Heartbreak Happens, and it Sucks. But we Survive it.
In the past year, I have experienced two significant heartbreaks that rocked me to the core. And, much to my surprise, I not only survived, but I am starting to wonder if my capacity to love has grown.
And, to be noted: Often when I read a breakup story, I find myself asking, “Who is the bad guy in this story?” So, let me just be crystal clear-- this is not some-assigning-blame-breakup-story. In fact, I usually (not always, but usually) see the fiery, righteousness of blame as a clever coping strategy that pumps us up and insulates us from the greater hurt and vulnerability of our Grief. Thus, this is a story about that grief, and how, by going into grief, and allowing it to work us, is our greatest path towards healing.
So, here we go….
My former husband and I were together for a total of 5 years and married for 2 years. He and I really went for it-- we wholeheartedly believed we knew and were embodying the golden nuggets for creating a successful partnership and marriage, so we shot over 100 relationship videos and created online courses for couples. Then, 6 months after our epic, fairytale Bali wedding, he suddenly began to second-guess everything. He shared that he wasn’t certain he wanted to be married.
“What?? Wait. What?? But we just got married?!?”
I collapsed into a mixture of denial, pain, humiliation, grief, terror and, more denial.
He decided to go to Asia to figure things out. And as fate would have it, all of this happened smack dab in the middle of us leading a 12-week online course for couples, where we were supporting them to create a “thriving and long-lasting relationship” (yes, sometimes the Universe has an uncanny sense of humor).
After a few months, he returned and we courageously ventured into therapy to explore the underlying conditions and behaviors that contributed to this unexpected rupture. We spent a year doing the hard work of trying to repair what broke.
It was a strange year for me. I organized my heart in such a way that it was both slightly open to the possibility that we might find a way through this mess, but it was also guarded, in order to protect myself from the pain of him not choosing me (my core wound).
During this year, I made a vow to myself to see clearly. To see our relationship clearly. In the past, love had rendered me blind—or rather, I allowed myself to be blinded by my fairytale-like desire to experience soulmate love. So this was a significant step for me.
My former husband and I finally chose to end our marriage. Together we journeyed back to Bali to visit the location of our wedding. We held each other and cried. We were kind. We were loving. He will forever be one of my dearest friends.
After he packed up and moved out of our home in the Bay Area, I collapsed into a deep depression and fog. I distracted myself from the pain by going on multiple dates, watching loads of Netflix true-crime dramas and eating far too much ice cream. I was lost. I was grieving our love. I was grieving my best friend. And, to a large extent, I was grieving the dream of what we could have been. Additionally, the unexpected rupture of this breakup sent me tail-spinning into a vast identity crisis, “Who am I without you? Who am I without the dream of us?”
Then, several months after he moved out, I ventured to Burning Man, jaded about relationship, marriage and all things love… and, of course, I met someone.
Like me, this man was also in the throes of leaving a marriage, so we dove headfirst into a wild and passionate love affair. In retrospect, I wonder if we did this to bypass the grief of our failed marriages? Or perhaps we did it because the love and connection called for nothing less? Regardless, it was a potent and other-worldly connection.
And… as fate would have it, 7 months later, and the very same week that I finally submitted my divorce papers to finalize things with my former husband, this man unexpectedly ended our relationship.
This time the grief hit me like a freight train. A lifetime of grief swelled to the surface of my heart and soul-- the undigested grief from my marriage ending, from past loves, and of course, from this newer love. It felt like my heart was being slashed and burned, shredded and then getting ripped apart into even smaller shredded little bits.
I have never experienced grief of this magnitude. Some evenings, I literally felt like grief was stalking me, like it was a cruel and relentless monster that would not let up its grip on my heart.
For those of you who have experienced deep grief and loss, you know that when the waves come, there is no escaping them. Each time a grief wave arose, I watched how my mind attempted to protect me, by fiercely grasping at the breadcrumbs of something, anything to dull the excruciating pain.
During those waves, I witnessed my mind jump into self-blame or blaming other. When that didn’t work, it would redirect me into distractions like food, sleep, or Kombucha beer (which is actually quite a lovely beverage). When that didn’t numb the pain, my mind would steer me into denial, “Nope, this isn’t happening.” And finally, my mind would use the-last-resort-tried-and-true-method of collapsing into a victim-like trance of depression, despair and give up, “Poor me, I am destined to be alone forever.”
After my mind had exhausted itself with these unsatisfying (and, to be honest, predictable) bypass strategies, and I was utterly worn down, without any other option but to humbly face and accept my reality, then… only then, would I finally just sit with my grief.
I sat with this gaping wound in my heart-- this utterly vulnerable feeling of vast emptiness and loss. And, I would breathe. And keep breathing. And my heart would continue to beat. And the pain would sear through to the very core of my being.
And then something remarkable happened.
The pain, though excruciating
didn’t kill me.
Every time this fact stunned me.
I didn’t die from the pain.
What a remarkable thing. The wave would come, and then eventually pass, and I would outlive my own deepest fear and greatest hurt. Each wave of grief and pain that I survived, illuminated how strong and truly resilient my little beating heart actually was.
Additionally, and much to my surprise, each wave of grief also revealed how much I had loved.
It was astonishing to watch that my heart wasn’t breaking from the pain, in fact, my heart was cracking open from all the love that was in there all along. The cruel grief monster began to morph into a wise, Kali-like figure, and she shredded me down until I was nothing but a cracked open heart-- raw, formless, and radiating the undiluted, pure energy of love. Pure love.
In essence, my grief guided me to know and feel my own love.
It suddenly dawned on me that even though the form of these relationships had changed—that I no longer had a husband and a Burning Man boyfriend, the love was not gone. The love never goes away. It lives within me, within us, forever.
Instead of trying to “let go” and “get over” these past relationships, I decided to love these extraordinary men with all my heart. And when I did this, again something significant happened-- my love for them grew deeper, because I could see them with more clarity, and because I could finally accept the form of our relationship that Life wanted for us, instead of the version my mind had clung to.
I have come to realize that just because I love someone, and just because the love is cosmic and ginormous and soulmate worthy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are “destined” to become partners, or even that we are “supposed” to be in each other’s lives. Maybe we are, and maybe not?
What a radical realization… to know that love, pure love… simply… is.