Practicing Gratitude with a Broken Heart: Why, how and what?!

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring why people come and go from our lives. You know that old saying, “they’re either a lesson or blessing?” I believe that’s true, but it’s much more nuanced than that. It can take a decade before you actually figure out which category they fall into, if you do at all. In the meantime, you sit with a lack of knowledge, a complete emptiness in understanding why some people stay and some people go. And damn it, that hurts. It hurts from your head to your heels in a pain that cannot be taken away by any medicine I’ve discovered yet on earth.

With 42 years behind me in this life I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of goodbyes dozens of times. And yes, I am very specifically speaking romantically here, just in case there was any question. Some of those goodbyes, especially before my third decade, felt like they were the end of days. A breakup was akin to a breaking world. I’d sit on my bed, wrapped in a duvet with a bottle of wine in hand (no glass, straight from the bottle, I was so classy). Sinead O’Connor would be blaring in the background and my face was a working advertisement for waterproof mascara. I didn’t think I’d be able to carry on.

I never got mad, I got sad. It was like swallowing a bitter pill that wouldn’t dissolve for decades. I sat in my sadness and, at the time, didn’t have the experience to understand why any of it was happening. I felt like a victim. Every time I thought I was losing the love of my life, never to be replaced or bettered. That was it, the end.

Breakups are never easy. Telling someone it’s not going to work out or being told the same is a moment that will stick with you for your whole life. Sorry, I can’t sugarcoat that for you. It hurts. It digs into the muscle that is your heart. It carves that person’s initials in the flesh and that scar is here to stay. But, you are in control of what happens next. 

In just about every “adult” relationship I’ve experienced I have known a few things about myself that are dangerous but also, what I believe to be, beautiful. I will do anything for someone I love. I am all too happy to sacrifice what I can without sacrificing myself. I find incredible joy in lighting up others and the idea of being able to light someone up the way they light me is bliss. Absolute, unflinching bliss. But I also know that relationships are complicated, situations change and people grow in ways that often mean they grow apart. As we get older, the luggage we’re carrying from our past relationships also grows more intense and further complicates a scenario.

As a relationship grows, and it is an ever evolving and living thing, the hard parts can overshadow the good. The attraction can falter. The honeymoon phase can end. Something horrible could happen that changes everything in one or both of your lives. That’s life. It just is. We are in control of nothing outside our own reactions. And anything, absolutely anything, can make or break a romantic connection. If it’s a break, no matter what age you are, what side of the goodbye you sit on or how long the relationship has lasted, it will hurt like hell.

But I’ll say it again, for those of you that didn’t read it the first time… you are in control of what happens next.

Now, I’m going to speak from the side of being told goodbye. If someone has the guts to stand up and say, “this isn’t working,” or “this just isn’t it for me,” or “I’m not your person,” please know this is not a time to get angry or resentful or become a seeker of revenge.

This is a time to be thankful. I know that might sound ridiculous and I’m pretty sure you’ll shock the socks off the person who breaks up with you by responding, “thank you.” But, please know this is exactly how you should feel – sad that something is ending but thankful that the person who ended it had the guts to do so when they did. And that takes guts. It takes serious courage.

Being able to say goodbye or receive a goodbye in a relationship that one side of the party knew wasn’t going to work is a moment that should absolutely be considered with gratitude. That person, however hard it may be to believe, was not the person that was meant to be in your life in the romantic role they were playing. It’s as simple as that. And their departure makes space for the right person to come in. So you should, truthfully, say thank you, mourn the loss, wish all the best in the world (because they do deserve it with someone else) and make room for what was always coming to fill that spot for you. The lesson, or a blessing, has played their part in the book that is your life and the main romantic lead is still out there and now there’s space for that person to come into play.

At the time of writing, I typed this up through big soggy tears and a puffy face that gives the whole game away.

But it’s something I so desperately wanted to share as I wish I had been given this dialogue as a young one out and about. I wish I had known that you can love someone and let go without anger but simply with a thank you. You can look back on the romance, no matter how long or short, and actively choose to think, “well that was superb, and then it wasn’t, and then it ended.” It’s not the last superb thing that will happen to you. That’s the big reality here. That’s the take away. It’s probably the last superb thing that will happen with that person, but again, the memories, even the heartache, is something you will always have. The way in which that gets written into the book that is your life, is up to you.

And I know that everyone on earth seems to think I am crazy that I am friends with almost every single ex-partner that I have in London. But I am friends with them, and they’ve remained in my life, because the memories we’ve made together are pure magic and I wouldn’t change it or take any of the crazy ways I have thrown myself into love back.

Every single dalliance has prepared me for the next, and the next, and the next. Ha! Yes, I’m exhausted, there’s no doubt about it. My whole life I’ve dreamt of that one love, that towers above all else and it’s hard when you think you’ve found it, time and again, and you’re let down. You’re dropped from the incredible tower you yourself have created for romantic endeavours.

Ladies and gents, I’ll gladly keep falling. Because what the hell is this world without love and those great fucking romances that absolutely take your breath away, even if they’re just for a few moments, weeks, months or years. I’ll keep taking them as they come, grateful for each and every person that I meet along the way, even if “the one” ends up not being a thing for me.

Be grateful. That’s it. It applies to every part of your life, but for romance, practicing gratitude from the very start can make this whole experience so much more remarkable rather than gut wrenching.

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6 Comments

  1. 2nd July / 3:30 am

    I so agree with you! I have stayed friends with my relationship men too. I figure I have good taste in people so why not be friends with these men? I also respect that people know themselves best so if the relationship isn’t for them, I trust their instincts. And, these men were good to my body so I want to honor what was given. I recognize it takes time & sometimes space to shift from being “in love” to “loving.”

  2. Ide
    2nd July / 9:17 am

    So beautiful as always and such a great perspective❤️

  3. Cheryl
    2nd July / 12:55 pm

    It’s all about hope, isn’t it?
    Thank you for the grace in opening your beautiful self to us here. Thank you to your amazing mom who I know you can always go to and trust.
    Love you dear Emily.
    Cheryl
    xx

  4. Carla
    2nd July / 1:42 pm

    As someone going through an unexpected divorce, these words are incredibly helpful. Thank you for having the courage to share!

  5. Donna Norton
    2nd July / 3:19 pm

    Emily, You continue to grow as this beautiful young woman that you are. You absolutely dazzle me with your wisdom——- the best is yet to be!❤️

  6. 2nd July / 9:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing this post sweetie!

    Danielle | thereluctantblogger.co.uk


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