Not “Heartbroken”

[Author’s Note: When a loved one dies by suicide – in my case, my only child – there really isn’t a word that touches the pain. It is un-name-able. In the first weeks after Julian’s suicide, many people referred to my experience as “heartbreak”, but that never rang true for me. I knew what they meant, but I needed a more visceral vocabulary to describe my loss.

This poem was written in the early weeks after Julian’s suicide. Four and a half years later, I am no longer in this mental/emotional space, but the point is: for a while I was. At the time I believed I would forever feel that way. One thing I now know for sure: whatever I happen to be feeling…this too will pass. Naturally, I still miss him, and wish he was still walking the earth. But I am no longer paralyzed by the pain. I am still standing. I am still alive. This is – once again (because for a while there, it wasn’t) – a good thing.

Suicide and mental illness have been much discussed in the aftermath of Robin Williams’ suicide. I’m glad for it. Glad that the conversation is finally so public and widespread. Glad that people are raising awareness and expressing compassion and encouragement for those challenged by depression. And heartbroken, indeed, over our cultural and personal losses.]

I am not heart-broken.
It’s more like…


Heart-stomped-crushed-and-ground-into-the earth,

Not just split in two even halves,
a jagged line down the middle,
like the primitive doodles
of a young girl’s unrequited crush.

No. This heart is a massacre,
the mangled mayhem
of vehicular wreckage
and vascular violence.

Rubberneckers eagerly strain
to assess the carnage here;
The bile rises in their throats;
A stench of death’s in the air.

The leaden load of a stranger’s loss
pressing against their chests;
They’re compassionate, yet grateful
it’s not their cross to bear.

I am not “heart-broken.”
There are no words, you see,
to describe the void inside me
where your heartbeat used to be.

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