You Can Be Heartbroken And Thankful At The Same Time

how to deal with a heartbreak

Not long ago, I got my heart broke.

And yes, I mean the grammatical inconsistency. When something hurts to the marrow, I find it oddly comforting to sink back into old country idioms. Lord knows why.

The what of it doesn’t much matter—many folks wouldn’t quite understand anyway. But you know how losing something near and dear to you feels. Just cuts out a piece of your heart.

No, nobody died, thank God. And no one close has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. This month, anyway. Nothing like that. So, a long list remains to be grateful for.

This was one of those things, however, which had carried my hopes and dreams for quite some time. Years, actually. And while I’d worried a bit about what was occurring, began to know the outcome would not be good, still, the finality of it engendered a grief response I wasn’t prepared for.

You know how when someone close is dying, and you’ve known it, been dealing with it, think you’re at least a bit prepared, and then when the passing occurs it hurts every bit as much as if the death fell out of the blue?

Funny how life happens that way. We’re never quite prepared for the finality. Whether of the death of someone we love, or the demise of a dream.

And I realize, yet again, how there is no way over, under, around those 5 stages of grief. You just have to feel it. Go into it. Muddle through as best as you’re able.

Grief takes as long as it takes.

But it also brings up, yet again, how blessed I am, in so many ways.

Friends, for starters. Those in my close circle do understand what this has meant to me. They’ve been oh-so wonderful, making me realize, once again, how very loved I am. And how fortunate I am to be able to return that love.

True manna from the gods.

As author and priest Henri Nouwen said, “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing... not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares.”

Of course my spiritual path sustains me. That I have the connection to my source, and all the comfort and tools that brings in times like these, well, I can’t imagine being unable to rely on that.

It reassures me life goes on. Which it does. No matter the sorrows or disappointments we face, life just keeps on lifeing.

And as always, I fall back on my writing. Through the deep heartaches of this journey, I’ve had the true blessing of being able to write them out. To make sense of, to let go of, to find the cathartic essence in whatever event.

It is my deepest form of prayer.

As runner and author Kristin Armstrong said, “I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful - for all of it.”

So I’m profoundly grateful for all of those points.

And there are things to be grateful for within what happened as well. True, deep, abiding pieces remain. Bits of the dream, which I can gather up and take forward. Just in a far different manner from how I’d planned . . .

And I know by focusing on those, feeling gratitude for them, we’ll proceed with much more joy.

But I also know that it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to cry. It’s all part of this process we call life.

As author Vicki Harrison said, “Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

No one comes out of this life without loss and heartache and the death of dreams. We’ve all had them, if we’ve walked along the path of this existence very long or very far.

That’s one of the things that makes us human.

I love in mythology the true meaning of sacrifice and loss. The point is that the wound itself opens one to the understanding of the suffering of others.

That we all have sorrows. And the depth of pain opens more compassion in our hearts for our fellow humans, because boiled down to our essence, the experience is shared.

“Compassion,” as Joseph Campbell said, “transcends the divisive experience of opposites.”

So now I’m a lot better. Even though the sadness catches my breath now and then, I’m on the road to mend.

How do you get over heartbreak?

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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48 comments
Christy says October 12, 2016

Grief comes from so many events. Death and severe illness plus loss of job or even you child going off to college. Arming yourself with this knowledge can make a big difference

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    Susan Malone says October 12, 2016

    We’re all going to have loss, no? And as you say, grief comes from so many different events. Love your perspective, Christy.

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Carol Rundle says October 12, 2016

Heartbreak, sadness, and grief are part of life. Yes, we wish they weren’t, but since we’ve never known anything else, how do we know that life would be better without them? Maybe we need them. Maybe they make us better, stronger. Maybe without them, we wouldn’t have as much gratitude. Thoughts to ponder.

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    Susan Malone says October 12, 2016

    I believe that, Carol. Although I’d rather by-pass grief, we can’t now, can we. And it does help us to be stronger, to feel greater joy, and to appreciate life . . .

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Jennifer Quisenberry says October 12, 2016

I’ve been there. It does hurt to “get your heart broke.” A lot. The death of a dream is worthy of mourning. It shows that you loved it.

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    Susan Malone says October 12, 2016

    Ah, I love that, Jennifer. And so true–when we feel deep sorrow, we know we have loved truly and well.

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Sabrina Quairoli says October 12, 2016

I think that after having your heartbroken we never fully heal. The heartbreak becomes a scare that can only be seen on those rare occasions when the situations and circumstances comes forward. Knowing what to do to help you stay positive and not fall into the grief again is helpful. This helped me when I dealt with the lose of my parents.

