A Blessing for the Brokenhearted

ValentineImage: Valentine © Jan Richardson

Gary and I typically didn’t make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t for any lack of romance; in fact, just the opposite. In a relationship where our primary name for each other was always Sweetheart, Valentine’s Day simply seemed redundant.

Still, we gave a nod to the day by exchanging cards. And chocolates. Just a few days ago, while sorting through some of Gary’s things—a wrenching task I am having to undertake in tiny doses—I discovered that my sweetheart had saved every single card I had ever given to him: every Valentine’s Day card, every birthday card, every anniversary card. Many of them were handmade. I created the one above—in which the heart opens from the center to reveal another heart beneath—for one of our first Valentine’s Days.

Looking at the card now, I think of the nurse’s words just after Gary died. I had placed my hand on his chest and remarked on how strange it was to feel a heartbeat and know it was only my own pulse. “His heart beats in you now,” she said to me.

Though Gary and I didn’t make a big deal of Valentine’s Day, February 14 will still give me pause this time around. I know I’m not alone in not looking forward to the day. But instead of simply dreading it, I thought this seemed like a good starting place for a blessing. If you’re living with a broken heart right now, or know someone who is, this blessing is for you. In the midst of the breaking, may our hearts never cease to open.

Blessing for the Brokenhearted

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
—Henry David Thoreau

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound,
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it,

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still,

as if it trusts
that its own
persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us

—Jan Richardson

2017 update: This blessing appears in Jan’s new book, The Cure for Sorrow.

P.S. If you are new to The Painted Prayerbook, I welcome you, and I invite you to read the brief remembrance and blessing I wrote for my husband and partner in ministry, who died at the beginning of Advent, several weeks after experiencing complications during what we had anticipated would be routine surgery. You can find the remembrance and blessing here: Beloved: A Blessing for Garrison Doles.

Also, Gary and I had planned to offer a new online retreat for Lent. You can imagine how it feels to do this without him, but I do not want to miss the opportunity to travel through the season with you. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat is a great way to journey toward Easter, from anywhere you are. Click the image below for details and registration. Individual, group, and congregational rates are available.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.



65 Responses to “A Blessing for the Brokenhearted”

  1. Carol Hiestand Says:

    This verse is beautifu.
    are these your words.
    such heart-wrenching beauty

  2. Cynthia Vrooman Says:

    You are a remarkable woman and poet.
    I am so glad my friend shared one of your blessings with me.
    Now, I revel in your blessings often.

  3. Terry Neff Ryan Says:

    That was beautiful, I am going to save it – my heart goes out to you.

  4. Linda Cheek Says:

    So sorry to hear of your loss. I was unaware your beloved had passed until I read “A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.” It brought tears to my eyes. My heart goes out to you. May God bless you in your season of grief.
    Rev. Linda Cheek
    Brentwood UMC
    Denver CO

  5. Kellyann Says:

    Amen, amen, amen.

  6. Mary Says:

    I lost my dear husband and soul mate 3 months ago and I appreciate your beautiful posting and blessing – thanks – it is definitely a difficult time to lose a love

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Mary, thank you, and many blessings to you in your own time of grieving. May you receive what you need, each step of the way.

  7. Marcia Says:

    Absolutely beautiful…

  8. Carole Parmeter Dyer Says:

    Thank for this, Jan. I needed it, and I am sure many others do too. Sending you light and love.

  9. Mandy Lape-Freeberg Says:

    Thank you, Jan for sharing your heart with all of us. We are so privileged to learn from your honesty and your wisdom.
    Early in my ministry I had several parishioners who had spouses die that first year. As Valentine’s day approached I was saddened to think that it would be their first without their beloved. Thus began a twenty year project of having youth church members bake and make small crafts to create Valentine baskets for all our single seniors. On the 13th we drive all over town delivering them. It has been such a blessing for everyone involved. This year, I will include your blessing in the baskets of our most recent widows. Thank you for the care that you give to so many of us.

  10. MaryDelll Sigler Says:

    I was introduced to your blog by a friend because I too recently lost my husband. He died the end of November, just before Thanksgiving. We had been copastors of a church and the last six months of his life, I hardly ever left his side. Your words are beautiful and meaningful to me. As my friend said, I felt she was saying what is in your heart. She was right. Thank you for sharing from the brokeness of your heart to help those of us with broken hearts.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Many kind thanks for your words. I’m so sorry about your husband. Gary was my partner in ministry, and I know that losing someone who so deeply shared not only life but also work brings its own particular challenges. Know I’m sending blessings and prayers as you navigate the landscape ahead. Peace to you.

