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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Do broken hearts mend?




Where do you start?
How do you separate the present from the past.
How do you deal with all the things you thought would last,
That didn't last.
With bits of memories scattered here and there,
I look around and don't know where to start.


I see a lot of heartbreak in my job. Spouses married for decades losing the love of their life. Newly married couples stunned to find out they have just months left after searching years for one another. Lovers separated by years and miles who found each other in their golden years, hoping to grow old together, but certainly won't.

It is sad and unending, but somehow still shocking and surprising.

I guess I have been thinking a lot about love since we are in that month of love, February. Valentine's day. All those shiny hearts hanging everywhere. But these hearts that I see will surely be broken.

And I wonder. For good?

I know lots of people who have suffered broken hearts along the way, myself included. But we grew up and moved on and found new loves or new interests and the wound somehow healed. There may be a flicker of pain occasionally, but it dissipates readily.

But these wounds are different. Lives that are certainly intertwined now coming apart. Memories that seem to have only each other now becoming painful instead of sweet.

Lives built. Houses filled. Homes made. Families raised. Two people who have hung on for dear life and survived intact after bitter disappointment. Two people who have celebrated milestones. Two people who really only know life with one another. A life they lived for so long. One that they thought would never end.

So how do you mend a heart when your whole life goes away?

I have three couples who have been together decades that I am currently taking care of; an elderly gentleman and his lovely wife, a younger unmarried couple in their forties and another long time married duo in their 60's. Each has a spouse or significant other dying from a nasty cancer.

They talk to me a lot about things they used to do before the illness. Most don't want the illness to define their marriage or their relationship. They show me paintings and projects, work being done on their house, pictures of kids and grandkids. They talk of trips they hope to somehow still take, birthdays coming up, how they hope to return "to normal" once again. But there will never be a normal again. Just a new normal. A new reality.

They try to be strong. But they are holding on tight to the life they once had. So afraid to let go. They tell me they don't know what to do. They haven't even made funeral plans. They can't think about it. They cry. They become silent. They look down at their hands. They seem lost.

I never say anything then. I just let them talk. I allow them their silence. I know that nothing I will say will make it any better. They know that I know how this will all end.

But what I don't know is, how will it all begin again. How will their heart feel a day, a week, two years from now. I know that everyone grieves differently. Some soldier on and others collapse and hide. But no one really knows what goes on inside another's heart.

So I guess there is no real answer to the question of a broken heart. I suppose we will all find out when we get there. So we will just keep loving and living until that happens.

The quote I started with is a song about a life coming apart, who knows why. It talks about how you cannot separate the present from the past, how you never really move on completely. How the heart never really mends and never really forgets. It doesn't say that you are sad. It just says the heart remembers, so that seems right to me. That a piece of everyone we have ever really loved stays with us always.

And that is a comforting thought. That is what makes love so worth it. Our hearts are strong and will survive, wounds and all.

The song ends like this;

One day there'll be a song
or something in the air again.
To catch me by surprise and you'll be there again,
A moment in,
What might have been.
Where do you start.
Do you allow yourself a little time to cry.
Or do you close your eyes and kiss it all goodbye.
I guess you try.
And though I don't know where and don't know when
I'll find myself in love again
I promise there will always be
A little place no one will see
A tiny part within my heart
That stays in love with you.


Happy Valentine's Day.

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