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    Susan Malone says October 12, 2016

    Losing your parents is its own unique sorrow, isn’t it, Sabrina. I know that one too . . . But then, our scars are the strongest places in our hearts, no?

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Renee groskreutz says October 12, 2016

The interesting part about heartbreak is that it isn’t just reserved for death. We can be heartbroken over a job loss or a broken dish that meant something so dear to us. We need to be allowed to grieve for many different things in our life.

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    Susan Malone says October 12, 2016

    So true, Renee–anything dear to us that we lose causes grief. Which just then takes as long as it takes . . .

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Chelley @ A is For Adelaide says October 12, 2016

Grief is so hard. I think that being able to experience it, however, truly does bring us closer to others. It sucks, yes. But a necessary evil.

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Tamuria says October 12, 2016

Grief, in one form or another, is unavoidable. Even when you think you’ve recovered it can tear away at your heart unexpectedly, reopening wounds and making you work towards serenity again. Gratitude has always been my best tool for recovering – forcing myself to see and acknowledge the many wonderful parts of life that sometimes get buried under the sadness.

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    Susan Malone says October 12, 2016

    Isn’t that how it works, Tamuria–one day you’re just motoring along, minding your own business, when wham! Grief washes over you again. But like you, focusing on gratitude has been my best tool for recovery as well.

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Alene A Geed says October 12, 2016

such a heartfelt post. thanks. As I was reading it, the phrase ‘If one door closes, another one opens’ popped into my head. We all have to be OK with grief and in turn be thankful for those people that surround us and make our life worthwhile

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    Susan Malone says October 12, 2016

    It truly helps to be grateful, doesn’t it, Alene. And we all have so much to be grateful for!

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Katarina Andersson says October 12, 2016

Thanks for your article. Grief is a heavy thing but I believe by thinking positive and trying to stay grounded in reality, you get through it step by step. To me heartbreak is something a bit different, but it might be me reading the English language differently and putting my own mothertongue connotations into that word etc. 🙂

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    Susan Malone says October 12, 2016

    Heartbreak is a bit different, Katarina, but leads to grief as well. I can’t imagine how challenging all of this in another language though!

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Katie Crenshaw says October 12, 2016

This is beautifully written. Dealing with a loss is always hard. However hurtful it is, it helps us really appreciate what we do have. But it is hard to have that missing piece never to return.

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    Susan Malone says October 12, 2016

    It is hard, Katie. But by appreciating what we have, our lives become so rich.

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Rachel Lavern says October 13, 2016

This is the second time I’ve written a lengthy comment on your blog, only to have it ‘disappear’. So here goes a short version: We’re taught that time will heal all wounds, and believing that your heart just needs some time to heal can provide you a bit of comfort. Especially if you’re feeling numb or overwhelmed with grief, making it difficult to function. There is so much more to healing, and in order to thrive in the aftermath of heartache, we have some work to do to get there.

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    Susan Malone says October 13, 2016

    We can’t figure out what’s happening, Rachel, but we’re trying! Thank you for being persistent 🙂
    Yes, dealing with grief takes time but most importantly, grief work. That’s what starts you on the road to healing.

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Jackie Harder says October 13, 2016

Yes! Take as long as you need to process your grief. There is no “one size fits all” timetable. My best advice: Just feel it. Don’t try to stuff it or hide it or ignore it. Number one, it doesn’t work. Number two, it will take so much longer. Grief if natural; suffering is optional. Great post!

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    Susan Malone says October 13, 2016

    I often say that grief just takes as long as it takes, Jackie. So true!

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Rebecca Bryant says October 13, 2016

Grief is something that can come from many different places. whether it’s a loss of a loved one or illness or even loss of something you value. i find being armed with knowledge adn a sense of myself helps.

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    Susan Malone says October 13, 2016

    Knowledge and a sense of one’s self surely helps the process, Rebecca. Great insight!

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Reba Linker says October 13, 2016

Sending love. Heartbreak stinks. Yeah, I know it’s important and all that, it still doesn’t hold a candle to feeling awesome!

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Roslyn Tanner Evans says October 13, 2016

I spent yesterday with family and my Jewish community observing Yom Kippur. There is a service where we say prayers of remembrance. We say a separate prayer for each parent, sibling, extended relative, friends, 6 million , Israel, Martyrs and more. I have used this memorial book for most of my adult life & I never noticed the section ‘in memory of a parent who was hurtful’. As my eyes hit upon the words an old sadness , a loss I thought I had dealt with thru years of therapy, (being abandoned by our father while an infant) which caused my placement in foster care & forever altered my life. I was able to recite words that I only offered up to loved ones. I thought about it & realized that I was feeling gratitude for the life I did have, & I do not know how it would have turned out had he stayed.
Reading your words has comforted me & I feel complete.

