The torturous healing of break up songs


This broke my heart today: Jackson found one of each of our shoes and put them together in the doorway of the bedroom.

You know what one of the worst parts about this break-up is? It doesn’t have a song yet.

I need that one song that I can just listen to over and over and over again and cry to in the car. That song that lets me know I’m not alone in feeling this EXACT way. There’s something so torturously healing about it. Wallowing in your sads, knowing someone else has hurt like you, letting the pain wash over you, and then eventually washing away.

Usually I get a song right away. But that musical kismet hasn’t happened to me yet. So I started thinking about old breakup songs — every relationship I was in had one…

Don’t Speak, No Doubt (yes, it was the early 90s — I even wrote out all the lyrics and gave them to him)

Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now), Phil Collins (I can’t believe it either, but he put it on a mixed cd for me, and it made sense at the time)

Any and all of Elliot Smith‘s repertoire (played on my very first, third generation iPod)

I can’t remember!!! This is driving me nuts.

Paper Bag, Love Ridden, and most all of Fiona Apple’s repertoire

The first time Aaron left:
Why Should The Fire Die?, Nickel Creek

I think the closest I’ve come to finding one is Taylor Swift’s All You Had To Do Was Stay, but it just feels way to upbeat. And, also, Taylor Swift.

Oh well, it’ll come to me. In the meantime, what were your break-up songs? Do you remember them all? Maybe I’ll find the right one in your list…

22 thoughts on “The torturous healing of break up songs

  1. Caroline

    *hugs* that photo is heartbreaking. I really hope you find your song soon. It’s cathartic for sure.

    Man this is really making me think if part of the reason I’m having such a hard time moving on from my breakup with G is because I never found a good break-up song.

    Here are mine from before though:

    Greg, the first time: Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t by Brand New
    Greg, the last time: basically all of the From Under the Cork Tree album by Fall Out Boy
    Christopher W: I Sat By The Ocean by Queens of the Stone Age (“I sat by the ocean and drank a potion, baby, to erase you”)

    I clearly need more.

  2. Sarah Brewer

    Hey c’mon. T-Swift’s song “Picture to Burn” was fairly important to my healing process: “Watch me light a match on all my wasted time, as far as I’m concerned you’re just another picture to burn.”

    I actually only have one break-up, but it took about 3 years to come to completion so it has a few songs (aside from the one mentioned above.”

    B (first time) – Fiona Apple “Never is a Promise” – I don’t think this was all that relevant to our breakup, to be honest. One of my good friends performed this song and I developed a massive crush on her, so I was just obsessed with this song for a long time. But anything by Fiona Apple makes me have the feels.
    B (second time) – Christina Aguilera – Fighter
    B (third time) – Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know
    B (last time) T-Swift “We are Never Getting Back together” Ok, JK this song came out years after our last break-up, but it should have been there for me during that time! But “Picture to Burn” was a great one to blast in the car during that time.

    Holly – A month before we were dating, our “friendship” broke up (I liked her too much for her comfort) and I listened to Zedd – “Clarity” on repeat along with Tegan and Sara – “Now I’m All Messed Up.” I’m praying we never have a real break-up song :'(

  3. Kristin

    Maybe not at all relevant, but about 6 months after my Grama passed away, I was listening to music in my dorm room and “Angels Among Us” by Alabama came on. I sat down and listened to that song on repeat and balled my eyes out for about 45 minutes. I hadn’t actually felt the loss before then.
    So, you know, I understand the need to find That Song to help with the grieving.

  4. meganfinley Post author

    My friend Jessica made a special playlist for me on her Tumblr. I wanna paste it here so I don’t forget it…

    All new songs from 2015 (you’ll get to play them out, like, BEFORE they were cool).

    Shawn Mendes, ‘Stitches

    The Lone Bellow, ‘If You Don’t Love Me

    Misterwives, ‘Reflections

    Death Cab For Cutie, ‘No Room In Frame

    Tobias Jesso, Jr., ‘How Could You Babe’ (his whole album ‘Goon’ is breakup novocaine tbh)

    Lord Huron, ‘Love Like Ghosts

  5. Angie Reiber

    Dude. Dude. I want to press my face up against the screen and meld with this post, because I can just feel that crying-in-the-car catharsis.

    With Jack, my most major breakup, I did the leaving, so there was some Tired of Waiting for You by the Kinks mixed with Since You Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson. Michael, an emotionally charged fling, resulted in weeks of Almost Lover by A Fine Frenzy on repeat. And Dan, a bad-news affair, ended with a lot of Hands Clean by Alanis Morissette.

