Grief, forgiveness, and love

Version 2

A few months ago, my life was completely upended when a man I deeply loved betrayed my trust and broke my heart. While the details matter to me, all I’ll say is this: I was planning to move to Nashville so we could be together, but it didn’t happen. The relationship was serious enough to warrant me selling my house and putting a down payment on another — but when a man tells you there’s someone else, you do not follow through with a move across the country to be with him.

I have hesitated to write about this, because in doing so, I can only share my own experience. This person is living a now separate narrative, and despite the pain that his choices have put me through, I am not out to demonize or villainize anyone involved. He meant more to me than that. I’m just sad.

I want to be honest about what I’ve gone through, what I’m still going through. I am not writing from a place of resolution or remedy; the heartache is still very much in process for me because I lost so much. I lost a man who had become my best person. I lost a relationship I had been led to believe was “it.” I lost a dream of a future that had made so much sense — even felt confirmed and ordained by God, to be honest. I lost not one, but two houses. I lost any sense of direction or home. I lost the ability to trust. I lost 15 lbs and a whole lot of money. I lost everything we had been building toward. Cruelest of all, in some moments, I lost all hope.

:::::

How do you hold the conflicting emotions of heartbreak, anger, and the remnants of love all at the same time? It’s an unbearable tension. But here is what I’m learning.

GRIEF
To experience grief in all of its awful fullness is human and healthy. To sidestep it, whether through alcohol, travel, social media, shopping, sex, or tattoos, is to cauterize our humanity. It’s best to lean straight into the pain; if we don’t, it will seep like oil through a bed of dead leaves, poisoning life from the ground up. Numbed-out grief leads to anger, anger leads to depression, depression leads to a critical spirit and a lack of peace.

But grief? We are promised that grief leads to comfort. Beauty. Dancing. I want to be a person who looks my pain in the eye, regardless of what it costs me, and then rest in knowing that there is still goodness ahead — eventually.

FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness is not primarily for the one you are forgiving. It’s for you. Choosing to forgive sets you free from the bondage of what was done to you, the pain that was inflicted upon you. It doesn’t change it, it certainly doesn’t excuse any of it — but it loosens your chains and allows you to move forward, inch by inch, breath by breath, day by day. When you release the grip on your right to harm the other person, you get your hands back. You get your life back. Slowly.

It doesn’t happen all at once. I’m finding it’s something I have to do over and over in the hopes that one day my heart will match the choice. It stings like a death; a grave is involved, the burying of a perfectly good hatchet.

Nothing about it feels fair. Nothing about it feels justified. But isn’t that the point?

LOVE
You cannot love without risk. There is no such thing. The pain I’m in comes from the love I felt, because I was brave enough to show up as my fullest, truest self and enter a relationship that mattered. And when you truly love someone, you don’t get to be in control. To force, to clutch, to cling, to do whatever it takes to get your way — that is not a picture of love. That is a picture of fear. Fear is a liar, and the opposite of love.

This may have ended in disaster for me, but I will never regret opening my heart to hope and allowing myself to be known by another. It’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done, and a testament to strength, not weakness.

:::::

I am not “recovered.” This experience has altered my insides in ways I struggle to articulate. I was left heartbroken and homeless, and some days I’m still so sad, when I walk around I swear you can hear my heart rattle in my chest. Time truly is the only healer for something so brutal, and unfortunately, there’s no way to fast-forward. But I’ve made it through these first few months; here I raise my Ebenezer.

You may be wondering where I am. I obviously had to move out of my Minneapolis house in July, gutted and reeling, suddenly with nowhere to go. But thanks to my amazing friends and family, I’ve found places to go. Foxy is with me, of course. We’re being taken care of.

I have missed sharing my life in a virtual way. It didn’t feel right for me to carry on posting like nothing had happened, because racking up likes and comments is a false balm. The pain of this betrayal has been potent, and it’s been important for me to honor it by bearing the full weight of what I’ve lost. But I’m still here.

