Never The Same Again

“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?

Allowing Love to heal

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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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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20 comments
Lesley S. King
Lesley S. King

Alice, thank you for this touching piece of writing. You describe the experience so vividly I was able to be there with you. You are so right, all experience deepens our ability to love, ourselves and others. I am happy that you had the opportunity to revisit that pain in order to heal it more deeply. Blessings, dear soul.

Scott Mabry
Scott Mabry

Just read this 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." Reminded that this has always been the method God uses to transform hearts and create beauty. I had many examples going through my mind in life, history, nature. Everywhere. Thanks again for being so open and so vulnerable. I know you message will be a blessing to others who are coming through difficult times.

Ana Maria Sanchez
Ana Maria Sanchez

Absolutely incredible Alice! Just like your book was full of raw honesty and beautiful poetic wisdom this piece moved me yet again! Thank you for always showing up so real and paving the way to making it ok to embrace and reveal those very dark and personal moments in our lives so that others may learn and grow from it. This is truly amazing writing. I know ABOW is looking for transition pieces for Christine Bronstein's next book in 2013. I highly recommend you submit this! Much love to you, my friend and thank you again for this powerful share. http://abandofwives.ning.com/profiles/blogs/call-for-art-and-essays-for-abow-anthology-nothing-but-the-truth-

Dan Teck
Dan Teck

Wow! What beautiful, truthful, honest, and healing words, reflections, and experiences you've shared! Thank you so much for being vulnerable and opening up enough to let us in--and let love back into your own life. I know that when you open up enough to allow love to come in, a lot of other emotions come in as well--some of them very painful--but it seems like this is part of the deal: to experience life and emotions, you've got to be open to the whole spectrum. Seeing that you ARE open is such an inspiration! You're right that "the human heart is amazingly resilient"--a good reminder for all of us when it seems we'll never emerge from a dark night of the soul (or heart). Love (of all kinds) can return in a heartbeat--literally! I also admire the bravery and risk you take in going against cultural/family norms by sharing your authentic self. Anyone who cut you out of their lives for doing so would be missing out on a tremendous blessing. In any case, you ALWAYS have your soul family, who you draw to you by being your true self. Thank you for doing that--and thank you for YOU!

Shelley
Shelley

Beautiful Alice.. I accidentally spelled your name Alive before I corrected it... but maybe it wasn't a mistake.. because you are alive.. so full of strength, love, resilience, authenticity, and caring. You are such a courageous soul and I feel so blessed that you continue to touch my life. Thank you.

Claudia Miro
Claudia Miro

Dear beautiful Alice, This post made me cry out loud...for its beauty and truth as much as its sadness. I can't tell you how much your experience has moved me, and helped me remember all of the beautiful pains I have experienced as well, all of which have served to make me my life experience deeper, richer, and more human. You have so eloquently described the crossroads we face at these painful moments - one path leads us to safety and protection by "shutting down", and the other towards stepping forward and allowing our hearts and our spirits burst open and breakthrough to an even greater capacity... Thank you for sharing, thank you for the faith walk you step into every day that allows you to be such an open, vulnerable, inspiring and beautiful soul...Love and miss you!! ~C

Adrienne
Adrienne

Alice, I am always moved by the authentic experiences and powerful lessons you share so beautifully. I celebrate your open heart and passion for helping uplift us all. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself so freely and sincerely. I am honored to be your friend. Love, Adrienne

Jodi Chapman
Jodi Chapman

Alice, Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and share your intimate story of pain and heartbreak and love and gratitude with all of us. Because of your bravery, you open up to healing on a deeper level and also allow us to see ourselves and our own stories and begin the healing process, too. I am beyond proud of you. I know how difficult it is for any of us to show up as ourselves first of all, and then to put that person into the world is more than many of us ever do. You are a powerful example of someone who is ready to embrace all that you are - someone who is serving and inspiring and putting so much love into the world. I love you so much, and I'm honored that you're such a dear friend. You are amazing. My soul is jumping up and down with your soul right now! ♥ ♥ ♥

Tammi
Tammi

Thanks for sharing your very personal, very authentic story. My heart breaks for you, and yet your journey has aided you to be such a light in this world. I am truly blessed to know you and support you fully in your journey, dear friend. Blessings and love to you...

