How heartbreak can teach you wholeness

I remember the day I knew my life was over. I climbed into the top bunk in my dorm room and laid there in total disbelief. We broke up. My first boyfriend, my first kiss, the only one I said “love” to. I had a math midterm the next morning and I already knew I would be filling out the bubbles on the Scantron without reading the questions.

If I didn’t have the answers to my bigger questions about love, did a math test matter? My phone breakup was really dramatic and over something petty. But our existing problems wobbled like a bad Jenga tower that I finally pushed over with a tiny shove. That shove was a phone call I made to him late one night in the shared laundry room of my dorm. I t was the only refuge of privacy available to me. That’s when it all came down.  He suggested we meet up a few days later, in a donut shop of all god-forsaken places. And that's where it happened: the throwing salt in the wound by dredging up all of the reasons we never should have dated. 

The one I loved walked away

I say “love” because I don’t know how else to describe that feeling, that fear that I’d just made the worst mistake of my life. I gave my heart to someone who was now taking it with them when they left.  Heartbreak can be a dark place, a weightless room where normal concerns like eating and taking tests don’t bother you in your free fall of despair.

A day or so later I remember opening my bible so hungry you thought I’d never read its words before in my life. This experience was truly rock bottom. Heartache’s arrow was fresh, and my wound was dripping as much as my eyes. I began furiously scribbling down every verse I could think of about pain, and God being close to the brokenhearted because that was me. I was the woman sitting next to the well, dying of thirst. My injured spirit soaked up the words of scripture.

A few days before the fallout I was a statue in the empty outdoor amphitheater at the center of campus, whispering a prayer of help into the night. The wind moved my hair and that was all. It was deafening silence, but I knew what I had to do. I wanted to crawl back in bed without living the next year of my life. I wasn’t ready for the brand of soul-crushing disappointment that year would bring, but I survived it.

I floated over campus and sat in the back of my classes like a ghost. I suffered long enough to make me think there was something wrong with me. But heartache taught me that nothing could salve the wound of my soul but the love I found had been silently chasing me even in pain. I couldn’t run away from it, even while my fifteen pounds-lighter frame attempted to fatigue heartbreak and sweat it out of my pores.

I learned these three simple but powerful truths.

The one who hurt you is not the one with the answers

There are so many times I looked to my ex-boyfriend for much needed closure or relief. I would send him a text, seek him out in conversation for the answers I thought I needed, or apologies I felt I deserved. The truth is, you will never get what you want from this person because they are incapable of healing the wound they’ve inflicted. Only God can do that. The best thing, and the hardest thing is for both parties to give space.

Don’t expect to feel differently right away

While heartbreak held me down for the count, it didn’t last forever. Healing is never instantaneous and part of it taught me to have greater grace for my own flaws and insecurities. When I stopped looking for milestones since the last time we talked and replaying conversations in my head, I recognized the closeness of God in my pain and began appreciating the process more.

 Use this time to head in a new direction

Heartbreak has remained one of the most motivating forces in my life. There’s something definitive about a relationship’s end that gives a “no turning back” nudge to your goals. One hobby I’ve taken up in times of heartbreak is running. There’s something about it that helps sort out the racing thoughts in my head. It’s taught me not just to endure the suffering, but to use it.