The path I took to get here has washed out behind me. The way forward isn’t yet clear. But I’m gathering the broken pieces in hopes of building something new. It’s not the future that I wanted, but it’s the future that I’m going to get. And somehow, I want to live it well.

You’ll be hearing from me again soon, grief and forgiveness and love intermingled, moving forward and holding on to hope for dear life.

Huge thanks to my amazing sister-in-law Ashley Parsons for capturing this image. You’ve helped remind me that I’m strong in a season when I’ve felt anything but.

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44 Comments

  1. tracy on August 28, 2017 at 9:37 AM

    I adore you, girl. Your story reminds me of another person whose heart was broken and left homeless. He is the one you continue to follow and who will see you through. The love of Jesus shines around and through you, you lovely broken vessel. I count it an honor to know you. An honor. You continue to shine. xoxo Tracy

  2. Daniel on August 28, 2017 at 9:42 AM

    Hey. It’s Dan Quay. (Garza, at one point.)

    Thank you for writing so openly.
    Thank you for being willing to grieve publicly.

    I’m sure sometimes you may feel that your words disappear into the ether;
    they do not; they are taken and kept close and dear.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Dan.

  3. ash on August 28, 2017 at 9:43 AM

    “I want to be a person who looks my pain in the eye, regardless of what it costs me, and then rest in knowing that there is still goodness ahead — eventually.” braver, more costly words may have never been spoken. My dad always had a habit of reminding me, “keep your heart tender.” And that is all the consolation I offer you here. Not because it’s easy or even worth it in the meantime, but because it’s how the pearl is made. you know this. keep going, five minutes at a time, then an hour, then a week or month.. there’s new life on the other side of this. I love you. I’m honored to be alongside you here. You are so loved and there is so much hope for you.

  4. Val on August 28, 2017 at 9:43 AM

    Beautiful and brilliant, just like you. The Lord is using you in big, huge, stretching ways. I just wish it didn’t have to hurt so much. <3

  5. Alison Moore on August 28, 2017 at 9:49 AM

    Oh Annie, I will be praying for you daily. I am so very so sorry you are going through this. Your words and transparency are a huge encouragment. You will make it through this! Love you sweetie xoxo

  6. Debbie Barnett on August 28, 2017 at 9:55 AM

    My porch awaits. Whenever you’re ready.

  7. The Bug on August 28, 2017 at 10:07 AM

    I am so so sorry this has happened to you. I’ll never understand why people are the way they are, and I especially don’t understand this time because you are the real deal. What the heck, and why the heck?

  8. Mackenzie on August 28, 2017 at 10:17 AM

    “To sidestep it…is to cauterize our humanity. ” Annie, your have such a beautiful way with words. My heart aches with you and for you. Being gutted in this way is one of the intense things we can go through. Thank you for honoring the grief, for leaning in, and for sharing from your place of pain. You are loved and lovely.

  9. Lan on August 28, 2017 at 10:29 AM

    i don’t know where i read this but it’s something that i repeated to myself during the darkest winter of my life: out of our greatest rejection, comes our greatest direction. i still say it when i’m nursing a disappointed heart.

    i only know you virtually, but i sincerely believe that the direction of your life is bright, faithful and full of grace.

  10. Kristen on August 28, 2017 at 10:29 AM

    This is what true transparency looks like – no hiding, no pretending, no secrecy, no PR plan. Just you. And you is so good. Love you.

