Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My heart is broken. For the third time in my life, at 51, I fell completely for someone, and now that he’s rejected me, it hurts as badly as when I was 24 and 31.

I’m trying to be happy that I can still fall for someone, but, [fork] — it doesn’t hurt any less than I remember it hurting then. I’m trying to focus on my professional life and the volunteer work I do, but really just want to go to sleep for a year and see where things are then.

In a small town, how to move on? I have fantasies of just getting in my car and driving anywhere, somewhere, nowhere. I’ve reached out to my prior therapist, but her medium — all by phone/Skype now, and I have a lot of anxiety about that sort of contact — doesn’t work for me, and to another therapist recommended to me, but she’s not taking new patients.

How do people move on? do they move on?

— Broken Hearted at 51

Broken Hearted at 51: To fall hard for someone again, I guess, because it’s so great while it lasts?

Or they move on because life has so many other great things. The smell of fresh coffee, the look on dogs’ faces when their people come home, the transcendent sense of connection from reading a thought well-expressed, the first watching of a great movie, the feel of a friend’s hug, the chance to yell like an idiot when a team wins, a big laugh, a good cry. The luxury of one’s own company, answering to no one.

A broken heart can dull these pleasures, even temporarily erase them, but your own history tells you (see above) that you recover enough to start feeling pleasure again.

More immediately: Ask the no-new-patients therapist to recommend someone else. I once followed a referral chain like this to . . . I think a fourth name, and it was fine. It’s hard to do when you’re down or stressed, yes, but it’s still easier than just suffering.

And don’t discount the impulse to drive somewhere. Maybe instead act on a scaled-down, responsible, restorative version of it: Figure out something or someone [covid-safe] within driving distance that sounds appealing, make the calls, make the plans, request the time off, etc., and then go see what a change of scenery can do.

In the meantime, maybe give yourself some credit for being open to love at any age, and all it brings, even knowing the chances it’ll punch you right in the gut.

Re: Broken Hearted: I’m also 51. I have been married and divorced and, more recently, ended a long-term relationship because the person just was not the person I thought he was. I’ve been kind of biding my time, waiting for this to feel better and was getting impatient with myself because I just don’t feel better.

Then I remembered that it took me four solid years to feel like myself again after my marriage ended. It takes time, and it sucks. A lot. Being older doesn’t mean we’re immune to having our hearts broken. I’m sending good thoughts your way.

— Not Immune

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