The heart is the engine of human life, the organ that says, “Yes, I’m going to keep on keeping on, keep on beating as long as I can.” Its motto is, “Life is worth living, no matter how tough it gets.” Never say die. We speak of someone “having heart” when they fight on through impossible conditions to reach a goal, especially when that goal involves someone else’s welfare.

A broken heart is called that because it feels like a critical blow to this organ. We actually feel an aching in our chest and this last bastion of the will to live feels like it’s been lanced. Sadness, pain, and loneliness well up from that fractured center and engulf us. What event most typically causes all this? The loss of someone
we love.

“Loss” meaning they are taken away from us. The simplest and most final way for this to happen is when death takes them. Someone loses a child, a parent, a spouse, or a best friend. They’re gone from the earth and the survivor is left here without them; that can be a lot to bear. So we hear about one aging spouse who passes away, and not too long after, the other one dies of a broken heart. Tragic as it is, this outcome isn’t hard to understand.

And then there’s a different kind of broken heart, where the person you lose goes right on living, and it is their choice that takes them away from you.

That’s the romantic variety, and to the pain of loss it adds the pain of rejection, and the madness-inducing
feature that the one you’ve lost can still be seen, roaming the earth and maybe in the company of someone else. They’re gone, and yet they’re not gone.

This kind of broken heart is a little less straightforward. For it harbors a complication: when you were left, the one you love got what they wanted. But that doesn’t mean it’s less painful. A million sad love songs aren’t wrong.

No, love is still love when its complaint is not against death, but against the very person who is the object of that love.

To understand that better, let’s take a closer listen to this kind of plight. What does a broken heart say, in the tangled realm of romance?

The Words of a Broken Heart
I can’t believe you’ve left me, you’ve spurned me
I can’t live without you (I won’t live without you . . .)
Please take me back
I love you so much, you have to love me
My heart is aching, I can’t breathe, I can’t walk, the sadness is crushing me
I am so alone
Life can’t be this cruel and unfair
See my misery and make things right
You are all that matters, you are beautiful, you are the one
I am nothing without you
Only you can make me happy
And the song goes on.

The pain of lost love is a terrible thing; it’s devastating and it can have lasting consequences. But if you look at the lyric, is there a whole lot in it that concerns the well-being of the other person? Not really. It seems to be all about the “me”, not the “you”. The you may in fact be doing alright, may not be suffering much, but that isn’t the me’s concern here.

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