  11. Judy Grieve Says:

    Jan, thank you for sharing so very honestly with us all. Your words are filled with courage and hope. Amen

  12. Linda Faltin Says:

    Dear Jan, as someone relatively new to your blog, I had not known about your husband’s death. As someone who has “been there, done that”, I hold you in my heart as you go through this difficult time. No, this is not the time for “time heals” and other such platitudes…it is all too fresh, the pain too acute. And though, as time passes, the pain and sorrow and loss changes, the hole in the heart left by that person’s death is never really filled by anyone or anything else. This is the price of loving. I embrace you today and, if need be, will wipe your tears and listen to your heartache, for I know that there will come a time when you will dance.

  13. Beth Faeth Says:

    Your words have always been a blessing to me, Jan. I have held you in prayer as you embark on the arduous journey of grief. This poem is beautiful, and so real. Thank you!

  14. Maureen Says:

    As always, I am deeply moved by your blessing, Jan, this one especially. May peace be with you.

  15. Connie Tuttle Says:

    Thank you from this broken heart.

  16. Michael Landon Says:

    Thank you for this beautiful reflection and for being so open about your journey of grief… you are blessing so many by your faithfulness, love and integrity. Know you continue to be held in the healing light of God’s love…

  17. Laura Hudson Says:

    Thank you, Jan. You are a treasure.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Laura, thank you! I’m so glad that Gary and I got to see you last spring when we were out in Washington for the convocation – what a treat to get to cross paths with you. I remember our time with you at the Guild with much gratitude, and am thankful for the support and hospitality you’ve shared with both of us, including hosting Gary for a concert at your church. Many blessings to you.

  18. Jan Richardson Says:

    Beautiful and beloved friends, thank you so much. Your words and thoughts and prayers are such a gift and a balm to me in these days. I send much gratitude and so many blessings to you.

  19. donna leavitt Says:

    dear Jan
    I found your blog right after I had lost my son from an over-dose 2yrs. ago., your thoughts helped to heal slowly this aching heart. I’m so, so sorry. I can feel the pain so deep in your heart. People try so hard to say just the right things…but so often only bring more pain. May you as you walk through this agony feel love from people ..you have blessed me time and again. Thank-you

  20. Carolyn Says:

    Oh dear Jan. The expressions of your grief that you offer the world allow the rest of us to get a taste of how the loss feels, a privilege you put before us, to bear witness….may we learn and live the lessons in your blessing.

    Teresa Weir, in her memoir ‘The Orchard’ writes after she watched her husband slip from this world: ‘The passage of time is ephemeral. You wrap it up and put it in that place where memories go. And when you pull it out, it doesn’t matter if it’s one year or eighteen. It feels the same.’

  21. Pamela Shier Says:

    Thank you, bless you.

  22. Dianna Mammone Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing yourself so honestly in your post. Our lives have been intertwined over the years. I was saddened to hear of your partners passing. I feel like I’ve grown up with you both through the years. I’ve enjoyed your writings and they have made a great difference in my life. I especially like your devotional materials. Please accept my sympathies on your loss.

  23. Linda M. Goddard Says:

    So genuine,so honest,so simply and plainly true,Jan!
    I am sending sweet blessings from my broken open heart!

  24. Elaine Eberhart Says:

    Jan, this is among the most beautiful pieces you have written. It is especially welcome this week as I am mourning the loss of my younger brother. Thanks for this gift.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Elaine, thanks so much. You continue to be on my heart as you mourn the death of your brother. Sending many blessings and much love.

  25. Beebe James Says:

    I lost my husband 3 weeks ago. After 56 years life in a world he doesn’t inhabit seems unimaginable. A friend sent me this this morning. Thank you so much. Your writing is so helpful. And so beautiful.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Beebe, thank you for your words and for reaching out in your own time of grief. I’m so sorry about your husband. Your words about “life in a world he doesn’t inhabit seems unimaginable” really resonate for me. Gary’s death still seems nearly incomprehensible to me – how can such a force of nature be gone from this earth? And how do I move forward in a world that he doesn’t inhabit? I try to remember to keep breathing, to pace myself and not try to tackle everything at once, to lean into the care of family and friends, to rail at God when I need to. Though I can’t quite imagine a world that Gary doesn’t inhabit, I’m trying to trust that if I keep doing all this, and pay attention to what I need each step of the way, my imagination will begin to stir again.

