The funny thing about heartbreak is how different people respond to it. I thought I’d had my heart broken before – boys, friends, dramas. It was only when I lost one of the most important people in my world that I realised what rubbish that was.
Some people choose to mend their broken hearts, walking around patched up, acting out a cracked and crumbled version of their former selves that no longer exists. Other people freeze their hearts back together, unable to give or accept any love for fear of the whole thing shattering, or melting to a break again. Others, for better or for worse, just choose to leave it open. 2013 was the year I decided not to put my heart back together.
And here are all the things I did as a result – this is the story of a profound loss, but how, if you live with an open heart, a lost loved one can shape and change you, how your relationship with them can continue, even after they’re gone.
I said goodbye to my dad
My father was a complicated, infuriating, beautiful, unintentionally hilarious, captivating, talented, fiercely intelligent, stubborn, loving and striking man. I shadowed him every step of the way on his journey to the end of his life, from his diagnosis two weeks before my wedding to his death six months later in February this year. We spent almost every moment of his illness together, the longest goodbye and the slowest heartbreak.
We were lucky – we said everything we needed to say, all the stories, apologies, confessions, the understanding we’d never quite come to before and an indescribable closeness for which I will be grateful forever. Every moment of my life from that moment has been, and probably always will be, coloured by that loss. 2013 was shaped entirely by his lingering and overwhelming presence, and in a way, I feel like he was somewhere around me, engineering the most eye-opening, self aware and magical year of my life.
Image © Satureyes
I started to sing again
A week after my dad passed away, I found myself almost sleepwalking into my first singing lessons in years. My throat choked by grief, I could barely speak, let alone sing a note. But in his father of the bride speech, my dad, an avid musician, had made me promise not to keep my song inside. He had been my biggest fan ever since I started singing and playing piano as a child (and given that my fans consist of about four people, I guess that’s not really saying anything). Eventually, after six months, I plucked up the courage to perform at a memorial gig in his memory. At the gig, a woman approached me who had known my dad and gave me a CD of him performing at various open mic nights.
It was when I watched the CD that I was floored by what I’d been given. I sat and let my heart break all over again, as I realised that in one of the videos, he was performing a song I’d written. He knew all of the words and music by heart, such a deeply personal song I’d written about my own life’s journey. At the end, he stopped playing and proudly proclaimed to the audience “my baby daughter”. If ever there was a clear message of love after death, there it was.
I threw myself into art and nesting
I learned photography – and I’m still learning, but it’s been one of the best forms of therapy ever. I got arty and creative, and then I pretty much bulldozed the entire inside of our home and started again. We watched the floors being ripped up, the kitchen being demolished, and eventually our dream home started to come together – wacky, whimsical, creative and mostly made with love by John and I, John diligently, and without complaint, following my vision for the perfect little nest, encouraging me and praising me every step of the way.
I went on an epic road trip around the USA
In the autumn, John and I packed up and left on the biggest adventure of our lives, driving from San Francisco to Texas, where we flew to Florida and spent three days being big kids at the various amusement parks. I won’t talk too much about it here, because it’s part of a drip-feed series of all the amazing places we went and things we saw, but I will say that every second of the trip validated my incredible choice of husband.
I came home barely believing my luck that I’d found such a compatible, clever, kind partner with such endless and unconditional love for me. The thing I missed the most about travelling was being in a car all day long with John. I felt particularly smug about this as my friends had joked that a couple alone in a car together would drive each other mad – they were taking bets on how long it would take for us to bite each other’s heads off. Since that trip, our marriage, which was lovely before, has been the most close, comforting, wonderful relationship that I can imagine any two people enjoying. Through trials and tribulations, frustration and celebration, nothing changes about this epic love story that is based on absolutely unconditional affection and acceptance. It took my three years to realise that I really am the luckiest woman in the world.
I launched a new business
On my return from the States I said goodbye to Under the Vintage Veil, my wedding blog that I’d steered successfully for two years, and decided, as I did with our home, to bulldoze the whole thing and redecorate. Darling Lovely Life was born. I couldn’t be happier with how it’s going and I’m pleased to say that we have plans for 2014 that include the opening of sponsorship and a Darling Lovely Shop! Watch this space.
I learned to drive
Finally, at the grand old age of 26, I passed a driving test – first time. I had never been prouder of myself, driving is something that, for some reason, I always felt was beyond my reach. Deciding to feel the fear and do it anyway was such a good call. I’m sure if my dad is watching somewhere, he’s absolutely thrilled that I finally did it.
2013 was a year for friends
So many incredible friends.
So what did I learn from this packed, brave, open-hearted year? That there’s no need to fix my heart again. Leaving it open invites pain, it makes me vulnerable. There still isn’t a day, maybe even an hour, where I don’t cry about my dad. Living with an open, broken heart is terrifying – but it’s just so magical.I have felt more in one year than in my whole life, I have been kinder and more empathetic than I ever imagined I could be, I have lived more in this year than in all the others put together, and next year looks set to be just as eventful, exciting and unpredictable.
I love and miss my dad more than anything, but I also know that he is living on through me, as he promised he would – his passions, his artistic flair, the way he threw himself with an unrivalled enthusiasm into any new project – these are all his gifts, and I know I’ll never lose them as long as I live.
Happy new year everyone – here’s to a new adventure in 2014