In the still moments of her mini-eyelids fluttering to sleep, it becomes hard to resist wanting to protect this mini-human, just because she's so damn adorable. As I watch the toddler of a close girlfriend drift off, I marvel at how much I can relate to what her mother means: "It already breaks my heart that she's going to get her heart broken someday."
Fast-forward fifteen years; her mother and I sit on the couch; this little girl is now at university but home for the holidays and she walks in and bursts into tears, freshly dumped by her boyfriend.
Her mother gives her a cuddle and I pour her a drink and we talk and talk and talk (assuming that by that point we still remember how to have face-to-face conversations, instead of relying on iPhones and touch screens and devices yet to be invented).
At one point, her mother leaves the room, her daughter starts welling up again, and I find myself rambling:
"Sweetheart, I know this sounds crazy, but I promise you that eventually, you will be grateful for this. You know what would be strange? Not feeling anything right now. If you could really care about someone then let them go that easily, without any sadness, I would be deeply worried about you.
The fact that you can feel this broken means that you have the capacity to experience your feelings and that is wonderful. The same emotions you use for loving anyone are the same emotions you use for loving everyone. Those emotions will keep you safe from loneliness.
The most dangerous people I know have hearts of steel. They weren't born that way, they became that way. They lost touch with themselves, denied what they were feeling, and became hollow. Feelings are what make you human, emotions are what differentiate you from a robot or a computer.
So whatever you're feeling, you just need to ride it out and see where it takes you. I know that for now, you've sworn off boys forever, but at some point, someone new will trigger something unexpected inside of you that you had forgotten was there.
Although right now, yes, it seems like life is over. I know you feel weak for feeling so upset. You're not. Everyone I know has been semi-suicidal over heartbreak at some point. When love fades, it's hard to see the point of anything.
All you want is to do is lie in bed and cry. And die. Again, normal. Personally, with every breakup I've been through, I've just wanted to listen to sad songs and eat bad food and sometimes you have to do that. I've had friends who've lost their appetites or not slept properly for months.
Every breakup has a grieving process; you have to give yourself time to recover. But at some point, you're going to remember that only you can make yourself stronger. At some point, you're going to see why it didn't work out. The most common story ever is that you wanted different things.
At some point, you might understand that nobody's to blame. You are allowed to want what you want and so is he. And maybe you needed to be together for awhile to know why you couldn't stay that way forever.
At some point, you're not going to see this as a failure, but as an example of two people who tried to build a shared life but couldn't. Eventually you will be thankful for this, because it will either make you better or make you bitter, and your parents and I would have trouble with the latter.
At some point, you'll see that this taught you what you want to do differently next time. You'll see that you only learn how to love through being in love. Everyone has ghosts in their heart. But if you're smart, and I know you are, you'll reflect on what yours have to say.
Nobody else can teach you this stuff. Often we look to others for something only we can give ourselves. Sometimes we realise that we're hung up on things we didn't even realise still haunted us. And it can take losing someone for us to wake up to what needs to change.
You might not see it now and it may take years for it to come into focus. But eventually, you will see that while this was painful, it was crucial in helping you to become more honest with yourself.
Of course you feel sad, and like I said, it would be bizarre if you didn't. You might not feel better tomorrow, next week, or even next month. But I promise you that a year from now, the sting will have faded.
Your mother has been through this, so have I, and now so have you. It's the opposite of fun and things might feel strange for awhile... but if you accept everything you're feeling, you will learn to let go of the pain while always holding onto what it taught you.
'I wouldn't worry, you have all your life, I've heard it takes some time to get it right.' Those are lyrics stolen directly from London Grammar. They are true.
Now, let's go get your mother drunk, and take a trip down memory lane... I can remind her of some of the interesting characters she dated, before she met your father."
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