    I’d like to humbly offer up Over, Timebomb or really anything by Tov Lo. I became obsessed with her Truth Serum EP (and then Queen of the Clouds full album) at the same time I fell in love with Taylor’s 1989, so I feel like they’re not too far from each other on the taste spectrum.

    I know we don’t know each other well, but my heart is aching for you. Hang in there. There will be music–healing, cathartic music. And then there will be catharsis, and healing.

  6. Jackie

    Oh goodness, I haven’t had that many of these (though I have had quite a few breakups)! Still fun to think about these.

    I feel like in high school, “Airport” by Guster and stuff from Weezer’s first couple albums helped me through some angsty feels. I can’t tie them to a specific boy, though. Maybe throw in some “Numb” by Linkin Park (in my defense, that was definitely 9th grade boy, but ugh what an embarrassing song).

    First college boyfriend is most strongly tied to “I Don’t Care Much” from Cabaret.

    With second college boyfriend, when we went through a big rough patch, I listened to Before These Crowded Streets by DMB on repeat, particularly “The Stone.” When we broke up there was a lot of Rivers Cuomo and Ozma (yeah, I know, I know, still a totally angsty alt kid, DMB aside).

    And then, it’s not a breakup with a person, but “Kids” by MGMT somehow tapped straight in to that bittersweet, prematurely nostalgic, this-is-all-going-to-end-isn’t-it feeling that I had about leaving college and knowing my friends and all those other people I was surrounded by every day were all going to scatter to the rest of our lives. Sigh…

  7. soundtek

    ok, bonus points for mentioning No Doubt…. 🙂

    but try “Porcelain” by Better than Ezra…. its so beautiful but so heartbreaking too..

  8. Shelly Jarvis

    There was only one that hurt me bad enough to require a song, and I played the hell out of it:

    Kiss Me Hard – Dashboard Confessional

    I did a lot of telling myself, “You’re going to be okay.” And you know what? I was right. And even though it hurts, and it sucks right now, you’re going to be okay, too.

  9. Ursula

    I think I listened to a lot of Alexei Murdoch during my last breakup, particularly Orange Sky and Breathe. And also a lot of early Elton John, weirdly? That one’s probably not so helpful!

    Lots of hugs to you, Megan.

    1. meganfinley Post author

      Clearly you do not know about my OBSESSION with Elton John. 😉 I’ve seen him in concert like 10 times!

  10. bee

    ZZ Ward – Last Love Song… Technically about an engaged couple that broke up, but same sentiment about grieving a lost future.

    Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have some good breakup songs. And of course Fleetwood Mac is standard for breakups.

    I share your love of Elton John, I’ve definitely played “I’m Still Standing” approximately 436974552987 times during a breakup for motivation. Also, for another motivational song I love “Phoenix”, especially the Elton John vs. Pnau version, it’s so upbeat and always cheers me up… “If the phoenix bird can fly then so can I!”

    Jon McLaughlin and Sara Bareilles – Summer is Over. Not the kind of music I usually listen to but it always got me blubbering in a cathartic way.

    That’s all I can think of right now, I really hope you find your song soon!! <3

    1. meganfinley Post author

      OMG! “If the phoenix bird can fly then so can I!” was my away message on IM!!! (You old enough to remember Instant Messenger?)

      1. bee

        Haha YES I definitely remember using song lyrics to craft the perfect away message back in the day 🙂

  11. kirstenlf

    I can’t write a lot right now because I’m on my phone and in iffy signal strength, but I just have to offer you what I think is the be all and end all of break up songs. It hurts and it heals and it is so achingly emotional. I hope it brings you comfort to know you are not alone.

  12. mamatyphoo

    I have never heard anyone else talk about the break-up song, but I completely had one with my last big break-up. I listened to Hard To Bear by The Futureheads over and over. I hope you find some comfort soon. x

  13. kirstenlf

    Clearly, this idea has been on my mind more than I realized. Last night, walking the aisles in Harris Teeter, Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” started playing and it nearly brought me to my knees. Call me a cliche but that song! It must have shown on my face because a lady was walking toward me nodding her head sympathetically, we locked eyes, and I said, “I’m trying not to cry. Do you think they do this to sell more chocolate?”

    1. meganfinley Post author

      Oh wow! That’s intense. I have a very vivid memory of crying in the bathroom to that song when it first came out. Not sure why!? It’s not like I had any intense relationships back then.

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