I was a coward when it came to love. I was never much for taking risks, and love seemed like a big risk. I didn’t want to get hurt, so I set up borders around my heart. Burdened with feelings of unworthiness, I couldn’t see how love would end up with anything but me getting hurt, so I avoided it.
For the first 30 years of my life, I managed to never be in love. I worked in fields where I did not meet men, I hung out where there were no men, and, when there were men, I was oblivious to any of their attempts to flirt or charm me. Then, as I slipped into adulthood, I dated cautiously, meeting a man for one date, rarely two, never three.
I was protected from heartbreak, from being betrayed or left. I was protected from that pain. I forgot that there are other ways a heart can be broken, other people I let in who are dear enough to shatter it.
Thus, at 30 years old, I found myself having never been in love, standing in a funeral home, and looking down at the broken body of my little sister. I was utterly heartbroken. For never having been in love, I still knew love. For having shielded my heart, it was still shattered.
This could have been the proof I needed. This could have been the evidence to support the decision to bury my heart further. I could have said, “Look! It’s too painful to love! I can’t do it. I can’t willingly let someone else in and go through this again.”
Instead, on that terrible day, I had an epiphany: I’d do it again.
I’d love her again. Even knowing it would end up the same way, I'd do it again. Knowing all of this pain awaited me, I'd love her again. I’m so grateful I loved her. I’m grateful for the love we had. I am grateful I loved her so much that it hurt like hell to lose her.
My relationship with my sister was messy. Anyone who knew us could tell you. By the time we were adults, we were not on good terms. But I wanted a relationship with my sister. I wanted to love her more than in the begrudging way of two siblings forced to make nice. I wanted to love her for who she was, and I wanted her to love me for I was. I wanted us to be sisters and friends. So we actively worked at our relationship, and we learned to communicate, and we learned to listen to each other. We started to dream together, make plans together, conspire together. Then she was gone. I thank God for giving me the humility to set aside my pride and anger to learn to be her sister. I am so grateful that I got to love her. I’m so glad I got the memories I did. I’d never want to deny myself love because I fear the hell of grief. I would rather have the sorrow than the regret. Rather than live with the regret of never having loved her, I choose the sorrow and pain and suckiness of heartbreak.
I’ve met so many grieving people who have boarded up their hearts. I’ve spoken to so many grieving people who are terrified of having to suffer their worst pain again to the point that they have forgotten their greatest joy. They isolate themselves from people. They deny themselves the experience of love. I can’t blame them. I boarded myself up before even having suffered. I was so afraid of the pain that I had closed myself off.
Yet I challenge each of you who have been brokenhearted to love again. Each of you who have been crushed by the loss of a loved one, I challenge you to risk heartbreak again. Love deeply, passionately, and against all reason. Whether your heartbreak was caused by your loved one’s death, abandonment, betrayal, or mistakes, I challenge you to love again.
Love is not fine china to be kept only for special occasions.
Why do we hoard our love? Yes, it is precious, but it is not scarce. Besides, I don’t understand the sense of keeping something that brings you such joy locked away for only Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Life’s too short to only see your favorite dinnerware twice a year. It’s also certainly too short to hold back love for special occasions like it might break if overused. Don’t keep love tucked in a box, waiting for a special day.
Love is not a pie. Love is not limited to eight pieces and no more.
Love is plentiful. It is unceasing, unending. When we are grieving, we can feel like our supply of love is running low. We can feel like the loss took a piece of our love and, therefore, a piece of our ability to love. But while people might take our love, we are not left empty. Our love supply replenishes with a little self care.
Love is not an appetizer where grief takes the spotlight. Love is the main course.
If I close myself off from love because of the pain of heartbreak, I am saying love isn’t worth the pain. It so is. Love is greater than the pain. The pain only happens because the love was real and the love was deep. The pain could not exist without the love. Love is the main source of power. When we close off our hearts in rejection of the pain, we negate the power and importance of the love. When we hurt, of course we don’t want to feel hurt again. It’s crucial to take a moment to remember what we are forgetting when we only see pain in loss and not the love.
New love is not the gluten-free version. New love is an original recipe.
As someone who is gluten-free and has had the gluten-free version of our favorite dishes, I know that it’s really not the same. While it might try to mimic my beloved pasta, bread, or chocolate chip cookie, the gluten-free version is a pale imitation trying to replace the original. Loving again after loss is not like trying gluten-free pasta. When we love again, we are not replacing nor forgetting the loved one we grieve. New love is not a dishonor to old love. New love never disrespects old love. It honors love and continues love. We love again because it is human, because it is right, because the world needs love and we need love. Loving again does not insult their memory. Each relationship is unique. It’s a new love. It’s not reallocated love. When I love someone in a sisterly way, I do not steal from my love for my sister. I am not replacing her. When I love someone in a sisterly way, that love is uniquely ours.
I’ve been opening my heart. I’ve been putting myself out there. In Steel Magnolias, Shelby, a young woman pursues a personal dream at the risk of her health and states, “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”
In the days before, I would have chosen the safe route, the “nothing special” route. This is how I have changed since that horrible day in the funeral home. In the days since , I love better. In the days since, I’ve been opening up to more love in my life. I stopped being ruled by the fear of when love ends. I stopped fearing the loss of love, and I focused on building love worth losing.
These days, I am even doing this thing called dating. In the past year, I have felt my pulse drum in deafening roar over a simple touch. I have cried when I was disappointed. I have boldly kicked down borders as I feel the instinct to reinstate them. I have spoken vulnerably. I have prayed for someone I care about to find love when I discovered I wasn’t it. I have felt my soul sing and leave me smiling so wide that I feel it in my ears. I have heard my heart and I know it still functions.
I’ve opened my heart. Not just for romantic love, but for love in general. I'm investing more in the relationships with my family and my friends. I am loving them fully knowing how much it would hurt to lose any one of them, but my heart is a durable heart. It’s survived hell and heartbreak; it can carry me through. Besides, I have a suspicion that, the more I love, the stronger it grows.
Don't hold back love. Don't shield your heart from pain that hasn’t happened yet. You cannot coddle your heart, keeping it from pain and suffering, without also denying your heart its greatest talent and power: love.
Love. It’s worth it. I regret nothing. I am so glad I loved her. I am so glad we had what we had.
Regardless of how the story ends, love is always worth it.