Death, taxes, heartbreak

I got my heart broken last week. Badly. Worse than it’s ever been broken in my admittedly short life. I’m not even really sure how I’m writing this, because I’ve spent the week in a fog of tears and panic and anguish and shock. I’ve barely been functional, I’ve barely been coherent. The morning after the break up, when I woke up and remembered what had happened the night before, I cried so hard I think I pulled a muscle in my chest.

I’ve survived the first few days. I’m still breathing, even though sometimes I feel like I’m gasping for air. I’ve left the house, and held conversations, and gotten a bit of work done, even though it takes an enormous amount of energy to force myself to do all those things. I’ve laughed, really laughed, at jokes, and I’ve smiled genuine smiles. The smiles don’t last long, but they do appear on my face, even though it’s puffy from tears and dull from sleeplessness.

Yesterday afternoon I sat on the subway, an upbeat song playing on a loop through my headphones. As I tried to hold back my tears, I looked around the compartment. I looked at the thirty-something black man opposite me, and the Hispanic couple down sitting a few seats along from him. I looked at the brunette in her twenties to my right, and the married couple with a baby girl in a stroller, to my left. And it suddenly occurred to me that almost every person in that compartment had probably, at some point in his or her life, felt exactly what I was feeling. At some point, each and every one of them had felt the simultaneous swelling and shriveling, and the deep, uncontrollable ache that floods into the chest and clouds the mind. Perhaps they had inflicted that heartbreak on other people, too. They had all loved, they had all lost, they had all been through what I’m going through. And then I realized that almost every person in the world had probably felt it, too, and if they hadn’t felt it yet, they almost certainly would in the course of their lives.

Heartbreak is universal. War, poverty and hunger touch altogether too many of us, but they don’t touch us all. Heartbreak – loss, anguish, longing, rejection – touches us all at one point or another. That tiny little girl in the stroller, so innocent and unharmed now, will feel it one day too. Heartbreak, like death and taxes, is inevitable. We all feel love and we all feel loss. It’s what makes us human.

Heartbreak is universal, because love is universal. I, like almost every other member of the human race, have loved. I, like almost every other person who has or will walk this earth, have had my heart broken. It’s this realization that makes me feel alive, even when it feels like I’m dying inside. It makes me feel connected, even when the loneliness and pain threaten to overwhelm me. It makes me feel human.

I’ve always been a believer in the silver lining. And luckily, this week of dark clouds had brought with it quite a few silver linings. I discovered that my father is a hopeless romantic who believes in fighting, hard, for the people who are important to you. I was reminded that my friends are spectacular, generous, wise people who care deeply about me. I confirmed what I’ve always suspected, which is that the beauty industry has indeed been lying to us all this time about “waterproof” mascara. And I served as a living, barely-breathing reminder that even the most outspoken feminists are deeply capable of loving men, stereotypes be damned.

So go out and love, whoever it is that you love. Go out and get your heart broken. And let the pain, even when it feels like too much to bear, remind you of the importance of empathy. Because no matter our differences, we have this thing – this one achingly important thing – in common. We all get our hearts broken. We are all human. We are all connected.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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Join the Conversation

  • nazza

    I will hold you in the Light, Chloe.

    We grow so attached to those with whom we are close. Our bodies go into chemical hyperdrive in the period of infatuation and being in love, then do the same thing should we ever have to break up and part ways.

    You are good to seek the silver lining. Be good to yourself as you heal, and give yourself all the time you need to do it.

  • Taylor Orriss

    Keep your chin up! This is an amazing post- so truthful and helpful.

  • Zoe

    Wonderful post. I’m sorry that you had your heart broken but I’m glad that you can find the silver linings. They’re always there, just sometimes it’s a matter of whether we wanna see them or not.

    Waterproof mascara is definitely a lie. I don’t know why they bother insisting on it.

  • Jon

    That absolutely blows.
    Hope you bounce back ok.

  • Véronique

    I’m sorry you had to go through that. But you wrote about it so eloquently and with such humanity that I have to think that at least one good thing came out of it.

  • Sarah

    Thank you for sharing your truth with the whole world. You are brave and I hope you’re proud of yourself for this. Keep looking for light, give yourself room to heal, and remind yourself that you are beautiful!

  • shannon

    I remember when I had my heart broke and I was such a complete mess and I thought: I am a feminist, I am a strong woman, I should not be this upset about being alone.

    And it took me a long time to realize that I had been strong. That I had loved deeply and been brave to take such a huge risk. And I had been brave in the way that I made it through it. And I know that all sounds like a no brainer, but at the time it was really hard. So I just think it’s so wonderful, on this blog full of things about strong women, to be honest about how breakups just can tear us apart. And how we need to keep loving anyways. And how that is part of what makes us amazing.

    My heart goes out to you. It doesn’t seem like it now. But each day gets better. For me it never got worse than that first morning I woke up and remembered. And though it is true, that you are never quite the same after a big break up, it can be for the better. I have a much more intense sense of empathy, and connection to others (in a strange way) because of my heart break.

    Anyways, all this yammering on about my experience, where all I really wanted to say was: Way to be brave. You will keep going. And the future will be amazing.

  • shannon
  • J Crowley

    There’s a line from the song “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks that I’m reminded of whenever I experience or think about or hear about this kind of thing and the revelations the experience seems to give people about feeling alive:

    “Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
    Without a hurt the heart is hollow.”

    Perhaps an overly poetic way of describing it, but I’ve found it helps combat the crippling despair and the ever-present temptation to completely shut off my emotions forever.

  • Lisa seyfried

    Beautiful. Thank you for the reminder that it’s ok for feminists to feel and to cry about losing someone they love.

  • Steve S

    Thanks for your words. Simply lovely.


  • Caitlin

    Thank you for your beautiful post! It can be really hard to reflect on the grief of others when grief always feels so intensely personal. I had my heartbroken about a year and a half ago and I think I am only now coming out of it, but during that period of time I met someone new and developed some of the best friendships that I have. This type of change can be crushing, but I hope for you too that new things will grow from it.

  • Maggie

    I sincerely appreciate this post. I found myself in the exact same place two weeks ago and i’ve been having a really hard time pulling myself out of this funk. For whatever reason, your words have finally broken through and even minutes after reading this, I am already feeling some relief [finally]. Thank you again for putting it all out there and being a strong, beautiful, feminist and human.