Linda Joy
Linda Joy

Alice, thank you so much for allowing us to see into your heart - one filled with love and compassion. Your journey through pain, grief and tragedy touched my heart-strings because you have come through it with the ability to truly see all of life's experiences as a gift. In sharing that truth you have empowered others to believe that even in the darkest of days there IS Love, Hope and we do have the power to heal. I love when you shared... "Love has the power to transform the most gut-wrenching tragedies into the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of the human spirit." It's so true -through our deepest pain comes our greatest transformation. I know that has been my truth. Thank you for sharing your intimate journey with us in such an open, vulnerable and beautiful way.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thank you very much for reading and commenting, Lesley! It's partly because of the deep healing that I'm able to open my heart so much more and truly write from the depths of my soul. While it makes me far more vulnerable than before, it also makes me feel alive and on purpose to be able to allow Pure Love to express through and as me. Many Blessings to you, too, dear Lesley!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thanks for reading this piece again, Scott, that's quite a compliment! You're so right, Love is indeed "the method God uses to transform hearts and create beauty." One of my friends, who used to be a triathlete, said that we truly need to be able to see the beauty in the pain. That doesn't just apply to endurance sports but to life in general. I look forward to hearing some of the examples that have come to mind for you. I value your perspective and insights. And, thank you very much for the continued support and encouragement for me to continue sharing my heart and soul with my audience. It's greatly appreciated!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Ana Maria, thank you so very much for your wonderful comments! Coming from another healer and writer who lays her own heart out on the page, I'm honored and humbled. Can't wait to see your next book! Thank you for the ABOW lead. I'll definitely check it out! Much love and many blessings to you, too!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dan, what can I say to your thoughtful and heartfelt words of support and encouragement? What you wrote is so true, that when we wonder why love doesn't flow, we realize ultimately that we're the ones blocking it, even if it takes a while, such as in my case. I didn't know that my heart had remained shut down, even though I thought at an intellectual level that I had healed from those losses. Whatever way and however long it takes us to "wake up and face the music" is the right way and the right time. I'm grateful to you and the rest of my soul family for walking with me during this segment of my journey. I hope everyone knows that no one is ever alone, even if they may feel alone in dark moments. Thank you for being YOU, too, Dan!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Much gratitude and love to you, Shelley, for your continued encouragement! I admire and respect you so much, and feel truly blessed to have met you, if only virtually for the time being. Your light shines so brightly, and I'm grateful for your friendship!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Oh my goodness, Claudia, your words are so heartfelt that I can almost feel your energy stirring within me! I'm truly humbled, honored and grateful to read that my piece has such a profound impact on you! We all have our trials and tribulations and heartbreaks, as well as joys and wins and breakthroughs. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the more we're able to share and celebrate them as a community, the more we can help each other, inspire each other and hold each others' hands through the rough times, and celebrate big the great times. Thank you for being part of my community and for sharing your bright spirit that's uniquely you! I miss you, too, and hope Peru is treating you well! Love, Alice

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thank you so much for your kind words and your friendship as well, Adrienne! You always see the brighter side of things, that there's "the easy button" to press in every situation. My journey in the last several years has most certainly been enriched because I got to learn and grow with you. Love, Alice

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Jodi, I have tears in my eyes, as I read you comments. So grateful to have you as one of my cherished travel companions on this beautiful journey called life! You inspire me every day by all that you are and all that you do. You're a beautiful example of someone who feels it all - the joy, the pain, the anticipation, and the fears - and you move forward. I'm incredibly honored to have you as my dear, dear friend and soul sister, and couldn't imagine walking in this life without you! Much Love and Many Hugs, Alice

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thank you so much, dear Tammi. The same goes for you and your journey, my friend. Blessings and Love, Alice

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Linda, Thanks you so very much for your heartfelt words of encouragement and resonance! Coming from someone like yourself who have overcome your share of heartbreaks and dark times, it means a lot to me. I very much appreciate what you’re trying to do in creating community and a place for women to gather to support, encourage and inspire one another. Sometimes, when we’re in one of those dark tunnels and feel all alone, it’s that one story which comes just in time to serve as the lifesaver. That’s why I’ve felt the call to push through my own (great) discomfort with sharing my most private journey little by little. (If my own family reads my blog, I know they’ll promptly disown me, as I’m violating every single rule of cultural propriety in opening up my life for all the world to see!) Again, thank you so much for your support. It means more to me than you could imagine. Many Blessings, Alice

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  1. […] needed a place of my own into which to withdraw to attempt at picking up the pieces of my shattered heart. My house became the ultimate symbol of my ability to survive anything, a tangible proof that I can […]

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