Several years ago after the death of a dear friend, I experienced a "broken" heart--a pain in my heart that I was sure would never heal. The pain was so intense that I truly understood what it meant to have a broken heart. I felt like I had a huge hole in my heart, and I couldn't believe how painful that hole was. In addition to my own experience of a broken heart, I have worked with several grieving clients who talked about the pain in their hearts and we connected when I not only understood their pain but I could help them put words to their pain.
Last year it seemed that I experienced one loss after another and I wondered if the pain would ever end. I felt like each loss and transition re-opened the wound in my heart. One day, after feeling overwhelmed and defeated, I realized that I needed to refocus my attention from all that I felt I had lost and I started to remember my blessings. I needed a way to ritualize the blessings as part of my grief journey.
I decided I needed to find a vessel that would hold my blessings. And the vessel needed to represent me. My first thought was "I'll take on old jar and drop a stone or marble in it for each person and blessing I counted. "I don't know why but I found myself saying, "I'm not a used jar, a recycled container used for something else." I was feeling lost and worthless enough without placing my most cherished memories in an old jar!
I started to look for something else when I decided on a vase. I opened my cabinet and surveyed the variety of vases I had when once again I found myself "looking for a recycled, used item to represent me." My old vases wouldn't do.
For several months, whenever I went shopping, I would look at vases. I had an idea of what kind of vase I thought represented me. And I looked, and I looked, and I looked. I found some cheap vases that would do but this project had taken on meaning to me and I didn't want to just settle on something. One day while at a department store, I saw the "perfect vase." I realized that while I didn't want to settle for something cheap or recycled, I didn't want to have to take out an insurance policy on my blessings! The Waterford vase was beyond my limits!!!
I wasn't discouraged because I knew I would eventually find the vessel that would hold my most cherished memories and help mend my broken heart. I finally found the vase that I knew I wanted to hold my blessings. I wanted a vase that was etched with flowers but also translucent so my memories could be seen. I decided to use glass stones for my blessings. I chose a variety of colored stones to represent the colors of life. And then one by one, I named the blessings I could recall. It was important that each stone represented just one person or event. I continue to add to the vase each time I recall a memory or have a new experience.
You might be asking what this has to do with mending a broken heart? As I recalled people, events, opportunities and successes, my sadness was lightened because I realized that without that person, event or activity in my life, other opportunities would not have occurred. At times I cried at what was gone but I can look at this vase with my colorful blessings and find comfort in how rich my life has been and continues to be. It forced me to focus my attention on the goodness in my life, not on the pain of my losses.
The vase isn't full yet because I know that I will continue to experience blessings in my life. And it also means that I will experience loss and pain. I know that my heart will be broken again if I am lucky enough to have people and events and opportunities as part of my life. But unlike before, this time I know that my broken heart will mend.
Recalling memories can be a way to help mend a broken heart. Perhaps an exercise like this one will be helpful, or you can use photographs, videos or story telling. For me, a part of mending my broken heart was to be able to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. With each memory, I asked for forgiveness for any hurt that I might have caused and I offered forgiveness for any unresolved issues that I remembered.
As I placed each of my blessings in my vase, I remembered how many people, events and situations have made me the person I am today. And each time I look at my vase, it reminds of this. It reminds me how deeply the people who I loved and still love most continue to live in my broken heart. The memories I hold in my heart will always be present. Our loved ones may not have had a choice about their dying, but I believe they never would have wanted to leave us with a broken heart.
The vase is a visual reminder for me on the days when I can’t remember the blessings. It sits on my dresser so I can see it every day. I am grateful for the many blessings that I have experienced even when my broken heart can’t due to my grief.
About the Author
C. Jan Borgman, MSW, LISW-S, FT is a Bereavement Specialist, Certified Celebrant and Consultant. She has over 25 years of bereavement related experience as a social worker, counselor, educator, presenter, manager, mentor and consultant. firstname.lastname@example.org