“It’s okay to cry. Let it out. You are grieving.” she said calmly. It was my fourth day at the mental facility, which I lovingly dubbed in my memoir as, The Heartbreak Hospital. “It’s over. It’s really over. He really doesn’t love me anymore.” I sobbed. Kim, the young nurse that worked the night shift, was by my side with her arm around my shoulder.
I had just hung up from a very emotional call with my ex-boyfriend Oppenheimer, and I was wailing back and forth in my chair. My cries were heard all throughout the unit. His last words were still ringing inside my head. “Goodbye, Liliana. I can’t be on this journey with you any longer.”
I was still dismayed at witnessing this new side of Oppenheimer. A person who I once called my best friend, my closest confidante, was suddenly cold, indifferent, and unloving. I didn’t recognize this icy human being. Who was this person? How could he just flip a switch?
Every time I found myself crying around the therapists, I kept hearing the same words, “It’s okay. Let it out. You are grieving.”
Over and over again.
You are grieving. You are grieving. You are grieving.
For some reason, I felt guilty each time someone told that to me. Grieving meant death. But Oppenheimer didn’t die. He was still alive.
The woman sitting across the table from me in group therapy had just lost her husband at thirty-seven years old. He was a healthy man who dropped dead out of nowhere. She was now a widow left alone with several young children to care for. She was grieving. She had a right to be sad.
I was scared to tell her my story for fear of judgment. Compared to her, I felt like a fraud for landing myself in the heartbreak hospital over a man. But she looked at me and understood. “We are both grieving,” she said.
Just a few days prior, I had made another failed attempt at suicide. I had nearly killed myself over someone simply because my live-in-boyfriend of two years broke up with me over text while he was on vacation. But he was everything to me. He was my life force. Then on a Sunday night, I was laying in bed when I received his text saying farewell. I looked down at my phone and read:
“I no longer love you.”
Five little words. Words no one had ever directly told me before. Soon as I saw them, the strings to my heart were pulled out from underneath me and I was broken. I wanted to die.
As someone that struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, I don’t always know how to handle my emotions. I see things in black and white. I can’t always understand the grey. One impulsive decision can lead me to want to drive my car into a tree or throw my life away because I feel abandoned, alone, and empty. Reading those words, I instantly wanted to hang myself. Fortunately, I was a cat with nine lives and managed to find my breath once more.
It wasn’t until I had left the heartbreak hospital and was placed in outpatient therapy that my therapist Gloria explained that the feeling of grief was just a universal emotion of mourning. Dead or alive. It really doesn’t matter.
It’s final. I lost him. I will never see him again. He is gone from my life forever.
Those were thoughts of the widow as well as mine. That feeling. That mutual feeling of loss. That feeling is completely the same. Then it clicked. Was it really that absurd to be in months of intense therapy over losing someone you loved?
Living in the name of love. Fighting in the name of love. Killing in the name of love. Dying in the name of love.
Heartbreak is just heartbreak.
My pain wasn't more than or less than anyone else's. Pain is pain. But suffering is not.
As Gloria went on to explain, the five stages of grieving were actually applied towards love and death. They were two sides of the same coin.
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
There was no order. These were stages that someone in mourning can flow in and out of until they are finally ready to end their grieving and reach radical acceptance.
Whether it’s self-love, love for your child, love for your partner, love for your dog. Love is what makes us get out of bed each day. It’s what makes life worth living.
When I was at the heartbreak hospital, I stayed in an all-female unit. We were known as the “suicide unit.” We were all placed together in a group because we weren’t a danger to anyone else. Except ourselves.
I called this place the heartbreak hospital because each of us had a very similar story. Our loss of love and hope from within and from without nearly brought us to the brink of madness. We could no longer find a reason to get out of bed. We no longer loved ourselves. We didn’t see the point.
But that was the key to it all. You HAVE to learn how to love yourself first. Before anything or anyone. You HAVE to learn to trust yourself. You can’t just throw your life away at any moment. You HAVE to see that there is a reason to be alive. Walking that fine line of self-love and infinite death is a frightening balance for someone who no longer trusts themselves. But you cannot die along with the memory of someone you lost.
I had to flirt several times with suicide for me to finally understand that we are all capable of greatness if we just hold on a little longer. As cliche as it may sound, everything really does happen for a reason. There is a reason why you are still alive.
If I had never been broken up with, I would have continued to sweep my problems under the rug and I would have never taken the time to get better.
If I was never sent to the heartbreak hospital, I would have never rediscovered my passion for writing.
If I hadn’t begun journaling while I was at the heartbreak hospital, I would have never been able to complete my memoir, Heartbreak In the Time of Coronavirus.
If this quarantine never occurred, I would have never been able to quietly reflect and improve myself with the help of weekly intense therapy.
If I hadn’t gone through any of this in 2020, I would have never been able to stop and appreciate the wonderful people that made me recognize that I was never alone.
If you ever find yourself lost over loss, just know that I am living proof that there is hope.
You have a future. You are strong.
It’s not your time yet.
I promise it will get better.
But it all starts with you.