  11. Brit on August 28, 2017 at 10:30 AM

    I’ve always considered you one of the strongest women I know. Keep your head high and heart open. The journey forward is never easy, but if anyone can pave a new path, it’s you. xo

  12. Amanda Jo on August 28, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    So very thankful to read your raw, truth-filled words. I am going through something very similar and the pain of betrayal and being duped by someone I poured my heart and soul into is still hard for me, even after 6 months have passed. You cling hard to the person you believed them to be, but that person doesn’t exist. For me, I struggled to between hating him and wanting to punish him, to praying for him and wanting him to be restored so I could have him back.
    I heard the Lord clearly say “let time be your friend”. Time does heal. Throw yourself onto the Fathers lap and He will be faithful. The mourning of your hopes and dreams being dashed is difficult, but little by little it gets better. I still daily choose to forgive him and I pray the truth be revealed (that’s how I realized he was cheating in the first place was praying that). I pray for his restoration and that he would be blessed with repentance and redemption.
    I know it’s hard while it’s so raw, but I clearly heard the Lord tell me He rescued me. He rescued you too, though right now you may not feel it. A day will come, the fog will clear and you will be able to clearly see what he rescued you from. A man who is unfaithful is a man on a path of destruction. You’re on a path to blessing! Be kind to yourself, and know you’re not alone. Thanks again for having the guts to write this. I never did although I believe I will in the future. Writing it all out is so cathartic. Much love and blessings. If you ever need to talk to someone who has been there, I am here to talk.

  13. Hilary on August 28, 2017 at 10:47 AM

    In a world that feels full of grandstanding and pretense, you are a beautiful example of honesty and humility. Beyond this bravery and your lovely writing, I really just want to give you a hug! I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I wish it hadn’t, and I trust, with you, that it might come to some good–or at least, some peace–one day. HUGS HUGS HUGS.

  14. Kim Gorgens on August 28, 2017 at 10:51 AM

    love and strength to you my friend–you have a home in Denver anytime at all xoxoxo

  15. Adam Piwiec on August 28, 2017 at 11:16 AM

    Dear Annie,

    You’re a remarkable woman to be able to be so transparent about who you are and where you are. Your heart and your spirit are so refined that you’re able to help others thru your experience. I know that by clinging to the Gospel and community you will be able to heal. There’s such evidence of your faith in the way that you choose your words. I need to tell you that I was married for the first time six months after I graduated from college. When I told my parents about the divorce, their first question was “whose fault is it?”. Those words stayed with me for a long time. There was a lot of strain, but it led to a new light and rest. My grief led me to come to faith in Christ. I barely think about a relationship that I had for five years. You have a great heart and perspective and value the important things of life. Thank you for sharing even in your pain and having such a clarity that can only come from God. You have a wisdom and affection that very few have and the ability to share so that others may have light for their journey. I just needed to tell you about how much I care about someone like you. You make a special impression on everyone you meet. i wanted to share my heart with you. Thinking of you and hoping for your peace. Gal 6:2-4,8,9. PTL

    Much love and care,
    Adam

  16. Tony S on August 28, 2017 at 11:31 AM

    Annie,

    I’m so sorry to hear this. It’s devastating. My heart hurts for you. You are wise to lean into the pain, as much as it hurts. I have gone through similar tribulations over the last year and am just starting to come out of it ever so slightly. Everyone will offer you words of support and advice because they care and they mean well, myself included.

    A book that resonated with me that I’m still reading is Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. Here are some quotes that stood out to me:

    You have been called into the woods “where the straight path vanishes and there is no turning back, only going through”

    “What wants to live in you may be waiting at the end of a long loneliness”

    “At the end of a dark night of the soul is the beginning of a new life”

    But you will never be alone going through this. “In the difficult are the friendly forces, that hands that work on us” (~Rilke). My friends have helped me through the darkness and I trust that yours will as well.

    Thank you for your courage in writing this. You’re a wonderful and kind person. And I also offer a safe place to stay for you and Foxy for as long as you need.

