Break. Shatter. Fracture. Rift. The words we use to describe the end of a relationship are all about being broken to pieces. When a close friendship ended in the bitter cold of winter, I was surprised to be staring at the deepest, hardest grief I have ever felt. I refused to believe that I needed to apologize for feeling this loss so deeply; it was love, not weakness that broke me.
In those dark, early days, sometimes, I imagined myself sitting in a ball, barefoot on the floor, surrounded by countless, piercing shards of what had been so sparkling and beautiful. The vision and the sorrow stayed with me for weeks and months. Amidst that sea of broken glass, I was astonished at how and why the shattering had happened, too stricken to move. Clinging to hope, I longed desperately to figure out how to put all the pieces back together. I stared endlessly at the bits and scraps of conversation, trying to figure out what went wrong. In the searching, I discovered fragments of other broken relationships, too.
People around me offered false encouragements, “just give it time, it will work out,” or acted as if it was no big deal. “It is for the best,” they would say, smugly dismissing my sadness. I learned that most do not understand grief over a friendship. I began keeping my feelings to myself. The sea of loss is a lonely place to be.
My first instinct when it all fell apart was to move quickly, to make contact, to try and fix it all. I wanted to be anywhere but in that sadness. But, no matter where I turned, there was no path that didn’t involve walking through the pain. Reaching out, drawing closer, leaning in toward the other person—there seemed to be no other way but through, and that way was covered in broken glass.
As Lent approached, the grief loosened just enough for me to remember another, healing, metaphor—bridge building. I read everything I could about forgiveness and reconciliation. I discovered a quote by Rumi that I clung to: “Beyond our ideas of right- doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Instead of pushing through the brokenness, trying to sort through which of us was more at fault (for we both were, in different ways, I knew), I decided to go over it. Slowly, unsteadily, I began to build an arcing bridge. Looking back, I realized that I hoped my friend was building toward me, too. That is how relationships work, always two sides, meeting in the middle—a place beyond wrong and right.
Easter arrived. I reluctantly accepted the death of the friendship, and stubbornly hoped for a resurrection. When you build a bridge, one of two things will happen—you will be met at the peak or left hanging there. What I hoped was that she would build toward me; over the mess, over the pain, over the hurt. Easter filled me with hope—each Bible passage and each spring bud, resonated in my soul. Faith tells me that the bridge we could create together would be new and strong and beautiful; forgiveness and reconciliation are always a possibility. As hard as it can be, I won’t give up that hope.
Experience has shown me the other option. I built my half of the bridge as best I could, but there was no one there to meet me. I wonder why. I have questioned my actions and my identity. I still grieve. Eventually I saw that in the great loss, I gained one helpful thing—a vantage point.
From this peak of the unfinished bridge I can see the unfulfilled hope and all the brokenness of a friendship below me. But I see something else from here too: I am high enough to see that everyone is surrounded by some brokenness. Pieces of fractured glass and unsteady bridges litter all of our lives.
I’m looking to make more bridges made of strong, beautiful friendships. I’m hoping that others will build toward me, too. I’m up off the floor and I’m going to keep trying to figure out how to live unapologetically with great love.