A man and a woman paddle boarding on two separate boats as the drift away and reach for each other

A Roundtable With Darling offers real talk from a few of our writers. This Q&A series will take an issue and share the writers’ personal experience and lessons learned. The hope is to create a space of connection and transparency.

Sheryl Crow sang it best, “The first cut is the deepest.” Inevitably, life’s first heartbreak leaves an indelible mark. In time, the staggering wound becomes a scar. You can trace it with your fingertips, feeling its ridges and nicks, and remember the pain it once caused. Eventually, once it heals, it serves as a reminder of where you have been, the love you had and the lessons learned.

In today’s post, a few Darling writers are sharing the stories of their first heartbreaks. Because this is a common part of the human experience, it is a part we don’t want to forget. Instead, we want to choose to be grateful for heartache and all that it teaches.

Here is what our Darling writers had to say about their first heartbreaks and what they learned on the other side:

Tell me about your first heartbreak. How did it happen?

My first real heartbreak was in my final year of high school. He was older, I was younger and he was unfaithful. We were by no means a perfect match. Now, I’m engaged. There is absolutely zero comparison to the level of “love” that it was, but we were best friends and had fun together. It had been a complex relationship, with high emotional need on his part and some insecurity too. – Nadia Hussain, London, UK

I met him in a bookstore in Paris. Is there a more ideal meet cute? We were introduced by a mutual friend at an event that filled the shop with a whole crush of Parisian literature fans, but I don’t remember a word the speaker said. I don’t even remember who it was. I spent the whole evening thinking about how fun he had been to talk to. Somehow, I knew that night that he would be important to me, but I didn’t quite believe it.

We were both studying abroad, I from a land grant school in Texas and he from Cambridge. The banter was quick and easy, and he caught every obscure literature reference I could throw at him. At the end of a few months, I went back to my last year of school in Texas. He eventually returned to Cambridge. It didn’t seem like there was anything to be done about it. – Shelbi Polk, Raleigh, North Carolina

My first real heartbreak happened when I was 15 years old. I fell head-over-heels for this long-haired musician from church. We dated for a year, and I really thought he was “the one” for me. When something didn’t feel right in our relationship, I broke things off. Ironically, I took it the hardest. Six months later, he was engaged to another girl, and I had to focus on finding my healing and discovering who I was outside of that relationship. – Victoria Sheppard, Lakeland, Florida

I thought I first felt heartbreak when things didn’t work out with my high school sweetheart. Oh, but nothing could prepare me for the heartbreak that came with the loss of a parent. I talk about the death of my mom a lot, but I think that was truly my first experience with heartbreak. – Jacie Scott, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

My first heartbreak was in college. It was my first relationship, first boyfriend, first everything. This guy had sort of appeared out of thin air in a season in my life when I was dealing with a lot of pain. My mom had suddenly gotten sick, and at the time, I didn’t realize that I had run to the arms of a guy in my fear. I also genuinely liked him. He had won my heart. I felt safe. –Stephanie Taylor, Los Angeles, California

At the time, what was your perspective on the loss?

I remember it etching a scar on my trust and shattering my confidence for a while. Not only was my trust in the relationship broken, but also the friendship was gone too.  He was equally as heartbroken, and (credit to him) he was extremely apologetic and remorseful. It totally blindsided me and left a residue of sweet sadness. – Nadia Hussain

It felt necessary. Inevitable. We didn’t share a history, a faith or a continent, so what was there to do? When I first left France, I didn’t think I’d spent much time missing him or thinking about him, but boy was I wrong. – Shelbi Polk

At the time, I was devastated. I dealt with anger and felt as though I had lost the person I was supposed to be with. It felt like this huge “world-crashing” moment back then. – Victoria Sheppard

At the time, I was devastated. I broke up with him, but I just knew we’d work through it. I knew he’d come back for me, but things didn’t go how I thought they would. I was heartbroken for a really long time. Shortly after, he started dating again. – Stephanie Taylor

How did you deal with the pain of losing someone or parting ways with someone you cared about?

I had to remember that my heart was as valuable as his because my tendency was to protect and manage his emotions. I wanted to fix two broken hearts. I realized that the healthiest way to face the pain of parting ways was to only focus on guarding my heart and use the heartbreak to make me more tender and kind, rather than tougher. I never spoke badly of him and took all my pain to prayer. – Nadia Hussain

In a word, poorly. Going home was like the moment after a bone breaks. I couldn’t feel much at first, but eventually, I realized something potentially scarring had happened, even if I couldn’t tell exactly what. My roommates at the time were my best friends, and I am still grateful for the hours they spent just listening. They let me run through hopes, fantasies, regrets and anxieties for enough scattered hours that I imagine I claimed whole weeks of their lives. – Shelbi Polk

I ran from my feelings. My senior year of college, I was super involved and had to be on campus a lot. I tried to save face. I’m talking full-face makeup, cute outfits and hair done. If I looked okay, then maybe I’d feel okay, but the reality was, I’d go to bed crying. I was afraid to not be okay because my ex had moved on so quickly, and everyone knew.

