Life Lessons from My Kids, Part 2: How to Handle Heartbreak

Yesterday was unexpectedly emotional and I am typing this through eyes made puffy from plentiful tears and with a heart that is broken but bursting with love.

My almost-7-year-old daughter had her belt test for her mixed martial arts class. Both of my kids have been studying MMA for almost two years, and their coach is the best extracurricular instructor they have had in any activity they’ve tried. Yesterday my daughter earned her orange belt, and she is the top-ranked student in her level. She was also one of only two girls that tested yesterday. She has thrived under the coaching – and, more, the mentorship – of her teacher.

After the belt ceremony, the director of the MMA school gifted the coach with a beautiful samurai sword. And then he dropped the proverbial hammer: the sword was a goodbye gift, as the coach is leaving the school at the end of this year.

A boy sitting near me burst into tears. My eyes welled up as my heart sank into the padded floor of the studio. I looked at my daughter, whose face registered confusion, then shock, then devastation. She looked at me and we both let the tears fall.

That’s when my daughter’s heart broke for the first time.

And mine broke for her, and for my son too. The departure of their beloved coach is a profound loss for our family, and we will be feeling it for a long, long time.

We will be feeling it. Feeling it – not numbing it, not quashing it, not burying it, not running from it.

Feeling it. That is what we did yesterday afternoon. After more tears and hugs and pictures with their coach (pictures that make well up every time I look at them, because my sweet kids and their wonderful coach are trying so hard to smile but they are all crying) we promptly went out for ice cream. It helped a little, as ice cream does.

At bedtime, my daughter asked me to lay down with her for a few minutes so we could snuggle and talk some more. And I hope I never forget what she said through her last tears of the day:

“I feel like my heart is getting bigger. Every time someone leaves my heart it cracks and grows bigger. And someone else will come in and fill it back up.”

When a heart breaks, it grows.

This is what happens when we allow ourselves to feel pure, true, profound sadness: growth. Space for more love to fill the void left in the wake of a broken heart.

I have spent so much of my life trying to numb sadness. Enough of that. I’m going to take a cue from my daughter and let new love in instead.

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