    Stay strong,

    Tony S

  17. Anon :) on August 28, 2017 at 12:22 PM

    “If God loves the world, might that not be proved in my own love for it? I prayed to know in my heart His love for the world, and this was my most prideful, foolish, and dangerous prayer. It was my step into the abyss. As soon as I prayed it, I knew that I would die. I knew the old wrong and the death that lay in the world. Just as a good man would not coerce the love of his wife, God does not coerce the love of His human creatures, not for Himself or for the world or for one another. To allow that love to exist fully and freely, He must allow it not to exist at all. His love is suffering. It is our freedom and His sorrow. To love the world as much even as I could love it would be suffering also, for I would fail. And yet all the good I know is in this, that a man might so love this world that it would break his heart.” WB, JC

  18. Carmen on August 28, 2017 at 12:26 PM

    I’m so mad about your sad. Loving is so good and beautiful and occasionally devastating. I hate that you – vivacious, beautiful, wonderful you – have been betrayed. I have no doubt this man is good and lovely (because you loved him – he must have been lovely). But betrayal is devastating. So I’m mad on your behalf. So glad you are surrounded and supported. We need folks who can hear the death rattle in our chest & love us through. Sending you love. I’m sorry for your loss. ❤️❤️❤️

  19. kimberly on August 28, 2017 at 12:36 PM

    annie parsons, my heart is broken for you. and I love your writing and this is so good. my past year has been hard and horrific too, but for very different reasons. we all know that “everything happens for a reason” is bullshit, but I will say that nothing is ever wasted. “I can’t remember a trial or a pain, he did not recycle to bring me gain.” I am just barely starting to come through and see the other side. and I know this is true. but the pain is still so real and so vivid that I can still feel the days that I was paralyzed, where the only thing I wanted in the world was to feel normal. and I can’t believe that you already can see that grief doesn’t work that way–I definitely couldn’t believe that at the time, it was months and months and months before I even believed the light was there. but I am finding it, and it is sweet. you are a testament and a joy and I am thankful that He is our oxygen when there is no air left. you have all my online love! and real love in kc. xoxoxo.

  20. Denise on August 28, 2017 at 2:40 PM

    A friend once told me: It gets better. A tiny little bit every day. <3

  21. Jessica on August 28, 2017 at 2:56 PM

    Oh Annie, I’m so sorry this all happened. I admire you greatly.

  22. Kaia on August 28, 2017 at 4:50 PM

    Oh Annie – with a heart so big and full as your, heartache hurts even more. My wish for you is healing, on your own timeline. Hugs, friend.

  23. Greta on August 28, 2017 at 6:08 PM

    Oh dear friend. It’s searing and stunning to see the last several months captured in these words. (What words…!)

    I have been privileged to walk with you through some of these catastrophic days. As beautiful as these words are, as beautiful as this photograph is, your courageous, aching, grieving, loving soul is more beautiful still.

    Hardest mountain yet, by far. But keep going. You’re a hell of a climber.

    I love you and am so proud of you.

  24. Elizabeth on August 28, 2017 at 6:14 PM

    When I was going through great loss, and sore trials since then losing more, someone once said, “all things work together for the good of those who love God.” My response was, “Yeah, tell me what’s good in this, because as far as I can see there is nothing good for me that will come of this.”
    But time brought healing, and the ability to stare the trials in the face, and walk through them only by God’s Grace, learning a whole lot from them.
    The hurt burns like a coal in the fire, and that fire holds powerful refining we generally cannot see in our pain and devastation.
    I remember when we were homeless a couple of years ago, in the midst of one of the darkest times our life. Even family were not embracing us, and we felt like we had been forsaken. Until a precious friend poured out her offering of love and compassion on us, brought us into her haven, until we were brought to the next stage in our journey through two other friends who embraced us in our brokenness. Examples of Jesus to us. But, we will never forget the pain of feeling helpless, broken and alone. We do however thank God for His provisions, for His promise to take care of us, and His genuine involvement in guiding us to where we needed to go, as we were in transition and until we reached our own safe harbor.
    Rest in this Annie. He will not fail you. I am here to tell you, you’ll hurt like hell, but you will get through this, and you will experience life with a HOPE and a FUTURE. Jeremiah 29:11.
    Please know, wherever I am or we are, you have a home, a place of refuge. To all who need it our door is ever open. We learned this lesson out of our own rejection. We are praying for you, and send our love.

