Poetry is the fruit that feeds our souls. It has a way of reaching inside of us to connect with our deepest emotions and feel understood. Poems help us express our affection for others and cope with difficult life events.
Breakups have inspired some of the most beautiful poetry throughout history. From lamenting lost love to spurning a former partner and discovering the light on the horizon, poems about breakups aid in our emotional recovery process.
Here are seven breakup poems about lost love and moving forward.
Time Does Not Bring Relief; You All Have Lied
This poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay delves into the lingering yearning that often accompanies a breakup. The speaker begins by criticizing those who claim that wounds and broken hearts heal with time because hers is a pain that that knows no refuge.
It goes on to compare lost love to aspects in nature such as the changing tides, the melting snow, and autumn leaves that have long since been burned. Through it all the speaker’s love remains, forcing them to avoid familiar places out of fear of reliving memories.
“Time Does Not Bring Relief; You All Have Lied” concludes with the speaker seeking solace in a place she did not share with her former love. Yet, even in this, there is no solace, for the lack of memories serves as a reminder of his absence.
The Things We Dare Not Tell
After a breakup sometimes it’s easier to pretend we are ok. We often find it difficult to talk about how we really feel. One of the post-breakup poems that touch upon this experience is “The Things We Dare Not Tell,” by Henry Lawson.
The speaker describes going through life hiding feelings behind a mask. He believes that even in new love we suffer the pain of the old. We suffer the regrets and the scars, and our hearts continue breaking as we live a lie of well-being.
To this day William Shakespeare remains one of the most well-known poets and playwrights of all time. With over 154 sonnets and 5 narrative poems, he was no stranger to poems about relationships and lost loves. “Sonnet 139” resonates with those who have experienced betrayal in love.
The poem begins with the speaker trying to make excuses for why his lover left him. As he continues to lament the loss, he comes to admit that his lover was unfaithful. She looked to other men, flirted, and drifted from his side.
Infidelity, especially when there is no evidence for it, can lead to very painful breakups for all parties involved. Shakespeare knew what the barb of betrayal felt like, his words carry a deeper understanding that connects with those who have lost in love.
Unto a broken heart
Have you ever chatted with a friend after a breakup and found yourself saying, “You just don’t understand?” According to Emily Dickinson, you might be right. Her four-line poem “Unto a broken heart” is one of those poems about breakups that uses simplicity to convey the deepest of meanings.
The poet ventures to say that only those who have had a broken heart can grasp the full breadth of emotional agony one experiences. No one else really gets it. Without understanding, they are unable to provide the empathy that many of us seek.
Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet with humble beginnings. During his life, he became well known for his moving poetry. In his poem “Love” he deals with how the world looks different after a lover has been lost.
The speaker addresses his former lover, telling her he has begun to forget her. He cannot recall her face or the feel of her lips. All his memories are faded, but the longing remains.
The appreciation and love he developed for certain things stays with him because of her. She is gone and yet he finds her everywhere he looks, and it pains him. He finds himself in search of the extraordinary, in search of something to live for, for the everyday pleasures of life are meaningless without his love.
This Was Once a Love Poem
“This Was Once a Love Poem,” by Jane Hirshfield is a modern poem about breakups. Hirshfield personifies the poem itself. She treats it as though it were a broken-hearted person and describes what caused it to change from a love poem into a poem about moving on after a breakup.
In this work of art, the poem was once young and exciting. It got dressed up, had long insightful discussions, went on adventures, and lived without a care. It was one part of a bigger and beautiful whole, perfect and blissful.
Then the speaker acknowledges that although the love still lingers, the longing still burns, it’s time to let go. Life goes on. It’s time to find a new purpose and get a cat or some potted plants.
But sometimes, when the new life feels like too much, it’s ok to think back to the love and the life that was left behind.
It is important to remember that no matter how terrible we feel after a breakup, we are going to be alright in the end. Mary Oliver emphasizes this in her poem “Heavy,” which begins with a lover feeling close to death with grief.
She decides to sink deeper into her pain and is surprised to discover she’s still alive. The speaker claims this to be an act of divine intervention, for surely, she could not survive such heartbreak alone. Still, the sorrow remains, and joy continues to be elusive.
Then the speaker’s friend gives her a bit of advice: it’s not about the pain, it’s how you deal with it. This is the turning point of the poem, after which the speaker surprises even herself with her own resiliency. She begins to see beauty in everything, including unrequited love.
Poems About Breakups
Breakups aren’t always easy, but we hope that you found some solace with our poems about breakups. We encourage you to share your thoughts below. If you are an aspiring poet longing to share your voice we would love to hear from you.