On Broken Hearts, Broken Bones, and Healing

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. Helen Keller

As a rule, I don’t write about family stories, parenting, or my past here on my blog. I prefer to let my sons’ stories be their own, unless they say otherwise, to let my family’s stories be our own, and to let the stories of my past come out in fiction. I like to focus on the positive, seek out the beauty in everyday life, and share it here. But today, I’m breaking with that tradition. I need to write something personal.

My Son’s Story:

In August, my youngest son, almost 10 at the time, severely broke his arm playing basketball outside our house near Prague.

Since the bone at his elbow broke off in a large fragment at ninety degrees, his fall tore ligaments, tendons, and nerves in the impact, and required emergency surgery. We had an excellent orthopedic surgeon, but the rest of our experiences at the Czech hospital were truly horrific. Someday I’ll be able to write it … The work toward healing has been a long process.

Despite the hardships, my son has worked endlessly on bending and straightening his arm in rehabilitation, coaxing it to work and move again. His biggest hope has been to be able to play basketball and soccer with his friends once again.  This past week, his doctor approved him to play sports again. We are all thrilled!

My Story:

And somehow, in the celebration of his healing, I saw my own brokenness in a new light. The first 20 years of my life were tough; these second 19 years I’ve spent on healing from the first 20. Why?

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly
Sometimes brokenness = beauty

The home I grew up in crushed me. My parents strived to make our family life look like the Cleavers from the outside (remember the perfect family in the television show Leave it to Beaver?). But the truth closely resembled Kathy Bates’s character Annie in the movie version of Stephen King’s Misery. We moved cross-country often enough that no one ever knew the truth. As a child growing up in that environment, there was no exit.

Life sometimes breaks our hearts.

Now, as I approach age forty, I know one thing for sure: there is no way to live fully without getting hurt. But healing does come, if we let it.

I owe so much of who I am today to a handful of key people who came into my life at just the right times when I was in college, and I’m so grateful for their help. Healing from severe abuse takes a long time, but it is possible. A few things also help me, daily:

  • Reading.
  • Music, painting, photography, sports, food, wine, family time, games, friends, travel, giving, art, beauty.

And somehow, mysteriously, the process of healing begins.

Healing is a mystery, isn’t it? And it’s also Divine. We can’t heal on our own.

The Caveat, and Also the Beauty:

For my son, we learned that his arm will never work the way it would have before his accident. It won’t ever straighten or bend completely, and growth may become a major problem later. But, the one positive light in the whole experience is that my son has learned and grown so much from the accident. He has a greater understanding of pain and empathy, a higher tolerance for tough circumstances, and a sunnier outlook on life.

For me, I know I’m not the same person I would have been without the experiences I’ve had, and my perspective, too, is different.

This I know for sure: whatever ways life breaks us, it is still possible to become happy, healthy and living-fully human beings. We may never be exactly the same person as before, but we can choose to become more, to overcome, and to soar in a new way.

For you: What helps you to overcome your past?


Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

26 thoughts on “On Broken Hearts, Broken Bones, and Healing

  1. It took great courage for you to post this, and it is inspiring and uplifting. I often think we are given our specific trials so we can specifically help others once we make it through. You are clearly doing so, with great elegance and grace, and you will be a beacon for those who continue to suffer.

    Beautiful post, friend.

  2. I’m happy your son is healing. As adults we overcome and heal in many different ways. My oldest,children are in college and I see in them so much more strength than I had at 19, and I think this helps me overcome the mistakes I made.
    Wonderful thought provoking post. Thank you.

  3. I want to give you an enormous hug, and your son too. Thank you for sharing this. A powerful reminder that pain is everywhere, but so is beauty. I’ll be looking out for the latter extra hard today.