  25. megan b. on August 28, 2017 at 6:58 PM

    “hope” is the thing with feathers –
    that perches in the soul –
    and sings the tune without the words –
    and never stops – at all –

    and sweetest – in the gale – is heard –
    and sore must be the storm –
    that could abash the little bird
    that kept so many warm –

    i’ve heard it in the chillest land –
    and on the strangest sea –
    yet – never – in extremity,
    it asked a crumb – of me.

    -dickenson

    hope’s got you. so do we.

  26. Angie on August 28, 2017 at 7:37 PM

    You are incredible. I am a amazed but not surprised. Life is fucked up and never seems to make perfect sense until it does and then you can hardly recall when it didn’t. I am so proud to know you from my virtual low rider.

    There’s two babies looking for snuggles if you ever feel a calling towards the Milwaukee area. xoxo

  27. Anonymous on August 28, 2017 at 9:13 PM

    Just wanted to tell you how meaningful this was to read. I’ve also gone through a life-altering break up with the one I thought I’d spend life with. I was planning to move as well and the future seemed so sure. There’s no words to fully capture how miserable and hopeless this feels. But the words from loved ones that have meant the most are those that acknowledge they have no idea how difficult it must be. The ones who admit to not have the answers, but who won’t let me forget what a beautiful person I remain to be. I don’t know you but I believe this to be true even just from reading your writing.
    I think feeling the pain fully is the hardest and wisest decision to make. I believe we’ll all come out better by choosing that. Thank you for sharing this. I feel less alone in this world because of it. And even though we don’t have the answers, feeling understood by another makes the weight feel even just a bit lighter. Because we’re not carrying it alone. Thank you for your gift of honesty.

  28. Lyla on August 28, 2017 at 9:43 PM

    Holy smokes. That is in incredible amount of upheaval and reason for sorrow. I am glad that your family and friends are gathering around you as you begin the healing process day by day. You are very strong and while it may take some time to find your way again, you will. Speaking from my own experience with life-altering heart break, the times that were the darkest both seem like a whole different life now and pop up and make me sad for a minute or two 6 years down the road. While the life I have now isn’t what I’d imagined back then… I’m glad it turned out differently because it turned out to be something I quite like. I hope the same happens for you. Take care.

  29. Pat Cassidy on August 28, 2017 at 10:00 PM

    Annie–so sorry for this painful time in your life. Sharing this I’m sure has been difficult but hopefully will help the healing process. You are one strong wonderful woman and God will add to your strength each day. I’ll be praying for you.

  30. Joan B. on August 29, 2017 at 6:05 AM

    You are so beautiful inside and out. I am so so sad and sorry for your pain and loss. Your writing is so real and poignant. You know something of our family pain from the end of 1995 in CO to the beginning of 2003 from our daughter’s pain. Life brings storms but how you weather them deeply effects (affects???) the way the rest of your life will be. Bitter? Or growing closer to Jesus, trusting in God’s goodness and abundant grace minute by minute, one day at a time. Having faithful prayer partners like your Mom, Jeanne and Julie were a life line for me and has molded me into an intercessary prayer warrior. Who would’ve thunk? Certainly not me, ever. I am praying for you, dear Annie. The comments left by those who have also struggled bear testimony that with time this will be a distant memory that gave you lasting growth, wisdom and maturity ( although you are already way wiser than your years.) A psychiatry professor once said he was “older, sadder, and wiser.” I am, too. Aren’t we all? I love you, dear Annie. Please come stay with us in Redlands if your journey brings you to us.

  31. Erin D on August 29, 2017 at 8:10 AM

    Dearest Annie, the beauty of your soul is just indescribable… I am so incredibly sorry you have had all this sorrow hit like a freight train. I’m amazed by your ability to lean into this pain so quickly, you are such a brave, beautiful human. Sending hugs and prayers for your continued healing. Know that you are so loved.

