Jews take mourn­ing to the next lev­el. Name an act more dra­mat­ic than shov­el­ing dirt onto the cas­ket of some­one you love. Enjoy anx­i­ety with your dev­as­ta­tion? You’ve got two days to pull togeth­er a funer­al. Feel like hold­ing your­self in the fetal posi­tion for a week after the bur­ial? Too bad; every­one you’ve ever met is going to pay their respects, in per­son, dur­ing the next week.

The pages of our rule­book for griev­ing always seemed unnec­es­sar­i­ly bru­tal to me. I only under­stood the ben­e­fit of Jew­ish mourn­ing when, at thir­ty-two years old, I came face-to-face with real heartbreak.

I’ve loved dev­as­tat­ing music since before I had any­thing to be dev­as­tat­ed about. When I final­ly had some­thing to mourn — the abrupt end of my mar­riage in 2016 — I looked back in order to move for­ward. Some might say I rumi­nat­ed. Tay­lor Swift’s All Too Well” became my anthem. The song is full of vis­cer­al, hon­est moments of a rela­tion­ship — a rela­tion­ship that end­ed in one-sided heart­break. The lyrics gave me per­mis­sion to grieve the loss of my own mar­riage, shamelessly.

A hand­ful of weeks after I filed for divorce, I took a plane to New York City. I made my way toward our old apart­ment on 57th between 8th and 9th, the place where we brought our son home from the hos­pi­tal after he was born. Danc­ing around the kitchen in the refrig­er­a­tor light” blared through my head­phones and drowned out a bustling West Mid­town. I watched our door­man greet a young cou­ple with a cheery smile. That used to be Us; there is no Us any­more. It was the most dev­as­tat­ing walk of my life, and I did it on pur­pose. I was there, I remem­ber it all too well,” Tay­lor sang, as I scooped up Earth and dropped it onto Our cas­ket. Each plea of I was there” — total­ing five — twist­ed the knife fur­ther as I walked back to my par­ents’ apart­ment with The Best of Us behind me.

I was there.

I rumi­nat­ed because I need­ed the con­fir­ma­tion, no mat­ter how painful, that We once exist­ed. Love Hap­pened Here.I let the mem­o­ries that once held me tight­ly cut me open when I was already bleed­ing. Tay­lor Swift sat shi­va with me. She gave me per­mis­sion to press play on grief.

I rumi­nat­ed because I need­ed the con­fir­ma­tion, no mat­ter how painful, that We once existed.

I orig­i­nal­ly wrote my nov­el, Bad Luck Brides­maid, as a short sto­ry in 2019, with Tay­lor Swift’s All Too Well” on repeat in the back­ground. As I expand­ed it into a nov­el, I reliv­ed my grief so I could give it to my main char­ac­ter, Zoey Marks, a con­fi­dent woman fac­ing a stun­ning breakup. Only then, while nav­i­gat­ing fic­tion­al heart­break, did I ful­ly appre­ci­ate how I sur­vived the worst year of my life. To bor­row one of Taylor’s favorite word cou­plings, Jew­ish mourn­ing isn’t casu­al­ly cru­el,” not as I had once thought. It’s pur­pose­ful­ly painful. I use this anal­o­gy in my nov­el: We pour hydro­gen per­ox­ide into an open wound so it can heal the right way.

This past Novem­ber, Tay­lor Swift released the now-icon­ic ten-minute ver­sion of All Too Well,” in which I count over thir­ty echoes of I was there.” She’s buried the rela­tion­ship that broke her heart, but still, a decade lat­er, she’s remind­ing us that it hap­pened — she didn’t dance in the glow of the refrig­er­a­tor light by herself.

There is no offi­cial shi­va for the end of a rela­tion­ship. But in Jew­ish tra­di­tion, we remem­ber so we can heal. I was there, I was there …” Tay­lor repeats in the haunt­ing out­ro. It’s a plea to all those nav­i­gat­ing heart­break: Embrace grief, press play, walk the streets that might destroy you.

Ali­son Rose Green­berg is a screen­writer and the author of Maybe Once, Maybe Twice and Bad Luck Brides­maid. She lives in Atlanta but is quick to say she was born in New York City, as any nice Jew­ish girl would be. While attend­ing the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Ali­son took her first screen­writ­ing class and fell head over heels. A jour­ney from writ­ing led to mar­ket­ing jobs, before com­ing full-cir­cle back to her first love. Ali­son speaks flu­ent rom-com, lives for 90’s WB dra­mas, cries to Tay­lor Swift, and is a proud sin­gle mom to her two incred­i­ble kids, two cats, and one poor­ly-trained dog.