“My truth telling was like a golden key that opened a secret door to a tribe I didn’t know was there but was. Yours is too. If you are suffering savagely, say so. Say, ‘I do not know how to go on.’ Good people will take your hand and walk with you for a while. I know this because you took mine.” – Cheryl Strayed
I recently wrote 18 handwritten letters to friends old and new who have a special place in my heart. Every single one included this quote and a heartfelt thank you for their contribution to helping me find my way again.
Eight months ago I experienced my first heartbreak. My ex was my first love, my first serious relationship, and one of my best friends. The people who made a cocoon around me during those first few months after my fall into a constant and all-consuming sadness weren’t necessarily my best friends. Hell, a few had known me for all of five minutes before answering my plea for a helping hand.
I loved my ex so much that I stifled my concerns about our relationship before the breakup, afraid to reach out to anyone for support because that meant admitting my perfect love wasn’t so perfect. I was suffering even before the end but I spoke of it to no one. It was only after my heart shattered into a million pieces that I thought to reach out and say so. I was surprised at how many compassionate hands reached back for mine.
They gave me strength when I felt I had none, rearranged what was left inside my apartment after my ex hastily moved out, invited me to gatherings where I knew no one but would be welcomed with open arms anyway, wrote me letters and sent me heartfelt texts of encouragement, and spent Valentine’s Day camping with me so that I didn’t have to take that trip alone. My inner “breakup circle” was a tribe of comfort and support that I didn’t know existed, but I’m so glad it did.
The amount of gratitude I have for each of those 18 people is immense and my handwritten notes hardly thank them enough for their steadfast, loving presence when I needed it most. When I found Cheryl’s quote on a friend’s Instagram post I knew it was time to start saying thanks. My heart mended a little more with each signed, stamped, and addressed envelope I dropped in the mailbox. Thanking each person personally led me out of the reel of memories and painful feelings of that sensitive time and into a world of deep appreciation for my friends. I finally realized how much I had grown and how much of that progress was a direct result of the blanket of love that they collectively knitted around me. It took me a few weeks to accomplish but I feel it was one of the last, subtle victories I needed on my journey forward.
Thank you, friends. I hope to take your hand walk beside you when you need it, too.