Gaining from Heartache: How Pain and Loss Can Change You.

ToughGirl isn’t just about physical strength, meal planning, and muscular gains. It’s also about inner strength. This journey was something I embarked on because I was spurred by a heartache to leave the place of pain. The place of pain isn’t any one particular physical place–rather it’s the space in your mind where you feel defeated and worthless.

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July of last year was a difficult time for me. I had to make a career decision that would impact my son’s life and mine both in a good and bad way–the good, however, would outweigh the bad, as I would later be relieved to discover. Days after that, I would then make a decision to leave a relationship I had invested so much in because it was no longer good for me (and my son). Believe me when I say that writing that last sentence (and coming to that decision) was a whole lot easier than actually doing it. I was devastated. We had major life plans and I was ready to uproot my little family across the globe for those plans. But it wasn’t to be. It didn’t matter that I made the choice to end it. It only mattered that it felt like my whole world had fallen apart. I learned to distrust. I learned to doubt. I lost sight of the value I had within me because I bought the lie that I wasn’t ‘enough’ to make it work. It’s a sure loss when we hang our worth on another person’s estimation of us.

We need to remember that people will disappoint us at some stage. I’m fairly certain that you and I have our fair share of people we’ve disappointed and let down. But such is life. That’s what makes human relationships beautifully complex. It is what makes the difference between knowing that something/someone is worth fighting for and dying for and what you should walk away from.

The question we need to ask ourself is whether we have learned anything from those heartaches and what exactly it is we learned and discovered about ourselves. Beautiful words, strong promises, grand gestures–those are all so amazing and captivating. They are tempting treats for the heart that one rarely passes up on. And don’t we all just want love? To love and be loved? Sadly we live in a day and age where relationships have become so complicated that it’s become this dance we have never learned before but are expected to be masters of it.

Without a hurt, the heart is hollow,” is a line from the song “Try to Remember” in one of the most beautiful off-broadway plays ever, The Fantasticks. My dad, ever the natural poet, musician, and thespian, was part of a local performance of The Fantasticks. He would hum this line, here and there. And I never quite understood what it meant until I was old enough to feel what a hurting heart was really like. Pain has a way of waking you up, reminding you that you’re still alive. Pain has a way of pushing you to face your demons, face your fears, and ask yourself whether you’re going to cower in your safe little corner, or venture out boldly into the unknown again. Pain caused by someone you love will always feel like the worst thing ever but it can have a cathartic effect on your life: cleansing you from a relationship or baggage, or saving you from more hurt in the future. You may have dodged a bullet. Or perhaps, the pain can offer a chasm between you two that will allow you some time and space to clear out your head, sort out your heart, get your affairs in order, and if you’re still sure about your feelings, have another go and maybe it’ll work this time. We don’t know. But the point is, we keep moving forward. 

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The external variables don’t matter. What matters is you. Where your heart and your mind are. You need to decide to pick up the pieces, no matter how countless and shattered, gather them in your arms, and start stepping forward. Put yourself back together as you go along. Whether it’s a broken relationship, a dead or failed marriage, a job you worked so hard at for years, a friendship ruined, it all hurts the same. We break differently, but we all break just the same. We tend to be fragile creatures, us humans, because the heart can be a tender thing. But the heart can also be the bellows that blows our flame of courage to grow bigger.

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A quote from Rumi goes, “The wound is place where the Light enters you.” I couldn’t agree more. YOU decide what your wounds can do for you. You can sit and lick them all day and blame him, or her, or this, or that. Or you can dust it off, acknowledge the situation and figure out what needs to be done. You may limp and hurt and put up walls for the meantime, and that’s okay, because you need to go through the process and grieve your loss. But keeping yourself in a glass case serves no one, and certainly does you a disservice. Our wounds are what remind us what it is to be human, to fall from grace; it humbles us and plants our feet on the ground, teaches us to relate to others who also suffer. But in time, the wound can be the conduit that allows us to learn to be wiser, to read situations better, to decide more carefully about who and what we allow in our lives and our hearts, and to whom we give our hearts. No can fault you for approaching major decisions with care and some slight trepidation.

One of my favourite authors, Haruki Murakami said, “What happens when people open their hearts? They get better.” Loving others and yourself will ALWAYS be worth it. You become better for it when you let your heart grow and stay tender regardless of the many times it’s been broken.

I still have my fair share of pain to deal with because that’s life, isn’t it? I’m sure you do too. But I also have goals and dreams, I have plans, and I have people who depend on me. Life doesn’t stop or wait for anyone. Go back to YOU, to doing what you love, what brings you joy. Reconnect with your support system, your friends. It’s time to dig deep and find that inner strength to carry on regardless of the weight you carry. And as you swim further into the open sea, it’s okay to decide to let go of that weight. The things and people meant to be in your life will come and they will stay. You won’t have to fight the tide for it. It’s time for a new game plan to live in the unforced rhythms of grace.





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