Imagine with me a day when the weather is perfect. There are birds chirping and the noise of a waterfall in the distance. The temperature is just right and the sun’s warmth traces your skin. You, the bride, see your groom standing at a distance by the minister. He looks incredibly handsome in a striking dark suit and his luminous smile shows his joy and confidence. Family and close friends, many shedding happy tears, watch as you begin to make your way down the center aisle. Many emotions fill your heart. You feel nervous, very happy, and a little uncertain of the road ahead. But most of all you are overjoyed that this wonderful adventure you’ve dreamed of for so long is finally beginning.
The violin begins to play the sweet melody of the wedding processional. From a distance you, the groom, see your bride. She is so beautiful. In that moment, she is the most beautiful person you have ever seen in your life. Dressed in a gown of white, her eyes are glowing behind a flowing veil and you know her heart is full of deep love for you. She is the one you have waited for. As your eyes meet, tears start to swell. You know without a doubt that she is God’s gift to you. Someone you will treasure forever.
This was the imagined beginning to my “Ever After”… or so I thought. Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of the day I would get married and have a family. I have a great relationship with my family today, but our home when I was a child was full of dysfunction. As a young person I often dreamed of the prince who would rescue me and I would imagine the happy life we would build together. A fairytale love story was what I longed for, the dream I held close for so many years.
For those of you who know me, you are aware that I was engaged. The countless pictures I shared on social media portrayed only love and laughter, always with sweet words and cute hash tags. We were a couple for almost three years and engaged for over one. However, behind those smiles and poses there was also pain and sadness. Every relationship requires hard work, but ours mainly consisted of unnecessary hurt and heartbreak.
The wedding venue was booked, the invitations had been sent, and vendors were reserved. Two wedding gowns were hanging in my closet. I’d been given a bridal shower and tons of gifts. Family and friends from out of state had purchased plane tickets. Yet, six weeks prior to the wedding date, December 3, 2016, we decided to call off our wedding. In honor of my ex-fiancé, I won’t detail the reasons for ending our relationship. Suffice to say, it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made but also a necessary one.
After calling off the wedding, I went through two months of professional counseling to heal from what my counselor deemed as “loss”. I always assumed that people could only experience loss in the form of a person: a spouse, child, dear friend, etc. I didn’t know we could experience it in the form of losing a dream. The pain of losing a dream can be extremely difficult. I remember around this time watching some of my closest friends realize their “Ever After” and get married — yet I felt like I was the one who desired this the most! To be honest, rejoicing for my dear friends while watching my dream of becoming a wife (and eventually a mom) crumble before my eyes seemed almost un-bearable at the time. I vividly remember the day of the planned wedding arriving and out of town guests coming to see me. My family and I still had a gathering with everyone and at one point I had to excuse myself to go upstairs and lock myself in the bathroom…I couldn’t manage to compose myself. Not only was my dream not coming true that day, I felt I had let people down. How had I missed it? How could I have let this happen?
Fast forward to today and I can thankfully say that my incredible community (dear friends, mentors and family) and my relationship with God helped me move forward, heal from brokenness, and be restored again to joy. Conjoining heart to heart with others you trust during painful times is a powerful and necessary thing. Sometimes it’s not always surrounding yourself with people who have the right thing to say, but people who will just be by your side and let you cry the healing tears.
My goal for being vulnerable and sharing my story is to inspire hope to those who may find themselves facing loss. Reflecting and writing this out in the open has also been very healing for my heart! I’m grateful to be able to say that I’ve learned to love, to feel broken and to overcome.
“Ever After” may be different to each one of you reading this. Maybe you are reading this and you too had to walk away from a cherished relationship. Maybe an injury has prevented you from your dream of becoming a professional athlete. Maybe the business you gave everything too didn’t work out. Perhaps you have lost a loved one. I’m sure all of us to some extent have experienced the disappointment or devastation of loss.
May I attempt to encourage you?
- To those who are married: Perhaps you are experiencing the loss of a dream in your marriage. Maybe you are overwhelmingly disappointed or disoriented. I heard a statement recently that I want to keep in mind for my own future marriage: “every disappointment or loss serves as an opportunity to allow God to work a miracle.”
- To those who are widowed/divorced: You know what love is and what love takes and I commend you for your strength. You have a story so please share it! Pour into other men and women who so long to hear the reason for your hope. If you desire to be married again, remain hopeful and allow yourself to dream again.
- To those who are engaged: Congratulations! I am so excited for you; the future ahead is full of love and adventure. Though planning a wedding and all the logistics of starting a new life together can seem stressful, I hope you take time to enjoy yourself and savor all the special moments and “firsts.”
- To those who are single: I used to think that when my dream of being married and having a family came true there would be nothing else I would want in life. Now I understand there are so many more things in my heart to be discovered and so much more I want to give to the world around me. I have also realized the important of pursuing all I can become NOW rather than waiting until the season I look forward too so much starts.
- To those whose hearts are broken: Loss is real. It can be painful, physically ailing, and take your breath away. Over time your wound will heal, hope will be restored and you’ll dream again. In the meantime I hope you give yourself permission to cry healing tears and allow others to build you up. You don’t have to do this alone.
- To every reader: Never stop fighting for your dreams. Sometimes letting go of a dream you’ve always had may enable you to dream bigger than you thought you ever could. Growing through pain can produce some of our greatest joys. We all have experienced loss in various forms, so let’s do the hard work of being vulnerable with trustworthy people. Truly, what is brought into the light can now finally be restored.
Thank you for spending time with me as I’ve shared from a vulnerable place. My prayer and new dream for all of us is this – when our wounds turn into scars, they would remind us of the healing we’ve received instead of the pain we endured.
Let’s not be afraid to share our stories and hold hands with those near to us.