If you’re really listening, if you are awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold ever more wonders.
~ Andrew Harvey in “The Return of the Mother”
When your heart is broken, whether it be a relationship ending, the death of a loved one, or a tragedy that changes your life, it is truly hard to imagine there is any benefit to such pain. But heartache is a true means to soul-growth. Take some time to consider past heartaches and see how it may have shaped you into the person you are today. What have you learned? Who are you now that you probably could never have been without that painful experience? How are you stronger? Allow yourself to explore the experience you’ve gone through with past heartaches and seek out the benefits that have come through for you.
Here’s an example from heartache in my own life and the growth that sprouted from what felt like a nightmare:
From age 20 to 27, I was madly in love with a man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. He was committed and dedicated to me and our relationship for those entire seven years and we daydreamed about a marriage and family in the coming future. Then, one day, without any warning, he broke it off.
I was devastated. Far better said (and with much more fitting imagery), I was gutted. I didn’t know life without him in it. My life, in so many ways, was over.
It took me some eight years of dedicated soul-searching and healing time, but I slowly found my way in this new life. And as I released the layers of identity that had created my early years, I blossomed into a new Gina. I wasn’t much of an adventurer before this great loss but I surprised myself as I faced fears and opened to bravery I didn’t even know I had. I found myself traveling solo to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand for six and a half months. I went skydiving and paragliding! I ventured out on a five-day backpacking hike through Abel Tasman. And, despite my fear of drowning and my inability to swim, I went underground caving, parasailing, class 4/5 white-water rafting and even became a certified scuba diver. And there were many, many more adventures, all with friends I met along the way.
Early in my six months of travel, on a long hike with newfound international friends, I pulled myself away for a few moments to take in the scene. As I watched this sensational sunset over the Blue Mountains of Australia, I had a very visceral experience of this grief-laden weight lifting off my shoulders. The immense sadness that had been weighing me down for so many years evaporated. I felt free.
These travels opened my heart and mind to a new world. I fell in love with international travel, so much so that after that first trip, I found a way to create two more years abroad. I now have friends from all over the world, friends that are actively part of my life to this day.
I grew a great deal in my relationship with this man that I shared seven years of my life with and I don’t regret a moment of our time together. But if we had stayed together, I am fairly certain I would have never opened up to these new aspects of myself. I was a different person then and that deep loss has opened me to the person I am today.