I couldn’t let people see me fall apart. It took me graduating and moving to Minneapolis for me to truly unravel and begin to deal with my broken heart. It took me getting off social media, learning to take control of my thoughts, lots of prayer and tears. I had to accept that I was not okay, believing that someday I would be. – Stephanie Taylor

Looking back, are there ways you might have handled it differently?

I definitely would have given myself space to grieve initially. I would have focused on protecting my heart instead of his. I also wouldn’t have considered returning so many times. – Nadia Hussain

I wish I wouldn’t have let my hurt turn into hatred. I was at a point where I couldn’t find closure and could never wish my ex the best. I wanted him to hurt like I did. Eventually, when I started to realize that relationship wasn’t for me, it truly set me free. I realized there was more growth I needed to experience before stepping into another relationship. I wish I would have let things go way early on. – Victoria Sheppard

I 1,000 percent would have handled it differently. I thought I was doing myself a favor by not allowing myself to process the grief and continue on with my life, but it only hurt me long term. I would have given myself more time to process, accept my loss and not be ashamed to cry or have breakdowns. Hindsight is 20/20. – Jacie Scott

If I could change anything, it would be how I ran from my hurt and grief. I know now that grief is a part of life, and when we choose to stuff it, numb it or run from it, it always comes back later (but only more intensely.) I would be okay not being okay. I would surround myself with people who would build me up. I would stay home and cry, journal and drink tea when I needed it. I would care for my heart.– Stephanie Taylor

What did it teach you about yourself?

That I trust people instinctively until proven otherwise. Also, that I have a high value for loyalty and honesty. – Nadia Hussain

It taught me to value myself and to not make excuses for someone else. I noticed so many red flags in that relationship. While my gut told me they were red flags, my heart kept wanting to make excuses for him. I learned that your feelings can deceive you and the value of keeping a level head. I also learned the freedom that comes by choosing forgiveness. – Victoria Sheppard

The lessons I learned from this heartbreak came much later in life, but I learned that everyone processes grief differently, and it’s okay. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. I grew to value the beauty and strength in vulnerability and to appreciate precious moments. – Jacie Scott

It taught me that I am capable of big love. It also taught me to not run to a relationship when I am hurting. My first relationship needed to end. We were both young and immature, but I think my reasons for getting into it were not sound. I had a broken heart over my mom’s illness. I didn’t realize I was running to a guy to save me.  – Stephanie Taylor

If you could speak to the person who broke your heart, what would you say (if anything) now?

I would say that I know he is much more than the sum of his actions. That the unfaithfulness and emotional abuse at times was a result of an already broken heart, not a reflection of who he was created to be. – Nadia Hussain

We actually still talk every now and then! I’m excited for the life he’s building, and I’m thrilled about the life I’m creating. I don’t think we’ll get the chance to figure out what could have happened, but I’m really glad I got to spend the time with him that I did. He challenged me in ways most people hadn’t really until that point. – Shelbi Polk

I hope you are happy. I hope everything you wished for has come true. I heard you are married and are a dad now. My wish for you is that your life is full, colorful and full of laughter. – Stephanie Taylor

What advice would you give your younger self about heartbreak?

Pain, loss and heartbreak are part of life. To experience these realities is to be human. So don’t try and avoid or fast track the feelings! Where possible, don’t let your hope and trust wane just because someone wasn’t responsible with your heart. – Nadia Hussain

I wouldn’t want to speak to a me who hadn’t met him. I’d let it all play out exactly as it did, but I’d tell my younger self how much there is to look forward to. I’ve been back to France a few times to spend a week or a month on a friend’s couch or an empty bookstore bench. I was worried my heart would always ache, but it didn’t. It didn’t last forever. – Shelbi Polk

You will walk through this heartbreak and come out on the other side stronger. It hurts right now, but when you look back, you will be grateful for what this experience taught you. Don’t isolate yourself in your pain, but surround yourself with the people who are reaching out. Surrender and time are the tools that will help you find healing. Nothing is wasted. – Victoria Sheppard

I’d tell myself not to be afraid to embrace and move through the feels. – Jacie Scott

It feels like this heartache will break you, but it doesn’t. It may not seem like it now, but this loss is going to build a resilience inside of you that you didn’t know possible. Give it some time. Keep praying. Keep journaling. Keep traveling. You are going to be more than okay. You’re going to be whole. – Stephanie Taylor

Have you had your heart broken before? What advice would you give to your younger self who is experiencing this for the first time? 

Image via Jessica Lorren, Darling Issue No. 2

1 comment

  1. Mmm…snaps! I really enjoyed this. So much value and insight, going to take a bit of it with me and share with friends.

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