      I wish you many blessings as you navigate your path, and I pray that you will know wellsprings of comfort and hope. Thank you again.

  26. DeAnn Miller Says:

    My husband died Jan 2nd 2004, our anniversary was Sunday Feb 9th. I was so sad that night I was watching the Beatles tribute and my heart ached. John loved music and I miss his voice.
    I understand your pain and heartache, it won’t go away but as time goes on putting one foot in front of the other gets easier. That’s the hard part moving forward and learning to love
    again. I love your poem, I will print this one out for my fiance. He lost his wife a month before my husband died, we have been friends since 1975! We are fortunate to have found love
    again. I remember thinking at one time “What are you doing? You will get hurt again!” Love is amazing, that’s what we are born to do. God Bless and keep your broken heart, you are
    amazingly strong all though you don’t know it right now. Thank-you for sharing your heart with us, I will pray for the Lord to hold you gently in his arms.

  27. Malinda Says:

    This was right on time for me!! My first love died when I was 19. I took the wrong road for many yrs. I have now been living for God in the last 7yrs. I have not had another real relationship since then. I am now 45. I don’t mind the singleness, but at times I can get lonely. This Valentines week has been extra difficult for some reason. Maybe because as each year passes my hope for love diminishes less and less. I have known what true love was and lost it so this poem spoke depths into my heart!! Thank you for sharing!!

  28. Lynne Lew Says:

    Blessings to you, Jan. I am holding you in prayer daily, many times a day, in your time of grief. May your heart never cease to open.

  29. Paul Tomlinson Says:

    Thank you for this wonderful blessing. My wife of 32 years died last June so this is still part of my year of firsts. Writing poetry has been part of my journey of grief. Your blessings was deeply moving and much appreciated.

  30. Carolyn Moor Says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. I’m honored to share the love and compassion in this blessing with our Modern Widows Club community. Thank you for posting. A very Happy Blessed Valentine’s to you.
    Carolyn Moor

  31. martha mclaughlin Says:

    heartbreaking. beautiful. thank you.

  32. Diane Andrews Says:

    May your heart mend by the Grace of God, the Divine weaver of this tapestry of life and may all the angels surround you in the darkest hours of evening when tears have their time to flow. As each new day dawns, may the illumination of Light and Love continue to shine upon your beautiful spirit and fill your soul with the deep remembrance of your beloved who is with you eternally.

  33. Stacey Hammons Says:

    This is absolutely beautiful and I thank you for it. My dad died just last week and I’m still in such pain today when I came across this.
    I’m so terribly sorry for your loss and I want to thank you for sharing your heart with the rest of us – your words speak my heart. I know it’s incredibly hard, so I appreciate your “blessing to the brokenhearted” all the more.
    I pray the beauty you have shared will be a blessing back to you

  34. Darcyjo Says:

    From one widow to another–praying peace for you today. It does eventually get better, down the road aways. Blessings, hon.

  35. Kimberly Says:

    I lost my husband Paul on January 10, to complications following (successful) cancer surgery. Shortly after his death, a friend pointed me to your FB post about the kindness of others, which captured so well how I was feeling. Last week, another friend sent this blessing to me. Paul and I met on Valentine’s Day, 33 years ago, and celebrated it only because it marked the beginning of our relationship. Thank you for your brokenhearted eloquence. Wishing you peace.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Kimberly, please accept my belated thanks for your words. I’m so sorry about Paul. I send you many blessings as you navigate the terrain of grief, and I wish you much peace.

  36. Sandra Says:

    Thank you for those thought provoking words re a – your broken heart Jan there is so much love and I could say ‘common sense’ written there and yet it is more than that, so beautiful, heart wrenching and profound, God grant you His love may he enfold you.
    Also Thankyou for your beautiful book I purchased plus your signing, you gave me peace.

  37. Karyl H. Says:

    Thank you for sharing these words. My husband passed last April. My heart is still broken and missing it’s other half. Hoppy saved every love note I had written and hidden in his lunch bag as a surprise. God bless you on your journey and in your remembering.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Karyl, thank you. I am so sorry about your husband. How beautiful that he had saved all your love notes! I pray for blessings on your broken heart. May you be enfolded with peace as you grieve and remember your husband and celebrate the love you have shared. Thank you for your words of blessing for me.

