The first time I remember feeling brokenhearted was when our family dog, Jamie, was accidentally killed by a car. The hurt was like nothing I had ever experienced before.

It was awful, yet after a while, my heart seemed to heal.

A few years later, I came home from school and learned that a family friend, who I adored, had lost his life in a boating accident. It was shocking and once again, I felt my heart break in a million pieces.

And once again, the pain of his loss lessened, and my heart healed.

In my teens, I felt love for a boy, for the first time, who was in one of my classes. Sadly, for me, the feeling wasn’t mutual, and once again my heart was broken.

As life moved forward, heartbreak happened to me again with divorce, lost love and belonging.

It hurt. Yet, my heart healed, and life was good again.

. . .

When my husband died suddenly, the pain and heartbreak was devastating. It was the worst, most intense pain I had ever felt.

We were neighbors, schoolmates and friends from kindergarten through 12th grade. Although we took different paths after high school, we were lucky enough to reconnect later in life.

Our friendship, from years past, grew from a comfortable connection into a passionate, powerful real-life love with trust, respect, kindness and affection wrapped around it like a big, warm hug.

Life together was beautiful — better than either of us dreamed possible — until death claimed him.

I was inconsolable. I loved him so much. How could I possibly survive another heartbreak?

Though my heart was shattered, a surprising and unexpected emotion began to run through me. It was gratitude. Gratitude for being with him as he took his last breath. Gratitude for the friendship, life and love we shared. Gratitude that we got the opportunity for a second chance.

Since his death, grief has been my constant, not so welcome companion. Alongside that grief, though, is deep gratitude.

. . .

It hurts like hell to lose someone you love… yet we dared to love again, and it was so worth it.

Anytime you love, you risk heartbreak. Yet, despite the hopelessness of it, you can recover, and often, out of your anguish, a better version of you emerges.

The experience of heartbreak many times over has reshaped my life in unimaginable ways. I‘ve gained an appreciably new respect for life, valuable insight and perspective about loss and heartbreak.

My hope for you is that when heartbreak happens because you’ve lost something you value or someone you love, as you surely will, remember that you are a brave human being because you dared open your heart to love.

Please also remember that you have the power within to heal.

Do not become solitary and close yourself off from others. Rather, become the one whom others can look to and depend on.