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    Susan Malone says October 13, 2016

    Oh, Roz, it’s such a startling hurt when that happens. Old grief pops up like a dragon, grabbing us by the throat. I’m constantly amazed by who you are. You are such a shining light.

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Mona McGinnis says October 13, 2016

These words have always encouraged me:
I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable – Lindberg.
During a time of angst, I confided in a friend, expecting sympathy. She advised me to stay with it and see where it would take me. I’ve learned that the worse times, including times of grief, have led to the most personal growth. Now I look forward to where it takes me.

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My Teen Guide says October 13, 2016

Heartbroken, sadness, and regrets are part of our lives. I faced these all at a young age and I’m thankful for all those people who was at my side when I’m in this situation.

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    Susan Malone says October 13, 2016

    Those people by your side get you through, don’t they. So glad to hear you have them!

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Lori English says October 13, 2016

Hello,
This was an excellent article and I love the part about being grateful and feeling hurt. The two emotions are on the opposite side of the spectrum. Resolving the pain is crucial for you to move on after a loss. I really had a lot of thoughts and many people feel they can move on right after a breakup, divorce, death, and usually this is not the case. Talking . having fun and working through emotions is the Healthy way.Good Post! Lori English

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    Susan Malone says October 13, 2016

    There’s no way through but through it, is there, Lori. No magic wand, no way to fly over or around. We just gotta feel it and move through it, no?

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Amanda Goodenough says October 13, 2016

You are so right, grief takes as long as it takes! Heartbreak is such a huge part of life unfortunately.

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Beverley Golden says October 13, 2016

When my father died when I was only 19, I thought I would never get over it. He was my one true experience of unconditional love and his loss, in so many ways, informed the rest of my life to now. Sadness and grief is often experienced in the lungs (Chinese medicine), so you talking about sadness ‘catching your breath”, really resonated with me. When I was younger everything seemed possible and it somehow seemed easier to pick up the pieces and forge ahead, leaving whatever sadness and grief behind. As we get older, maybe these feelings linger a little longer and return to be examined more frequently too. As far as getting over grief, I do agree with you Susan, the challenge is to be with it and see what it has to show or teach us. So happy to hear you are coming through it with a bit more strength and understanding. Thanks for sharing you heart so openly.

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    Susan Malone says October 14, 2016

    Oh, Beverley, that just touched my heart. I, too, experienced close loss while young, and like you, it formed the parameters of my life. I think too that the more loss you’ve experienced, the more that comes back up with each subsequent one. It’s kinda like an ever-flowing river that never entirely runs dry . . .

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Joan Harrington says October 13, 2016

Hi Susan,
Wonderful post 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your experience of how you deal with your heartbreak. For me, in the way I deal with mine is to simply cry, cry and cry….it just makes me feel so much better to let all of those feelings out by crying 🙂 Afterwards, I feel stronger and ready to face whatever is coming my way head on and a much better person for having gone through that 🙂

Great share!!

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    Susan Malone says October 14, 2016

    That’s one of my remedies too, Joan–to just cry it out. It’s so cathartic. Did you know the chemical makeup of tears of joy and those of sorrow are different? Amazing how our bodies know what we need.

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Kathy Gottberg says October 15, 2016

Hi Susan! I am not at all surprised that you and I navigate loss in much the same way. I’ve had some major loss and disappointment in my life–who hasn’t? But as you say, writing about it, falling back on my spiritual beliefs, friends, and allowing myself to process have continued to sustain me along the way. Fortunately I am very future oriented so even when I’m feeling down or something less than great happens, I usually find myself looking toward the horizon in a relatively short time. The trick for me is to not deny the sad feelings when they happen. I just try not to make them a habit. May we all find the path that works best for us! ~Kathy

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    Susan Malone says October 17, 2016

    What a beautiful method, Kathy! Feel the feelings, rely on the things that sustain you, and look to the future. I love that!

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Kristen Wilson says October 15, 2016

Yes, I totally agree… we can be happy and sad at the same time… and we all deal with things differently, but just as long as we do it the catch! Thanks for this great post and reminder

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Joyce Hansen says October 16, 2016

There are times when grief and heartache are only a memory blip away. At the same time, I have to remind myself that I am grateful for the experience of these people, dogs, and cats for being in my life. and how much they have enriched my life. I wish they could still be part of my life, but they have their own journey to continue on. And, maybe one day will shall connect again.

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    Susan Malone says October 17, 2016

    ” . . . a memory blip away.” I love that, Joyce. Yes, that is how it is.

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Yudith @ raisefrequency says March 8, 2017

Inspirational story the way you turned grief to gratitude and compassion

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