I remember waking up inches from the ceiling in the top bunk of my Freshmen dorm, wondering if I would have enough emotional energy to climb down the ladder. It had happened again. The man I loved had broken off our relationship for the second time after following me to the college I was attending.
He transferred soon after the breakup, so this time I knew it was over for good.
I was devastated. We had dated and broken up in high school, but when we got back together the second time, we both hoped and dreamed of marriage. We were young, yes, but had very similar values, personalities, and plans for our life. We wanted to marry young, have lots of kids, and live out our lives together. At least that is what he thought his path was.
In the end, it was not, and I was left with the pieces. The initial shock was probably the worst as I walked around my new college hundreds of miles away from home, going through the motions. Tears came easy and sleep came with difficulty.
At times, I felt dumb that a breakup could be so devastating, but I remembered the words of a wise mentor. She had explained that loss is the greatest kind of pain. There are obviously very different kinds of loss but at any level, it is always devastating. I had to mourn the loss of someone I had loved very deeply.
When I think back to the emotions that overwhelmed me most, it was a mixture of sadness and fear. I was afraid that the hole I was left with would never be filled the same way; that there would never be someone who understood me and loved me as much as he did.
If this relationship, which seemed so perfect, did not work out, would I ever find a relationship that would? And even if I did, how could I trust that person enough to take a risk on love again? Or would it just be easier to focus on my other goals in my life and build up a wall around my heart, refusing to let others into the brokenness?
As the initial pain subsided, I was faced with a choice we must face every time we are hurt. Could I open my heart to other people? Could I let my pain go?
Even in my darkest days, I knew that isolating myself from others would only drive me deeper into sadness. If the greatest of days still seemed dulled by looming sadness, I could not choose the path of anger and fear. Instead, I knew I had to keep my heart and eyes open.
In his absence, I slowly started building a tribe of sisters who were there to listen and bring laughter and joy into my life again.
Although some of these new girlfriends had only been a part of my life for a few months, they helped keep my head up during this difficult time. I don’t even think I spilled my heart to them too often, but I didn’t have to. They saw my heartache and chose to walk me through it. We hung out for late night movie marathons, chatted about what was going on in our lives, our families, our hopes, our dreams. We ventured out into a new city and around campus with loud chatting and even louder laughter.
The nights did not seem so long anymore. Through their friendship, I no longer felt alone. I began to forget the constant dull sadness. I was able to move on and heal because I didn’t shut myself off from other people.
It was true that I had lost a relationship that was very important to me. However, I learned that love is never lost forever. There are always opportunities to love and be loved if we allow ourselves to see them. It is through those new or old relationships that our broken hearts can heal and move from fear to believing in love again.