The Worst Breakup Of My Life Nearly Killed Me (And How I Survived)

I thought this break-up was going to kill me.

Woman sitting in hotel room alone, crying after breakup Getty images | Unsplash

It was April 2000. With the woman I'd been madly in love with since the previous summer — a woman I'd wanted since the first moment I saw her. She'd signed up to take a workshop with me at a writing conference and told me later that she'd felt a kind of "destiny" feeling when she first saw my photo on the flyer. So, very quickly and intensely, we were both hooked. Our relationship wasn't easy, yet it was the first one in which I'd ever wanted "forever."


There was something about Sarah that opened me up to a kind of joy I'd never felt before with another person. As the love songs say, I loved "every little thing about her." She wrote amazing poetry, she kept a huge unabridged dictionary open on her dining-room table, and she collected dead dragonflies in boxes. She was beautiful and ephemeral, great in bed, and hard to pin down.

I ignored the warning signs — like the time she said she'd call me that night and never did. (I found out later she'd been out till 5 a.m. with her ex.) Although I cried for days after that incident, I turned my eyes away from the red flags. Nothing mattered except how much I wanted her, and how I felt in her presence. She ended it by phone, from 3000 miles away. She couldn't even give me a clear reason. After we hung up, the room spun. I huddled in my stuffed green chair, crying.


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Briefly, I wanted to hate her. No, I wanted to love her — I did love her. But our relationship had been a kind of Eden for me, lush, magical, and dangerous — and now I had been kicked out. I had no idea how to handle that much pain. I called a psychic. I called a friend. Late another night, I called a suicide hotline. I barely ate. Rationally, I knew I'd had a life before Sarah, so presumably, I could have one after her. But to the part of me crumpled in the green chair, nothing was real except the fact that Sarah was gone.



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As it turned out, she wasn't. A month later, she started spending weekends with me again, but without letting me call it a relationship. Four months later she left again but called and sent postcards as she made her way back across the country to reunite with her ex. Three months after that, she invited me to join her on vacation, asking, "Do you think you'll still be attracted to me?" But when I arrived she insisted I rent my room, then left the next day. I spent the weekend alone, crying and drinking dark beer.

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The happy ending took a while — but it did come. First, though, I got into another relationship much too quickly. When that relationship blew up a year later, I spent six months alone, then dove headfirst into a relationship with someone who was officially (as opposed to unofficially) unavailable. But I also began to work hard on my healing, because I'd finally realized that if I changed, my relationships would, too. Now it's been 14 years since that devastating breakup, and I'm deeply grateful for the much wiser, deeper love I've co-created with Michelle over the past eight years.

From where I stand now, I truly feel no anger, grief, or regret. I forgive Sarah for her confusion, and I forgive myself, too, for the many mistakes I made. I'm grateful for the pain that relationship caused me — something I never, ever thought I'd be able to say! It truly was a big part of what pushed me into transformation.


If you or somebody that you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is a way to get help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text "HELLO" to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line.

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Michelle Murrain, Ph.D., and Ruth L. Schwartz, Ph.D., are writers and the founders of Conscious Girlfriend Academy, a positive learning community for lesbians.