  38. Cynthia Bowman Says:

    That poem says it all. I understand, and travel the path alongside of you. I’m looking forward to the 2015 Lenten journey.

  39. Joanne Mattos Says:

    I lost my beloved husband of 26 years, at 52, in the recovery room of a heart attack, following surgery for colon cancer almost 11 years ago; or maybe it was yesterday. The thoughts and memories now bring more smiles than tears, but there are certain times when the tears can’t be held back. Our Valentine’s Day was unique as well – we avoided the traditional crowded restaurants and chocolates, and would take an afternoon off and attend the local Flower and Garden Show, always scheduled within a week of the holiday, and go to an early dinner. This is my first visit to your site – my new pastor has just give me the gift of your words, wisdom and comfort. Bless you, and I hope you continue in your journey to peace and healing. Much love and appreciation.

  40. Linda Lea Says:

    Thank you so much for these words. Your poetry speaks deeply to my own broken heart. How beautiful. Thank you for this gift.

  41. Nicole O'Malley Says:

    My husband passed of a heart attack at 41 last month. He kissed me and our kids goodnight and 20 minutes later, my world forever changed. Thank you for your blessings.How are you supposed to live without your heart? I have always ordered my life as god, spouse and children. When we were married Father told us to take time for ourselves as a couple that its easy with kids to only focus on them. Then they grow up and leave and you and your spouse could have lost your connection. The thought that we would ever grow apart gave us an amazing 11years.Now at 35,I am readjusting and trying to understand and grieve. I found some comfort in your blessing. Thank you.

  42. Erin Says:

    This is the only poem I have ever found that puts into words how I feel, and the only poem I have found at all comforting in my grief. Thank you so much for putting this into words, and for sharing.

  43. Liz Simmons Says:

    Thank you, Jan, for articulating a pain that I couldn’t name. My husband died 15 years ago, and Valentine’s Day snuck up on me this year. Now, I must weave these feelings into a sermon or blog or something to integrate them further. Jesus’ temptations and wilderness and the temptation to never love again?

  44. Rebecca Carpenter Says:

    Your words really touched me too. Two years ago, I lost my husband but it seems like it just happened. I also found in his desk the cards I had sent him over the years. I had no idea that he kept them. Within eleven months, I lost my husband and both of my parents. I am making it but your words express the feelings that come with losing loved ones. Praying for you. It does get easier but the pain is still there.

  45. Marilyn Says:

    My husband died a year ago 2/2/15 unexpectedly while on a cruise vacation out of the country. He too “simply needed” to get back home so his doctors could take care of him, but he never made it. Valentine’s Day for us was the celebration of the day we brought our adopted son home and became his parents 33years ago. I’m incredibly grateful that this month my son and I could spend several days together remembering my husband/his dad on the 1st anniversary of his death. And I am so thankful that I have our son in whom I can still find immense joy this Valentine’s Day.

  46. Donna Marie Todd Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I lost my husband 4 years ago and your words radiate with what all widows experience. Thank you for the gift of them. I am a storyteller and retreat leader and grief has led me into new ministry with other widows. AWidowsTale.com
    I just wrote a blog today about our last Valentines Day.

    Blessings on the sorting, it’s one of the hardest things.
    Happy Valentines Day.
    Donna Marie

  47. Debby Holland Says:

    This so touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I, too, lost my husband and partner in ministry. It’s been almost 4-1/2 years now, and I still miss him like it was yesterday. He was a long distance runner and left on a Friday morning for a short 2-mile run…but never returned. A pedestrian found him unconscious and struggling to breathe. He was in a coma for 3-1/2 weeks before taking his last breath. He was only 56. I live a very different life now, no longer a pastor’s wife which I loved living for 30 years.

    Your words and your poetry spoke to me, and I “get” the words you penned. Thank you for sharing your deepest feelings, and for helping those of us who mourn to understand that we still have purpose in life and love to bestow on others.

    Our Heavenly Father has recently been dealing with me about beginning a ministry to the widows in our congregation to pass along the love that Jesus modeled for us. There is always someone in need of the love that fills our hearts…I hope that I am able to show the way.

    Thank you again.

