The Chain Around His heart
By Joyce and Barry Vissell
Two broken hearts … and mending ten years later! This true story shows how the heart can be healed, no matter how much time has gone by.
Almost ten years ago, Noah was young and in love with Amelia. He considered her “the love of his life.” But then, on a business trip, he met a young woman at a party and, fueled by alcohol, they had sex that night. Back home, and feeling guilt-ridden by what he had done, he fully confessed to Amelia. He planned to marry her, and didn’t want to hold onto a secret.
Amelia did not take this confession well, and ended the relationship. She ordered Noah to stay out of her life, and never contact her again.
Noah did what she wanted. He never contacted her again. But he couldn’t get over her either. He tried to move on. He had other, but very short, relationships. He could never fully open his heart to another woman.
Then he found me (Barry). In our first counseling session together, I pointed out what to me felt like a chain around his heart, binding him to Amelia, even after all these years. I suggested he write her a letter, both to free himself and to free her. But he resisted, not wanting to go against her wishes, not wanting to stir up old wounds.
I finally convinced him of the importance of writing her, and coached him to write direct from his heart. This is what he wrote:
Wow. It's been so long since we communicated, almost ten years to be exact. I remember that last moment like it was yesterday. You asked me to never speak to you again, and I agreed. In that moment, my heart broke, and then it closed. I recognize that I am breaking that promise right now, but please know that I am writing this letter with love and the honest intention to heal.
Looking back brings so much pain. I feel guilt, sadness, regret, and I have been punishing myself for nearly a decade. For so long I tried to forget everything, to push the pain, the feelings, and the memories as far away as possible, and to bury them for eternity. All of this has manifested in my life as a wounded heart and a struggle to open to new love.
After nearly ten years of carrying this heavy weight, it's time to let it go. It's time to forgive myself and to let go of the pain. Life is too precious and I don't want to hold on to bad feelings toward anyone, toward myself, or toward you. And I don't want to go another ten years being closed to love. I deserve to love again.
In writing this letter, I hope to release the negative energy that I've been holding on to in my heart and the negative energy that remains between us. I believe this energy has somehow kept us connected. In letting it go, may it set us both free.
I want you to know that I am so sorry for what I did, for all that I did, and for all of the pain and suffering that I caused you. I hope you know deep down inside that hurting you was never my intention, that I loved you so deeply, and that I loved you the best that I knew how to at that time.
I recognize that it wasn't all roses and love songs. Of course, there was pain. But there was also so much rawness, love, and beauty. You were my first (and only) true love, my first romantic partner, and so much more. We were so young. Those were such formative years that shaped who I am today. Instead of looking back through a painful lens, instead of trying to repress, forget, and erase, I'm going to look back from now on with gratitude and I will honor and cherish the love and goodness that was there.
With all of that, thank you. Thank you for showing me love at such an early age. Thank you for all of the special moments, for all of the firsts, and even for all of the pain. It wasn't always easy, but I learned so much and I wouldn't have it any other way. I believe it was special and sacred.
I know this email is completely out of the blue. If you're open to it, I welcome your thoughts, your reply, your forgiveness, and even your silence if that's what you choose. Most of all, I send you love and I just hope that you are deeply and truly happy in your life. Please know that I will always love you and I will always wish you the best.
With love and kindness,
A week and a half of tense waiting, and then came a reply from Amelia.
I've been waiting for an email from you for quite some time, and am happy it finally came. I'm sorry to keep you waiting for my response... your words brought back a lot of feelings and memories that I have tried to forget as well. It still hurts to remember, but there is so much sweetness in those memories too.
I want you to know that I am entirely happy in my life right now. I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the painful road it took me to get here. While your actions did break me at the time, I was forced to rebuild myself afterwards; in that process, I was able to heal the things within me that needed help. In fact, I’m grateful that you did what you did… if you hadn’t, I would have waited for you forever and never found the person that was truly the right fit for me. I thank you for that.
But now it’s your turn! The rest of your story is waiting for you.
Please know that I forgive you for everything that happened, and am thankful for our time together. I’m thankful for the pain that helped me become my best self. I believe we will always be connected in some way, but not through our shared loss… let it instead be through the love of two kids that did the best they could.
In my heart, I know that Noah is now free to love completely again. He has removed the chains around his heart. Such a great lesson for all of us!
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are passionate about conscious relationship and personal-spiritual growth. They are the authors of 9 books. Call 831-684-2299 for further information on counseling sessions by phone, on-line, or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.