  4. I know the strength and courage it takes to talk about childhood nightmares and the healing that very important people and events bring to our lives. You did not talk about it in the article but I’m certain that your own internal strength helped you to survive; accept the help offered; and learn to thrive and live life to the fullest. You learned what not to do and are making very different choices for yourself, your marriage and your children! Celebrate that you made the choice, had the strength to accept help offered and do things differently! You broke the cycle and now your children’s lives and all they touch will forever be better – what an amazing gift to give and receive!

    For B thankful – prayers, loving supportive family and hard work have won the day – nothing can be better!

  5. Oh Jennifer, wow. Look at the amazing life you’ve made. What lucky family to have a mom and a wife who does not take her current life for granted. I’m so honored to know you.

  6. Again, so beautifully written. I truly believe that a major part of our healing from hurts in life is to talk and share our hurts with others. We find that in our pain, we are not alone. Bringing light to the dark brings healing and freedom. Seems you have done just that. Glad B is better. Thanks for sharing your heart and your God-given talents and beauty with all of us. I am certain we are better for it.

    1. Thank you so much, Regan. I am grateful to have friends like you all. You’re so right — that healing happens when we can talk and share. I hadn’t ever shared about anything in my past in public before, in effort not to be disrespectful of my upbringing and my parents, but staying quiet doesn’t help anyone either. Thank you for your support and encouragement. xo

  7. My heart goes out to you, J. You’ve made beauty out of pain….which is not to deny the pain, or shun honesty. But it’s a big deal to be able to overcome adversity and turn it into something filled with optimism and love for the next generation. I see it time and again, but we also *don’t* see it time and again. What makes one person rise to it, and someone else not? If we knew that magical ingredient we could bottle it for millions. But you have it. Just don’t let what you don’t say chew away on the inside. There has to be plenty of outlet, too. Sending much healing your son’s way.

    1. Life is such a mystery, isn’t it? The best thing we can do is catch the joy as it flies, as my closest and wisest friend always says, and help bear with each others’ burdens. I appreciate your encouragement and kindness so very much, Nichole. Thank you!

  8. Oh Jennifer, how heart breaking but beautiful your post is! I could never have guessed about you “dark” past when the person I know and have seen is one of the most positive and happy ones I have met! Luckely you seem to have met the right people to help you find a “better” and brighter path in life. Thank you for your recommendations and take care!

    1. Wow, Margareta, my beautiful Swedish friend. 🙂 Thank you so much for your sweet words. It means so much to me! We miss you all in Prague! Thank you, and hugs to your whole family. xo

  9. I remember feeling helpless and full of sorrow after my youngest daughter broke her arm just above the elbow in a scuffle on the school playground. Helpless in the face of her pain and sorrow that her bones,her core, had been damaged.We are all told though that healed broken bones are stronger in the end. Amazingly for me she wasn’t incapacitated for long and has not lost any of her strength or boldness. Her arm bends differently than the other but most people hear her infectious laugh and see her ready hand of assistance. We grow and learn that life is difficult, sometimes even unfair, but isn’t it wonderful too?

  10. Beautifully written, Jennifer. Yes, sometimes life does break our hearts. Living life fully is in the moments of heartbreak when we decide to grow and expand from the experience, instead of let it crush us. Thank you for this beautiful piece.
    And, Madeleine L’Engle’s, “Circle of Quiet,” was a transformative read for my own writing, as well. I read when I had three children under three years old and under. And it was then that I knew I would write. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your journey here. You’ve enriched us all.

    1. Thank you so much, Dawn, for sharing your thoughts and encouragement here. I appreciate it so much! And, I love that you’ve also read Circle of Quiet. I hope to start re-reading it soon. I’m looking forward to checking out your writing and your website. Thank you!

  11. Oh Jennifer. I know this was probably very tough to write but as your friend, I’m very appreciative to see this side of you. You are truly a beautiful person inside and out; this post proves that you handle life with incredible grace.

    I’m sorry your son had to go through his trials this past year but he had a very good role model on how to deal with life’s disappointments. His mama.

    Love to you guys and I can’t wait until you get your sweet self on U.S. soil permanently!

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