  32. Kristy on August 29, 2017 at 10:27 AM

    Oh man, I am *so* sorry that you have to experience this kind of loss and betrayal and heartbreak. You write wise words and you are brave. Hugs and high-fives.

  33. Kate Nolan on August 29, 2017 at 4:12 PM

    Annie, unbelievably it’s been about 17 years since I met you on our trip to the states, and sadly, since I last saw you. I still have the letters we used to write to each other once I was back in the UK…they are precious because you are precious and your beauty and kindness left an impact on me as a teenage girl who didn’t really have a clue about anything! I keep watch from afar on your world… but as I read this latest post, my heart breaks for you. Sometimes God’s plans for us are so very different from our own, and it hurts. And it’s painful. And it’s confusing, especially when we have been doing what we feel he is calling us to. But he has an almighty plan for you lovely lady…a plan that you cannot fathom right now. Reading your post is like reading about my life 7 years ago; I didn’t sell my house to move because I was already living with the person, but I lost my love, my future, my home and what felt like my life in one evening when the man I thought I’d be with forever, announced there was someone else. Annie…it really does feel like your heart can’t possibly carry on beating doesn’t it!? As you say, it is true grief because you have lost the person you loved most. I am devestated when people so true and sweet and wonderful are left broken through the actions of another. I’m so sorry. I know that it matters not what people say right now because your heart is crushed and the future feels so far and fuzzy and frightening, but your future is better than the future you would have had if you had stayed with this man. I promise. I have lived it. And when enough time has passed and you have healed a little, you will start to believe it too. You are beutiful and strong and so very treasured by those who truly love you and by your father in heaven. God bless you lovely friend. So much love, Kate xxx

  34. sally on August 30, 2017 at 12:17 PM

    Hang in there Annie – there are many steps of grief and some of them
    you just have to walk alone – tear by tear – step by step -and
    one day you come out looking at rainbows!!
    Sally

  35. Jean on August 30, 2017 at 5:23 PM

    Annie, I fell upon this blog, I am so terribly sorry you have to go through the trauma of a breakup. Thank you for sharing your story, it helps it hear testimonies and encouragement of how others have survived. Annie you are such a strong young lady, those minutes of survival will turn into months and then years, It will pass away and then you wonder how God took you through a ???? Trust He will make it whole again! ❤️Please call or text me I’d love to gift you a massage.

  36. Beth on August 31, 2017 at 12:15 AM

    Annie- I have no words- my heart is so broken for you. I’m sending my love and energies for you towards whatever road is next on your journey- even if it’s a road of wandering and healing for a bit. There’s no rush to a “what’s next?” I love you and would welcome a visit!

  37. Allison on September 1, 2017 at 10:30 PM

    Oh dear, I am so sorry. Bible verses really piss me off when I’m going through something difficult, because I’m a really bad Christian. But eventually they’re comforting. So I’ll just leave this here. It will be my prayer for you tonight. From Psalm 126:
    Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
    He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
    shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.

  38. Whitney on September 3, 2017 at 8:33 AM

    The bravery to share in the pain is clear. Thinking of you and your beautiful words. Mary Oliver told us to pay attention and tell about it and you are doing that. I have no words, otherwise, but you are strong and tender still and that is something I’ll carry with me today.

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  40. Katie Noah Gibson on September 12, 2017 at 2:42 PM

    Oh, Annie. I am so sorry. I am awed by your honesty and courage. You are so brave. Hoping for healing for you. xo

  41. Mike on September 14, 2017 at 10:01 PM

    To say “you’re a catch” would be an understatement – I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so. I’m sorry this guy chose to be a fool. Kind of can’t believe it, honestly.

  42. Jackie on September 19, 2017 at 7:22 PM

    Such lovely words. They spoke to me in my own grief. Grit is also a word I use to describe myself and my steadfastness as I fight my way through difficult circumstances. Your writing touched me and encouraged me to keep going. Thank you.

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