. It lasts longer. We feel it more deeply.

I never thought there could be anything as tough as going through my own heartbreak, but I was wrong. I just watched one of my children go through it. It was a first for him, and a first for me. And I immediately flashed back to when he was a beautiful baby in my arms, the day I realized he would get his heart broken one day and that I had to be ready.

But when the day came, I wasn’t ready. We never are.

I could tell he was confused about his feelings, but mostly, he was really sad. Parents are never ready to see their kids sad or hurting, even though we know it’s a part of life. Yet that never makes it easier.

My son was feeling emotions he’d never experienced before. It crossed my mind to get on the phone with his love and beg and plead for her to make it better, or to just give her a piece of my mind. Of course I didn’t — it would have made the situation so much worse. Also, how inappropriate.

I told him everything he was feeling was normal, and he would find someone else in no time. He was so young, smart, funny, and handsome, and naturally he was sure to have many sweet, smart girls vying for his attention as soon as everyone knew he was single again.

But this is the same clichéd advice all of our parents gave us, and we know it never helps because none of those girls were going to be her. And that is all he wanted: her. It’s funny how the one that has hurt your heart so deeply is the only one who can make the hurt go away. Your friends can’t take it away, material items can’t take it away, and your mother certainly can’t take it away.

It’s a hard life lesson.

And while I was watching him walk aimlessly through the house, not able to eat, napping all afternoon, and not wanting to talk about it, I knew he was thinking he would never find a love like that again. Because that’s the way your mind works, even when you’re a teenager with your whole life ahead of you.

But he will. You know it, and I know it. He will find so many different kinds of loves in his life, and they will all take up space in his heart and his soul in different ways.

But he doesn’t know that. And it is excruciating being a mother and watching this go down. You are helpless and have to wait it out alongside of your child. You can offer them their favorite foods, lots of hugs, and quality time, but you have to wait with them. And so, that is what I did.

I let him know I was there, that I loved him, and that eventually he would feel normal again.

Now he is back to his old self, and I am sure in some ways he is more armed and ready for the next life lesson he will be taught. And I know one day he will share his experiences with his own kids when they experience their first heartbreak.

I have to wonder if the first cut is the deepest? I wish that were true and that it would only get easier from here, but we all know that’s typically not the case. Our babies will get their hearts broken, they will be hurt by people they care about, and they will have to get through it in their own way. While we cheer them on, of course.