I’m throwing around some hope for the brokenhearted. If you are in need, read on.
There are two types of humans in this tired old world: those who have had their hearts broken, and those who will.
It is a hard fact of life that human beings have breakable hearts. It is our greatest strength. But if you are in the midst of heart break, if your chest feels like it has been pierced by the shrapnel of your heart, you might not feel strength. A broken heart is the most painful of maladies. It aches, and burns, it goes numb only to at the most unexpected moments explode all over again.
If your heart is broken you have joined an honorable group: those who dared to love enough to be hurt. Whether you loved a dream, a hope, a child, a partner, a parent, a cause; you gave something precious and unique a space in your heart. And this is the greatest gift you have to give.
But now your heart is broken. What now?
The Heart is No Easy Fix
Your heart break could take a thousand forms. But all too often the responses to your pain are the same pat tripe. Have you ever woken up to a hole in your heart shaped like a beloved soul, to a whole limb missing from your being: and been told that “it’ll get better?” Or perhaps some well meaning person rattled off a one line Bible verse, slapping a band-aid on your broken limb.
I do not have a Bible verse for you, or some nonsense about another angel in heaven, or looking at your challenges as a fun adventure. Because none of those things are hope, all of them are useless against the ocean of grief in which you find yourself. You need an ocean liner, not a cork.
All the well meaning platitudes in the world won’t help when your heart is shattered. The truth is dear one your world has ended. The world you knew has died. The good news is: the world renews itself with every sunset, in every sunrise. But do not hide your hurt, don’t sweep the pieces of your heart away because something precious and beautiful and terrible at the same time has come to an abrupt and true end.
This is real. Your pain is real.
But so is healing.
Resurrection Comes Only After Death
New life requires death, it is the pattern of the world. That death might be the quiet ending of an old way of things, or swift and terrible; but always there is an ending. The flower seed must end it’s existence as a seed so a flower can grow tall and flourish. The food we eat, plant or animal, is only possible because something died. This is the beautiful, terrible secret the world has been trying to teach us all along: everything else, everything begins again.
This doesn’t make endings any easier. Even if your marriage were deeply painful, it’s final end is usually grief filled: after all a dream has died. A parent’s death is never easy, even if at the end it is a relief that their suffering is over. No matter who or what has broken our hearts they are shattered.
If you are a person of faith: Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and more; your faith does not negate sorrow. There is no escape from heart break if we love.
Loving Is Worth It
Here is what I know: heart break happens because we have taken a chance on love. We have opened ourselves to the risky proposition of letting a person, a dream, something into our hearts. There in our inmost spaces where we are defenseless we allowed another being to walk around. This vulnerability means that at some point our hearts will be broken.
And yet, dear one, never doubt that love is worth it. Love is worth all of the heart break in the world because the opposite is not a whole heart but a missing one. Our hearts were made to survive being shattered, but they cannot survive being locked away in the darkness by themselves.
It is ultimately love that built our hearts, love that sustains our hearts, love that will heal our hearts.
Love is Love is Love
There is no ranking of love. We humans try to put value on one sort of love over another but ignore all that. Your heart knows only the door thrown wide, the windows open, the invitations sent out. There is only one way to love and that is with your full heart. Love your dog, love your fish, love your garden, or your little window sill filled with succulents. Love your neighbor who cooks you homemade pasta sauce, and the one who is always grumpy. And love most of all yourself, you wild beautiful creature.
After all, the most unlikely series of events the universe has ever seen led directly to you. No other series of events could have led to you. You are utterly unique and you cannot be replaced.
And your heart was made to be broken. Hearts are strange things. They break so easily. But they are meant to be mended. The pieces glued back together one by one with glue golden as love. Which means that every time your heart breaks, and heals again it becomes less breakable heart and more healing golden love.
But you must keep letting it heal. You must keep throwing the doors of that broken heart open. Because the people who track in and out of it will bring the glue with them, bit by bit on their shoes and coats like slush and snow. And one piece at a time, before you have even realized, they will have pieced back together a whole wall.
Some people have the knack of things. They learned early how to fill their heart up and catch the pieces as they shatter, and keep it filled until heart, the their loves, and the glue that holds it all together cannot even be told apart.
