I’ll always remember the exact moment I realized that the relationship I’d poured myself into for three and a half years was over.

The end had been a long time coming. I’d seen the fracture lines. I’d felt down somewhere in the depths of my heart for more than a year that there would not be the kind of ending that we–he and I–had once planned for and dreamed of together. I had kept hoping.  I had kept trying to believe that the mess would become beautiful and perfect somehow. I had always kept willing that one way or another, something would flip, and it’d all work out in the end. I knew the warning signs, but I just didn’t know how to let go. But one day, I knew. I knew that I had to say goodbye. I had to walk away from what I thought I wanted more than anything else. That broke my heart.

That very weekend, I watched my beautiful best friend glow as she walked down the aisle to her groom. As the happy couple exchanged vows, I saw that they had what my relationship had lacked. I saw real love in their faces.

As I watched them pledge till death do us part, I was also watching my own hopes and dreams crash down around me. I threw flowers  and laughed with our family and friends. I celebrated that day. I didn’t miss the look of tender love that I saw on the face of the groom as he looked at his bride and the face of the bride as she looked at her groom. But behind my smiles and laughter, my own heart was bleeding  and broken along with the relationship that I had hoped would last forever. I felt like I only just made it through that weekend without a breakdown.

When I was finally home and the relationship was officially over, I felt the raw, jagged throbs of a broken heart so deeply that I felt physically ill. I lived far away from any of my close friends, and I keenly felt how difficult it is to be alone when your heart is breaking. Those were some of the most painful moments of my life. Right then, all I could do was tell myself to breathe and make it through the day.

In the emotional darkness, it all felt confusing. One moment, I knew that it was right and best for my relationship to end. The next moment, I desperately tried to think of what I could have done to change things, anything so something could have been different. I was exhausted. I just wanted to sleep until I could forget what the pain of heartbreak was like.  Or run until all of this was a distant memory.  It was too painful and I didn’t think I could make sense of the aftermath of a relationship that ended the way mine did or of all the friendships he took with him. But I couldn’t  sleep for a few years. I couldn’t run away. I couldn’t alter the ending. I couldn’t even figure out the pieces of my broken heart.

Everyday life goes on,  no matter what the state of your heart is. So I tried to just take it moment by moment and make my everydays good. I tried to let go of the fragments of my broken heart, so God could make something out of what was left. But I kept finding myself clutching at what use to be and feeling as if nothing would ever change again. I tried to live one day at a time and find new things to fill up the empty places. It helped.  I just tried to breathe.

For a long time after the breakup, it felt like the only thing that defined me as a woman was my broken relationship and my broken heart. It felt like someone had stamped big letters on my forehead that told the world that I was a failure: at relationships, at love, and at letting go. It felt like my life was permanently marked with a tag and put into the “Broken” pile. I felt like I was going to be defined by the day that my heart was broken for the rest of my life.  It seemed as if the broken relationship and my wounded heart were all that I had to show for everything I’d done up to that point in my life. I felt shame and guilt for starting the relationship in the first place, for not knowing how to “fix it”, for causing someone else pain, for feeling so broken myself, and for the fact that I had to end it.heart

A lot of years have gone by since the day my relationship ended.  Now I know that time does heal hearts and that pain doesn’t last forever. Now I know that with that time often comes a lot of clarity and bright, new perspectives. I know that new hopes and dreams find their way into being and that sometimes dreams really do come true. Now I know for sure that, as difficult and painful as the ending of my relationship felt, it was for the best…for both of us.

The day that my heart broke was definitely a defining moment for me. It changed me and my life in ways that nothing else ever could have done. I’m not the same woman I was 10 years ago when that relationship was brand new and everything seemed so bright. But that moment of heartbreak was just one single moment of my life.

When I was eight years old, I broke my nose. I tripped in the dark and came down hard on some immovable object that was stronger than my bones. It hurt and there was blood. A lot of blood. For months, even a little tap on my face felt worse than anything I’d ever felt. The purple and green mark across my nose seemed like the only thing that defined my face and I remember thinking it would never go away. My nose would look funny and feel broken forever, I was almost sure of it. The only thing people would think of when they saw my face was that I was the girl who broke her nose in the dark. But that’s not how it goes with broken noses–or broken hearts.

Today, the day my heart broke does not define my life any more than the day I broke my nose defines anything about my face now.

I won’t forget either moment. Both were excruciatingly painful in different ways. Both took a lot of time before the pain eased and even longer before the throbbing went away.  But today I am not defined as the girl with the broken heart any more than I am as the girl with the broken nose. Today, those are both just moments in my story. My nose has healed. And I can now say, so has my heart.

My life…your life…is not about the individual moments or the heart breaks so much as it is about the beautiful picture that all the moments–good and bad– make as a whole. Like a stained glass window, one piece or moment on its own is just a fragment.  But all together?  Even fragments can be used to make something unexpectedly breathtaking and beautiful. That’s what I believe happened with my broken heart. That’s what I believe can happen with any broken heart.

The pain you experience when your heart is broken, it’s the real thing. It hurts down into the deepest parts of your soul. It aches and consumes you. I know what it’s like.

