How To Love The Broken

Allow me to say his name.
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I stand before you... broken.

My heart has endured a level of pain that no words created for humanity can adequately capture. To understand the anguish, you must walk the road of the bereaved.

It’s as if my soul had been swallowed by an immense dark, deep and an endless black hole. The lack of light has left me unsure of which direction leads to the light, which passage takes me to rest and which corridor might offer hope.

In the darkness I am alone.

Regardless of how many people walk with me to the edge, only I can enter and navigate the emptiness. Only I can stand and stare into the vast, dark circle of my personal hell.

In time I re-emerge from the shadows as the cracks of light make their way into my stone cold heart and offer warmth, like a midsummer’s eve, soft and comfortable...a feeling I vaguely remember and deeply crave.

As I reenter you stand before me, offering to bring shelter to my weary and weak heart.

I stand before you... broken.

During my time in the darkness, I built walls.

The walls, constructed with steel beams and engineered taller than any building in history will be forever impermeable to you as an invader that might bring new emotion, new pain, and even new happiness. The walls are formed to keep you out because if I don’t let you in, I can’t get hurt. Feeling nothing is easier than ever going back to the pain of goodbye.

I’m sure I won’t let you in....ever. You aren’t worth the pain. You aren’t worth the days, weeks, months and even years of happiness, joy, togetherness on the off chance that your impending and unpredictable departure will take me back to the mouth of the beast and into the darkness.

He took me the darkness and the pain. He departed after years of memories, children, days in the sun and nights in his arms feeling his genuine warmth. He left after a lifetime of happiness that didn’t last a lifetime. His memory sits with me, and I smile at all we created, all we shared. He was worth it.

I won’t let you return me to that place. I just keep telling myself you aren’t worth it.

Despite my distance, you aren’t deterred. You believe the walls will come down and my heart can beat again, full of vibrancy, rushing with new life, new hope, and new chances.

You stand before my wall, and you wait. You chip away at my defenses, and you slowly turn my heart from stone as the familiar sensation of possibility broaches my inner being. At times you knock down a wall, and I allow it to fall. Other times you hit a wall, and I rebuild it taller and stronger. I ask you to be patient with my uncertainty, and you have to be if you want the parts of me that emerged after he departed.

If you are going to stay, I need you to understand a few things about loving me after being broken. My walls won’t ever come down unless I can live my truth and you won’t ever hold the places of my being you hope to inhabit.

You can’t fix me... don’t even try

When I say I’m broken, it’s not for you to fix. I don’t need a man to rescue and save the broken pieces of me. I have to save myself. I need to glue my heart back together, and I have to believe in my power to survive the unthinkable. Adding you to my story does not fix the past, and it doesn’t give me amnesia to what came before. On the days I’m broken, allow me to be broken. Don’t come to my wall with materials you think repair, instead, allow me to feel my emotions, tend to my heartbreak and just be.

Don’t be jealous of a ghost... he’s not your competition

Let me be forthright and upfront. I loved him then. I love him now. I will love him forever. You aren’t a replacement for him, and you aren’t taking his spot in my heart. People aren’t replaceable, and love is not mutually exclusive. I won’t compare him to you so you shouldn’t worry about his place in my heart. Help me create a new location that you hold and just like I gave him his spot for eternity, I may be able to do the same for you. I won’t know yet; love takes time, memories, experience and trust. Show me your desire for my loyalty, and I will show you the depths of my love. You see, when I entered the darkness of my personal black hole, I realized that with great pain comes great growth. I didn’t know love was so vast, extensive and breathtaking until I stepped into the abyss. Now I know it’s unlimited power and should I choose to share it with you, you may know it too.

His photos represent pieces of my history

Don’t ask me to put them away, take them down or hide them out of your view. Allow me to do what feels right with my memories. Hiding them away from your vision won’t hide them away from my soul, they are woven into the tapestry of all I have become. Death taught me that memories and the photos that captured the most meaningful moments of my life are treasured artifacts. Don’t expect me to forget what can’t be forgotten and don’t expect me to hide from you the important parts of who I am. My past shaped the person I have become. The very same person you are asking to love. Love all of me, even the parts that came before you because without that history, I am not be the woman you so desperately crave.

Allow me to say his name

I will talk about him from time to time. I will tell stories that make me laugh and occasionally cry. Like a living and breathing novel, my stories bring life to his memory. His name is not meant to harm you but to show you the true power love has over our individual journeys as they blend effortlessly with those who touch our heart. Should I bring down my walls and allow you to take place firmly in my being, you will be assured that your name, will also live with me forever, as part of our combined story.

Let me allow you to enter my heart slowly

I can’t rush this; I won’t. It’s not easy for me to let you in. The pain is raw, despite the time that has passed. It’s the kind of pain that sits with a soul forever. Pain that can be revisited quickly and a scab that never seems to heal fully. As you enter my walled city, move on my heart with gentle compassion. Any other form of entry will be thwarted with stronger defenses than before. If your approach is careful and may be fortunate enough to find your place in my heart, forever safe in the deep crevasses my intricate heart offers.

Be confident in all you are and all we can create

I need you to be confident in yourself and all you bring to this adventure. You aren’t him. I don’t want you to be him. I want you to be you, and I want you to help us create our path. You aren’t completing the story I was writing; you are helping us write a new story with our timelines and our love. Be confident in that love, and I will be confident in it too.

I’ve asked a lot of you

I understand if this is all so much more than you can handle. It’s not easy to penetrate my walls. You can walk away if you aren’t strong enough for my reality. I’d rather you walk away than pretend you can be something that neither one of us need or want. I can’t forget my history, nor do I want to. Walk with me into the future, understand we are both shaped by all that came before. Otherwise, you may need to find someone that will be what you need; I am not her.

However, if you stay

If you stay, I can promise you that should our love grow and develop I have more to offer you than before I was broken. The broken pieces of me make me more interesting, more colorful and add to my depth.

I have the perspective of loss that shapes how I see the world now. I will treasure your touch, your time and your heart. I feel more deeply, see more clearly and live more fully than those who never walked in the darkness....alone. I know you aren’t mine forever, and by choosing to share our today, I will cherish the beauty of the moment. I can’t control how long we will share the oxygen that surrounds us but should I love you, it will be forever, and you will have been worth it.

I am making a choice to bring down my walls and risk the pain all over again because of our memories, pictures, and history are worth the pain.

In fact, it may be the only thing in life worth it at the end.

The darkness showed me the immense beauty of the light.

You can find Michelle on One Fit Widow Facebook page and on her blog Michelle’s new book, Healthy Healing: A Guide to Working Out Grief Using the Power of Exercise and Endorphins is available now wherever books and e-books are sold. Learn more at

Erin McFarland Photography

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