Have you even been broken? Knocked down so quickly, so efficiently, that you are engulfed in that moment of time. That moment when you’re crumbled on the floor. Devastated. Lost. How? Why? The pain cuts deep. A betrayal, a lie, an act or a mistake that turns your world around and breaks you instantly into so many pieces that you aren’t sure you will ever be able to pick them up again. If you can even find them…if you can even recognize the essence of what you were.

But, somehow, in some way, you stand up. You gather your pieces and you pull them together, in a new uncomfortable way. A way that you don’t understand and that you don’t recognize or yet trust.

You pray. You feel. You heal. You do everything to begin moving forward…and one day you do. You feel your strength returning and you feel the pieces mending back together.

You work to forgive.

When you hurt this deeply, it’s always from someone close to you. Someone you’ve trusted down to your soul, with every piece of your heart, body and mind. A mother. A father. A husband or wife. A child. A friend. Someone that is so ingrained in you, that you can’t move past them. You don’t want to move past them.

Whenever you love, you open yourself up to the possibility of pain. You make yourself vulnerable; love requires it. After a loss, the act of moving on and forgiving isn’t as instant as the heartbreak. Your world can crumble in seconds, but it can take months, years, to be rebuilt.

Even when you say the words – I forgive you – it’s still an ongoing battle. Forgiveness isn’t a checkbox that you mark and move on from. It’s not an instant transformation back to the old way of doing things. It’s a decision and the choice of a different future. It’s a process and a path; an act of love and sacrifice. It isn’t easy and in many ways it’s initially opening yourself up again and again to that pain. Reliving the past in order to process it and move on is harder than reliving it to keep a hold on anger or resentment. It’s not easy for those in the trenches of forgiveness and love. It’s a delicate dance of two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes 3 steps back.

But even in the midst of pain and heartbreak, hope can thrive and the vision of what could be lives on. Maybe that’s the gift in pain – the ability to be feel a sliver of hope and to learn that no matter how broken, no matter how devastated, that you can stand back up. You can step forward and you can, through the process of forgiveness, live on. You can experience light, love and joy without the heavy burden of a past situation.

Hope often starts as a small seed but it will grow when nurtured, and what a gift that is. It’s a reminder that in even the hardest of times, you can grown stronger, you can become more, and you can experience all depths of love – the good, the grand, and the hurt.

Love always has and always will be so much more than just the good stuff. It will always carry deeper feelings and it will always bring you through situations of joy and pain that you never knew was possible. Forgiveness and love will always go hand in hand due to the imperfect nature of us all. Choosing to forgive is choosing to love. And love, never fails.

Amy Bellows

Amy Bellows, Ph.D. is a freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband and their 3 children. She currently juggles the roles of wife, mom, step-mom, and a full-time corporate career while squeezing in writing between hockey practices and late night feedings. You can find her at http://continuedoptimism.com/ or on Twitter.