“When you touch someone’s heart, they will never quite be the same again.” ~ Doe Zantamata
Part of my heart will always belong to you. This was the closing to an email I received from the last man I truly loved. That relationship ended more than 6 years ago. With that breakup, I instinctively withdrew the pieces of my shattered heart into my private castle, shut the heavy iron gates, and pulled up the drawbridge. It stayed that way until the repressed pain erupted like an angry volcano that had laid dormant for years, but could no longer contain the pent-up boiling pressure.
This powerful eruption completely blindsided me towards the end of an otherwise lovely retreat last fall. I had expected to come away feeling recharged, rejuvenated and inspired. Instead, I left my favorite retreat center reeling in pain and grief so fresh, so raw, and so intense that I could barely get out of bed the next two days. Why was I reliving all that suffering as if it just happened? Hadn’t I gotten over that chapter in my life and put it away for good?
Double the grief
This former love was exactly what my heart yearned for at that time in my life. We were really great friends and companions who genuinely supported each other. Our respective families loved us, and treated us like we were already one of them, waiting for us to make it official. Our respective friends felt the same way, too.
The most significant event that I thought would seal our bond forever was actually a heartbreaking tragedy. I had been dealing with escalating sharp abdominal pain and abnormal bleeding that went misdiagnosed for a month. After almost doubling over in pain during a work meeting one day, I ended up in the ER via my doctor’s office. Blood tests confirmed that I was 6 to 8 weeks pregnant, but the ultrasound couldn’t locate the fetus in my uterus. That’s because it was growing in my right fallopian tube. Not only was the ectopic pregnancy unviable, it was threatening my life. My tube could burst at any moment, at which point my blood pressure would plummet, and my life could end in a flash. My case quickly became a surgical emergency.
That faithful night in the hospital was mostly a blur to me. I remember a parade of doctors, nurses and medical staff waltzing in and out of my room, before I was finally wheeled off to surgery. With only 1% to 2.5% of all pregnancies being ectopic, my case was far from an everyday occurrence in the ER. I remember being informed of the surgical procedure and its inherent risks, after which I despondently signed some release form to absolve the hospital of any liabilities, should I die on the operating table.
At one point, I felt the hand of my baby’s father on mine. It made me realize that I was crying. I didn’t cry because part of my reproductive system was about to be cut out, or that I was afraid I might die. Instead, I cried out of grief for my baby who had no chance to survive, wondering what I might have done to cause it to be stuck in my fallopian tube. I cried because I’d give my own life to this baby in a heartbeat if it were an option; but it wasn’t.
For a year after the surgery, there were landmines everywhere reminding me of this gut-wrenching loss. It seemed that everywhere I turned, there was a pregnant woman. I’d be watching a movie, and a storyline would seemingly come out of nowhere that included a miscarriage. Even the hospital sent me a brochure about post-natal care. Whose idea of a sick joke was that? Although it was clearly a mistake, my grief-stricken self had no capacity to reason. It seemed that I was caught in a nightmare that refused to end.
But, even in the midst of coping with this tragic loss, I saw part of the silver lining. The father of my lost baby truly touched my heart with the way he loved and cared for me on the night of the surgery and through the months of post-surgical complications—including an overnight visit back in the ER 4 days after the surgery. Out of a great tragedy grew a branch of love I hadn’t felt for another human being. It’s like the Zantamata quote above, once he touched my heart that deeply, I was never the same again.
That was why, for the life of me, I couldn’t accept that the relationship didn’t last. When we broke up, my heart was shattered into a million pieces. The combined grief from this pair of losses was so great that I felt the best of me dying with them, and nothing could resurrect it. Just how much grief could one human heart endure all at once?
Over time, life went on, and the emotional charge from that part of my history faded—that is, until last fall. After I got over being blindsided, I realized that those losses resurfaced to be processed properly. As I’ve learned through my spiritual study and practice over the last several years, every experience in this life—the good, bad and ugly—becomes a part of us, whether or not we like it. However, we do have a conscious choice in the kind of imprint we want each experience to leave in our character, in our heart, in how we show up in life. In order for me to move forward to live the kind of authentic life I want to inspire and help others to create for themselves, I needed to welcome back that part of my life I had disowned. And, to do so, I needed to embrace the pain and let it run its full course the way I didn’t have the wherewithal years ago to allow it to happen. Not until that was complete could I let Love transform the pain and soften my heart, while simultaneously strengthening it. By allowing true healing to occur, the iron gates to my inner castle were reopened at long last, and the drawbridge came down again.
Experience has taught me that the human heart is amazingly resilient. Love has the power to transform the most gut-wrenching tragedies into the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of the human spirit. Today, as a proud embodiment of Pure Love, I bless my former partner with great gratitude. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my heart is bigger and stronger, my compassion and capacity to love deeper and richer, because of what we shared and experienced together while we walked alongside each other—especially around the loss of our precious baby. Meanwhile, words fail me in capturing the bottomless gratitude I feel for the baby spirit who grew within my body for only a short time—but who will forever hold a very special place in my heart. This baby spirit gave me the opportunity to experience my instincts to love as a mother, if only for a few brief hours. With the remembrance of this priceless gift that’s forever in my heart, I most certainly will never be the same again.
What about you? Who has touched your heart such that you’ll never be the same again?
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Photo credit: Shattered Heart from http://hopespassage.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/hopes-musings/my_shattered_heart_by_shameless_sacrifice/
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