14 Gorgeously Sad Poems About Heartbreak That Will Heal Your Soul

When in doubt, don't cry it out, read it out.

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There's no special recipe when it comes to moving on from heartbreak and, rest assured, it WILL be one of the most uncertain times in your life. The only thing you can really guarantee is that EVERYONE in your life is going to start offering you their two cents. 

Your mother is going to suggest that you throw yourself into your career. Your single friends are going to start telling you to sleep less and party more. Your guy friends are going to recommend hitting the gym. Your coworkers will begin chattering about online dating apps. I could keep going, but I'm sure the pattern is starting to get overwhelming (especially if you're in the thick of things right now).


My advice? Ignore them all. 

Much like no two relationships are truly alike, no two breakups are truly alike. This means that every instance of heartbreak is an individualized experience that only the person suffering has the right to comment on.

I recognize that the people in your life are just trying to help, but sometimes the only real way to let go is to block out all the noise and look within, but that doesn't always mean self-talk. There are other, less-lonely alternatives. 

I'm a huge proponent of literature therapy. I don't actually think the term "literature therapy" is a real thing. I may have entirely made that up, so I'll explain. Basically, what I'm suggesting is that there are very few tragedies in this life that the written word cannot (at least for a few moments) fix. I'm sure you can say the same thing for a really delicious piece of chocolate cake, but this is a healthier option, I promise. 


Poetry, in particular, is useful after a breakup because the language, by nature, is the most expressive that literature can be. If I had to equate poetry to the human body it would most definitely be the heart.

This lesson became very apparent to me back in college. I had a fantastic Creative Writing professor who channeled his experiences with heartbreak and turned them into art — not only art to be admired, but art to be learned and (most importantly) healed from.

The love poems below are featured in a collection edited and introduced by that very same professor, Jerry Williams, titled, It's Not You, It's Me: The Poetry of Breakup. The anthology has over 90 poems shared by contemporary authors.

I won't spoil the whole poem, so I'm going to share my favorite stanza or lines from each. 


Remember that it gets better and even though right now it feels like you're dying, you're not. The good thing about these poems is that they'll never leave you, and I think that's something we can all take solace in, at the very least. 

1. "I Want to Tell You Why Husbands Stop Loving Wives" by Robert Kelly 

"He loves where they have been and where they are.

He does not love her future." 

(Read the full poem here.)

2. "Intimacy" by Kim Addonizio 

"I'm overwhelmed by sadness, and though I'm there with him

I can't help thinking

of my ex-husband's hands, which I especially loved, and I want to

go back

to that old intimacy, which often felt like the purest happiness


I'd ever know, or would. But all that's over; and besides,

weren't there other lovers who left no trace?"

(Read the full poem here.)

3. "When a Woman Loves a Man" by David Lehman 

"When she says margarita she means daiquiri.

When she says quixotic she means mercurial.

And when she says, 'I'll never speak to you again,' she means, 'Put your arms around me from behind

as I stand disconsolate the window.'"

(Read the full poem here.)

4. "Self-Improvement" by Tony Hoagland

"Sometimes we are asked

to get good at something we have

no talent for,

or we excel at something we will never

have the opportunity to prove." 

(Read the full poem here.)

5. "Reunions With a Ghost" by Ai


"We kiss outside

and you walk off, arm in arm with our demon.

So I've come through the ordeal of loving you once again,

sane, whole, wise, I think as I watch you,

and when you turn back, I see in your eyes

acceptance, resignation,

certainty that we must collide from time to time.

Yes. Yes, I meant goodbye when I said it."

(Read the full poem here.)

6. "Slowly" by Donna Masini 

"I am taking this in, slowly,

taking it into my body:

this grief. How slow

the body is to realize.

You are never coming back." 

(Read the full poem here.)

7. "Minneapolis" by Patricia Smith

"The last thing I want is this stranger inside me.

The next thing I want is this stranger inside me.


The only thing I want is this stranger inside me.

The only thing I want is this stranger."

(Read the full poem here.)

8. "The Pure Loneliness" by Michael Ryan

"This is dignity. This is the pure loneliness

that made Christ think he was God.

This is why lunatics smile at their thoughts."

(Read the full poem here.)

9. "The Sporting Life" by Bob Hicok

"I've learned this much: empathy is shit."

(Read the full poem here.)

10. "Fuck You Poem #45" by Amy Gerstler 

"Fuck you in gasps and whispered benedictions.

And fuck these curses, however heartfelt and true,

that bind me, till I forgive you, to you."

(Read the full poem here.)


11. "Ex-Boyfriends" by Kim Addonizio 

"They're getting married

and want you to be the first to know,

or they've been fired and need a loan,

their new girlfriend hates you,

they say they don't miss you but show up in your dreams, calling to you from the shoeboxes

where they're buried in rows in your basement." 

(Read the full poem here.)

12. "Lover Release Agreement" by J. Allyn Rosser

"No matter how your pleasures with him shine,

you'll always be comparing them to mine." 

(Read the full poem here.)

13. "What to Wear For Divorce" by Angela Ball

"Wear something worn first

By a wolf." 

(Read the full poem here.)

14. "Equitable Distribution" by J. Allyn Rosser 


"I'll keep the house and child in lieu of you, love.

You keep the car and all the photographs

We never did think to take two of." 

(Read the full poem here.)

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