What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

Every time I went through a breakup, my mother was there on the edge of the bed

Songs don't really do it justice—breaking up is hard to do.

The first time I experienced this tragic event (when you're 13, it sure does feel like a tragedy) was at the beginning of 8th grade. I'd spent the entire summer with this cute and funny boy who had moved in down the street from me. We held hands. Splashed in the pool. Kissed beneath the August moon. That summer was the most romantic time of my life.

When school started, he was snatched up—because he was cute and funny—by the popular crowd, leaving me behind. He also left me wondering: What was wrong with me?

My mother assured me that there was nothing wrong. He was the one losing out, she said. He didn't realize my greatness. If that's so, I cried, why did it feel as if my heart had shattered into a million tiny pieces? I wanted to believe my mom at the time, but I was 13. How could she possibly know more about love than me?

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I eventually recovered and managed to keep my heart intact for the first few years of high school. The main reason was that I didn't have any boyfriends until my senior year, when I started dating a guy from another school.

Our semi-long-distance relationship (we lived about 30 miles from each other) made it easy for him to cheat on me during the day, and after six months, he broke up with me—over the phone. While my heart again disintegrated, I listened to his apology. It just wasn't working between us, he repeated over and over, and I can't even remember who hung up first.

Again, I was devastated. And again, my mother assured me that it had nothing to do with me. We just weren't meant for each other, she said. But how could it have nothing to do with me? I was the other half of "us." It had everything to do with me. I was 17. How could my mother possibly know more about love than me?

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My next experience with heartbreak came in the form of a Dear John letter. The author was a literature professor at Boston University and it was written with all of the heartfelt emotion of a thesis paper. His introductory sentence stated that our relationship no longer suited his lifestyle, due to the following three reasons: distance, desire and different religions. He then devoted a paragraph to further explain each reason. As if that weren't bad enough, he wrapped it all up with a concluding sentence: Thus, our relationship could never work and best we end it before it goes South.

If going South meant climbing into bed for a few days and not eating, I was well on my way. And like all of the times before, my mother sat on the edge of my bed, reassuring me that I was better off without him and that life would go on.

Of course, she was right. I eventually married and found my happily-ever-after. Which is not to say that I left the world of breakups and heartbreaks. Now I'm just experiencing it from the edge of the bed.

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I feel my daughter's pain deep inside my bones. I cry silently while she sobs uncontrollably as if the world were coming to an end. My mom must've felt similarly way back when, and I never realized the depths of how my heartache affected her.

"He broke up with a text," my daughter cried. "A ding, followed by 'U & Me R not working.'"

"It's his loss," I said. "You're better off without him."

My daughter doesn't believe me. How could she? How could I possibly know more about love than she does?

In years to come, she'll take my place on the edge of the bed. Technology will change but breaking up will be just as hard as it ever was.

And mothers will always be there to catch the tears.

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