    Your sister in Christ,

  48. Andryia Says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I am very touched and moved…beyond words. I have major goose bumps all over my body and I do believe my heart has swelled with love. Thank you again💕🌹

  49. Roberta Bondi Says:

    Jan this s so beautiful and so wrenching. I really hurt for you. I can hardly imagine being able to keep going.

  50. Gerri Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart and the pain that you’ve experienced. I can’t imagine the grief that has overshadowed your life but thankful that the Lord has been faithful to carry you onward toward promising days. You have given me a glimpse of the hardships in our journeys and that we all must continue upward and trust in the Lord. God bless you richly and may He provide for all your needs according to His riches in glory. You are an inspiration to me and many others. I realize that one day, this may happen to me or my wonderful husband…when that day comes, I pray that I’ll be as strong and courageous as you are!

  51. Jan Says:

    So true. This is the 16th Valentine that I’ve spent without my man due to cancer. I have a very full life with beautiful children and grandchildren but I always feel sad each year as Valentines falls the day before the anniversary of his death. This blessing is greatly appreciated. thank You

  52. Christine J Baxter Says:

    This has been my second Valentine’s Day without my beloved Donald. I am unsure of my future as I will graduate in May from Seminary. I am grieving more than ever before but everyone has moved on. Thank you for your work!

  53. KSorb Says:

    Dear Jan, I have just opened your blog for the first time, having just closed the computer window on a podcast from a hiker widow hoping someone would hike the Appalachian Trail, wearing her husband’s boots, since now he will never be able to fulfill this longtime dream himself. Because I, too, am a widow, whose husband collapsed suddenly at work and didn’t survive, having just returned from an epic hike, I, of course wept with both sorrow and gratitude. It was then that I opened your blog with the blessing for the broken hearted. Valentine’s Day was a week ago, but it was our wedding anniversary, and will always be a hard day. We too called each other Sweetheart, which is what we were for 36 years. The blessing, the poem, your introductory words, made me cry again, heart already plowed by the podcast and the recentness of Valentine’s Day. But these tears heal. Slowly, they heal. God gave us tears, and He Himself wept. Then He went on to love anyway. Thank you. May the Lord bless you richly as you share with so many of us “the calling of widowhood.”

  54. Melissa Says:

    I’m so very sorry for your loss! This poem sums up my own aching heart right now. My love is an unrequited one of five years. No matter how I try, there is no escaping it…not reason, no prayer, no action, no pill, no music for this pain, nothing. I’ve never loved this deeply, not ever. My fear is that I’ll be in unrelenting pain. I look for beauty everywhere and do my best to celebrate it, yet it feels all the more lonesome.

    Oh, come Jesus! Please come to me in a way that somehow reconciles all of this and that removes both fear of both no cure and of my heart being healed. Five years and how my heart has only grown to ache much more with love that is beyond measure. He knows this, and though I know he cares for me and loves me in friendship, how I pray he shared the same abiding love. Saints, please intercede for me. Every day is truly agony to even get through it. Help me, God, please help me.

  55. Roza Says:

    I have just returned from Christchurch where I read your poem. I almost shouted out with emotion and I felt your pain. I was widowed 8 1/2 years ago and today, on his birthday, I’ve shared your words with my children. We’ve enjoyed a wonderful family day today walking with my grandchildren. I count my blessings each day……I’ve never been angry but i still am resentful.

    I have a wonderful partner in my life and my toast at my sons wedding was axactly your words- the heart only knows how to love more.

    I share your pain and wish you blessings rich in happiness and joy.

  56. DeAnn Says:

    This poem brings such special meaning, I am widowed now for almost 13 years and the pain can still burn bright at times. Then life happens and more pain arrives. I just lost my stepdaughter to heroin on March 15th, 2017, she battled her addiction for 15 years and now is finally at peace in the Lord’s arms. Thank-you Jan for the hope these words bring…I sent a copy to her mother who is lost in grief. Thank-you for the power of these words, they bring healing and grace in the pain of loss. God bless and keep you.

  57. Martha Jane Says:

    I share your loss, Jan, but in a totally different way. My husband was 84 and it took him a year to die of metastatic prostate cancer ( but miraculously without any pain!). Yours was so unexpected and indeed,wrenching. I made hand-crafted valentines for him for the past 10 years; I have put them all up on my mantel piece for this Valentine week. Someone suggested I make him one, again, this year even though he’s gone. I will think about it….

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