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?
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.