You have to let yourself grieve. You don’t fall in love in an instant. You don’t stop loving or caring for a person the moment the relationship is over. Give yourself time. As much time as you need to clear your head a little. It’s okay to feel the pain. Just take it one moment at a time, one breath at a time.

But I’m here on the other side of the dark valley of broken hearts to tell you that healing doesn’t happen in a day. But it does happen. And that is what matters.

We may not be able to see the end of the pain today. It’s easy to feel like these moments of heartache are the only ones there will ever be. But don’t let your broken heart be how you define your life. You are so much more than this one moment.

Maybe right now, all you might be able to see is the brokenness of this experience, this breakup, this disappointment, this dream that won’t come true. It’s all you can feel. That’s okay. Learning to let go of the broken pieces takes time. A lot of time. I know this is true.

But please don’t give up on feeling whole again. God does heal broken things. And He specializes in healing broken hearts most of all.

When God defines your life, it’s not by who has known heartbreak and who hasn’t. He defines you by how you are in His eyes: Precious. Rejoiced over. Beautiful. Loved. Whole. You aren’t defined by brokenness to Him, but by the perfect, wonderful person He created you to be.

Because that is who you always are. 

12 Comments

  1. Catherine Banda says:

    Hie Chantel,

    I am reading this at a time I need it more than ever. I have courted 3 guys none of whom I dated for more than a year. This time I tried to pray over things and met someone who was my 100%. I loved this person with everything I ever could. He was my best friend. A week ago, he ended the relationship based on a reason I cannot even understand. We are trying to maintain some level of friendship but it is too painful for me. I feel hurt from deep within. And somehow, I feel like whatever caused this rift can be fixed and things can go back to normal. My friends have been very supportive because they know how committed I was to this relationship. We were planning to get married on the 21st of November 2015. I keep going back to all the letters he wrote me, all the presents he gave me, and I feel like I am being played. like this is a big prank. I am trying to pray, I am seeking God, I am praying he takes the pain away. He has been sending random people, even those I don’t know to pray for me. But the pain is not going away. I am so confused. On one hand I feel like the devil keeps stealing whatever God gives me. On the other hand, I feel like I am a big failure and things will never work out for me so I should stop bothering to even be in a relationship. I am seeking God, and all I have ever prayed for is to have a marriage that brings honor to God, and one in which I am happy. My parents divorced and I do not want to go through that. I am so desperate for wisdom and God’s voice on my situation.

  2. I sort of agree and disagree with your title statement. Everything you wrote resonates with me, and healing definitely comes through pushing through each day and taking tiny steps of faith. But if I had to choose the one time I most needed God, it was during heartbreak, when I thought my love story would never be complete. Those were the times I cried the most, and the times that really sent me on my knees. I almost feel shallow to admit that I wept more over the desire for a husband than over anything else, even in 10 years as a missionary! But that’s what God used to humble me, I guess. Even now that I’m married, I still remember those times of raw brokenness. Those were defining moments in my spiritual walk and they kept me close to the Comforter, because there was no one else who understood. I guess I’m not contradicting you, just pondering what defines “define.” 🙂

    1. Elizabeth, good thoughts! I most definitely think we’re on the same page. My heart-break WAS a defining moment for me. It drove me to God, just like you experienced. I wouldn’t actually go back and take away those moments now, even though I shed my own buckets of tears at the time. 🙂

      I think what I was trying to say was don’t let that one moment of brokenness create a pattern of “defeat” that ends up being how you define yourself from there on out. Don’t get stuck. Heartache is a big deal. But at some point, we have to move on. Take the lessons we’ve learned, accept the scars that might be there still, and not choose to live in the “I’m broken, life didn’t go how I planned, so I’m going to believe nothing good ever happens for me” kind of mindset or we’ll never be able or ready to embrace what is yet to be.

      So by define, I mean…don’t let yourself fall into “poor me” mode and let the fact that you were once a girl with a broken heart be the way you “define” how you live the rest of your life from that point on. Does that make sense? 🙂

  3. Such a beautiful post. Something clicked in my soul when you described the broken heart alongside your broken nose. I never question whether a broken nose will heal, but sometimes I wonder if a broken heart will. Thanks for the new perspective. Lovely.

  4. Thank you for sharing with us, Chantel. I remember when you’re going through all of that; it seems so long ago now but I know at the time it was incredibly painful for you. God is soo good to us to heal our broken hearts and turn that brokenness into blessings.

    This is very helpful advice: “You have to let yourself grieve. You don’t fall in love in an instant. You don’t stop caring the second a relationship is over. Give yourself time. As much time as you need to clear your head a little. It’s okay to feel the pain. Just take it one moment at a time, one breath at a time.”

  5. You seem so sweet, Chantel!
    I saw another blog post about this a few months ago. I get tired of the ones that seem to find a sort of morbid satisfaction in being broken. But this one talks about the same thing only more on why brokenness isn’t an end.
    http://pursuethebeauty.com/2014/05/10/broken-not/

  6. Lynette Allcock says:

    I needed this today! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you for sharing this, Chantel. It’s so timely…and this is a beautiful reminder for me to let go and start believing (again) that God heals broken hearts. <3

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