when the heartache sometimes haunts you

five years ago this october, i went through one of the most heartbreaking, messiest, soul-tearing experiences of my life. after nearly seven years of marriage, i found myself in the aftermath of a divorce, picking up the pieces of broken dreams and shattered expectations. it took me a long, long time to get over him, but the day finally came around when i could think of him without crying + when forgiveness had settled itself down deep in my bones. i remember how freeing it felt to finally be able to take a breath without feeling the crushing force of heartache in my chest. i was wide-eyed and hopeful once again, stronger and wiser than i had been before.

still, it was then that i made a grave mistake, a misinterpretation that would haunt me in the months to come. i drew a correlation between my healing and a lack of pain; i figured now that i was put back together again, i would no longer hurt over what was lost. i was wrong.

the Bible teaches that marriage is not only the union of two in body but also in heart + soul + spirit. divorce is the tearing of that union, the brutal, bloody severing of what had been fused into one. though i was now divorced with my ex no longer in the picture, there were parts of me that still throbbed and ached from being ripped from what i was once fused to.


                                    [Photo from Gabriella Camerotti on Flickr]

it was like experiencing phantom limb pain, where nerves at the point of amputation send pain signals to the brain, making it think the limb is still there. pieces of my heart and soul would start to hurt, seemingly out of nowhere, and i began to understand how every part of me was learning to process the trauma of amputation.

as human beings, our natural inclination when we feel pain or discomfort of any kind is to immediately alleviate it, by any means necessary. take a pill, avoid the pain source, shut down completely if we have to–anything to make the hurting stop. i was no different. i became desperate to find another to cleave to, to make me “whole” once more. i was reckless with my heart and my emotions, believing that it was the price i had to pay in order to fully connect with somebody again. i accepted the lie that i needed somebody else to complete me, that i couldn’t be enough on my own. like i said–anything to make the hurting stop.

the thing is, the old adage that time heals all wounds is actually true. i’ve reached the point where my phantom pain is all but gone. sure, i feel a twinge now and again, but it’s nothing like the dull ache that used to seem a part of my very existence. and i’ve come to realize that i don’t need a man in my life to make me happy. would i like to remarry? of course i would, and i believe that will be my lot in life one day. but that’s not where i am right now, and i have learned to accept that for what it is + even to give thanks for it. in my singleness, i have grown as a person and grown even stronger in my walk with God. i’ve traveled, spending years living overseas. i have had opportunities that simply would not have come my way had i been married. and it would have been foolish of me to throw it away just for the sake of jumping into a relationship as a quick fix for the parts of my heart that were still hurting.

neither my life nor my self is diminished in any way, shape or form, just because i am single. i have great friends, literally all around the world, who love me deeply, and i feel the same for them. i’m smart, compassionate, and probably one of the funniest people i know–and i will wait for the man who sees, understands and appreciates that. i still believe he’ll come around one day, but the difference is now i’ll be okay–more than okay, really–even if he doesn’t.


  • lilyandlight

    darling.. you have brought me to tears as i sit in my local Starbucks. you are such a sweet spirit, and i have never read the testimony of a divorced woman like this. you really are a conqueror and a wise woman. i believe that, though you are dead on with the “phantom limb” analogy, you are also so strong to claim how much closer you have grown to God.

    thank you for sharing this story, and this deep part of your heart. i’m adding you to my prayer list girl! xo

    • elena.teresa.ann

      oh, sweet sister, now *you* have *me* tearing up! thank you, thank you, thank you. for kind words. for encouragement + prayer. for listening to my heart + listening to my story. you are a gift. thanks, lovely. xo

  • justsaskia

    Oh sweet sister, thank you for sharig your journey.

    Heartache *sigh* is called an ache for a reason. It reaches somewhere into our bones, brutal and painful, and we have to find a way to keep going.

    What beautiful ways you have reached out an loved your Liberian family over these last years. How far you have traveled (in both soul and body)!

    You are brave, beautiful & strong.

    Love and peace,

  • Diana

    You always have such great insights! Your writing is always so encouraging and profound. It comes from the deepest part of your soul. We still need to make time to just talk and get to know each other.

    Many blessings to you,