Mending a Broken Heart

It’s not an easy process but lots of love mixed with tears is the glue that reshapes the pieces of our heart to fit back together in a new pattern that will give meaning to our life.

When my two oldest children, 19 year old Peggy and 21 year old Denis, were killed in an automobile accident, I had to "pick up the pieces" of my heart and make a firm decision to "go on" with my life, so as I told myself, "I want my children to continue to be proud of me as their mother." As much as I hurt, I didn’t want to disappoint them; and that one thought gave my body a lot of momentum, especially in the morning when it would have been far easier to stay in bed with the covers over my head. Every choice I made to "plow ahead" released the vice that seemed to be squeezing the life out of my heart.

You see, each decision of the heart puts you more in control and brings some semblance of order back into your life. Every day you do as much as you can handle. There are no deadlines, no time-schedules, no cards to punch. You set your own pace. You do what you need. There are no correct or incorrect ways of grieving; only different ways. Taking time to count the blessings you still have, to appreciate the family members who remain, to treasure the precious time you had with your loved one, and to share those priceless memories with others, keeping your loved one "alive" in many hearts, can ease the burden you are carrying.

You might discover that "planning ahead" is a big aid to mending your heart. Having something’s to look forward to – whether it be a trip, a new book, a journal entry, a phone call, a new hair-do, a visit to or from a dear friend, a day with a grandchild, a quiet dinner, a walk along the beach, a flower garden – makes the time go faster. Anything that speeds up the calendar, hastens our healing. In my grief, I learned that planning specific activities for holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, even if it’s just a cup of tea together, making sure I was surrounded by loving people who made me feel comfortable, kept me busy, talking, sharing and living. Being at ease with people who do not put demands on us strengthens our inner core and our public face. The stronger we get, and it happens gradually, the better we can handle people who say the "wrong" things to us and give us unnecessary heartache. Of course, gentle, compassionate people who let us know they "care" about us in simple, loving ways do much for "remolding" our broken hearts. God bless them! Letters, phone calls, listening to us, holding us, not judging or rushing us, allow us time to heal.

Pushing ourselves to keep busy can be a tiresome job, but spending time making sure our loved one’s memory is kept alive in many hearts can add a new dimension to "keeping busy." In my early grieving, designing a meaningful acknowledgment card, complete with my special thoughts about each of my children helped me share them with so many people. Then a few months later, sending a little angel with my children’s names and dates inscribed on them to dear relatives and friends for their Christmas trees, insured my children to be a part of these people’s Christmas thoughts year after year as they hung these dear ornaments on their trees. Meanwhile, organizing and overseeing the development of a memorial scholarship in my children’s names at Peggy’s much loved university occupied many precious hours of my time. Keeping Peggy’s and Denis’ memories alive while helping other young people attain the goals of their dreams does something very special for my heart. Others have set up music and art scholarships, sports awards, summer camp grants and some have established libraries, built gardens, outfitted hospital rooms, donated equipment for special needs, and expanded "make-a-wish" programs. As much as your heart hurts, it definitely feels better when you "reinvest" that special love you have for your loved one by helping others.

Spending time looking over writings, letters, paintings, medals, trophies, pictures, handiwork of our loved one can bring lots of tears, but can also touch our hearts deeply and make us feel very close to our loved one. Arranging any of these in a special way, for ourselves, for relatives, or for the public, can preserve the uniqueness of our loved one. Some people are lucky enough to have beautiful art work, sensitive essays, heart-warming poetry, original music, or dance recital and sports videos. I treasure my children’s homemade Mother’s Day cards and college letters, swimming medals, and 4H projects. I can still chuckle at my daughter’s baby-sitting "business cards" she made in junior high shop class, unwittingly reversing the letters and loudly proclaiming her services as "Bady-sitter." The crooked wooden lamp my son made in 8th grade has the place of honor on my desk, even though Better Homes and Gardens might not approve.

So as you "pick-up" the pieces of your heart and rearrange them in ways to give "new life" to your heart, may you find the peace that comes with sharing your loved one’s memory and your special love. And may the hollow of your heart, caused by grief, begin to fill with joy as you mend your broken heart.