Hope for the Broken Hearted: Putting The Pieces Together
We could all sit around paralyzed by the fear of heart break, by the weight of the sorrow that fills the world. And while that might be great for the chocolate cake industry, and the folks who make our anti-anxiety meds, but it’s not great for us.
But also, if we spend all our time fighting one another using the bits of our broken hearts as weapons nothing will ever get better. Neither is the third option isn’t any good: pretending we’re just fine, when we aren’t.
I’m one little person who likes pie, and good old dogs, and becomes utterly incapable of anything but baby talk in the presence of a cat; my heart has been broken, and glued back together many times. And it will be many more. And along the way I have learned a few things.
- Optimism is shit: but there is hope. I cannot explain it, but while all the Greeting Card sentiments in the world do no good: good food, good company, a good cry does.
Canned sentiment, rosy outlooks, these help no one. But hope remains so long as there are people in this world willing to love us in the midst of our brokenness. And there are more of those people than you might think.
- The first step to healing is to be broken. Can you and I, just for a moment, let go of the need to be ok? Can we admit right now to each other that there are so many heavy things in the world weighing down our poor fragile hearts?
Because if we can admit that we are broken, we have a chance to heal. We have a chance to help each other heal. And that is in the end the most sure fire way. Can we crawl out of our dark angry craves of self pity, see the pain in each others faces and be OK with that. It means not comparing our pain, not competing for whose heart is more broken. It means letting go our timelines for healing. It means being vulnerable enough to say: I am not OK.
- Throw a dinner party. But wait, you say: my heart is broken! Good, so is the whole damn world. And you need to eat.
But more than that, food is medicine. Opening your home opens your heart. It helps wedge the door back open that you’ve slammed shut in self protection. Feeding other people gives you the gift of caring for another being, it gives you back purpose and the gift of love.
Most of all, it fills your home up with laughter, or tears, but mostly with people. And when your heart is broken, there’s nothing that can fix it like being reminded why you let someone get in there to smash it up in the first place. (No not a fancy shindig, seriously invite over the folks you don’t have to clean the house for and just eat together.)
- Volunteer. Sometimes what we need most is a chance to do something. In the midst of tragedy and heartache it can seem that you have no power to help anyone, even yourself.
Spending time investing your time in the needs of your community can show that to be a lie. You do have gifts to give, you do have the ability to make a change in this world. You can help heal someone else’s broken heart and along the way yours is likely to put a few pieces back in place, too.
- Hug your kids/pets/weird uncle. They’ll pretend they hate it, but it’ll make you both feel better.
- Donate. Put your money where your mouth is.
- Be honest. When you aren’t OK, be OK with not being OK. You’ll be amazed how much that’ll free the folks around you who have also been pretending to be OK all this time.
- Look for the light. Seriously, when shit gets bad do what Mr. Roger’s said and look for the helpers, look for the people in the midst of the chaos who are helping and throw your lot in with them.
- Be the light. For someone, in even the smallest way be the person Mr. Roger’s is telling others to look for.
- Never give up. Yeah, that kitten hanging from a rope in the poster I had in the 80s wasn’t entirely wrong, though he was pissed you didn’t help him get off the dang rope so you know, maybe do that.
- Remember: we’re all in this together, be gentle with yourself.
A New Normal
When your heart has broken, when that day has ended and a new day has begun there is no going back. The Japanese art of Kintsugi repairs broken things with gold. The result is indeed a bowl that is a bowl again, but it is not the same bowl as before it was broken. It is a better bowl, a more beautiful bowl for all it’s golden scars.
Your heart will not go back into the same shape as it heals. And this is a good thing. You have grown and learned. You have sacrificed sorrow and as your heart heals it doesn’t return, it transforms. Your old heart is gone, shattered beyond repair. Your new heart is a mosaic of the old, and of the strength of surviving, and the new hope of new love.
Every day you are knitting yourself back together. Everyday you are becoming more than you were. It isn’t a simple band-aid or an easy platitude, but it is true.
(If your broken heart and self need a little care I invite you to join me on a five day retreat, in the comfort of your own home. Do it for your heart.)