Map of Heartbreak – Loss as a Catalyst for Change
“What breaks your heart? The warrior knows that her heartbreak is her map. It will lead her toward her purpose, her tribe.”
– Glennon Doyle Melton, “Hurts So Good” article, O Magazine, Feb 2017
Pain as Fuel
In her article, “Hurts so Good,” author Glennon Doyle Melton wrote about a group of women in Iowa who had all lost an infant – and started an organization called “Healthy Birth Day,” with the goal of lowering the stillbirth rate in their state.
“Instead of withdrawing after their losses,” explained Melton, “or finding ways to disconnect from the magnitude of their suffering, they ran straight toward it. Their pain became their fuel. Their courage saved others from the misery they’d experienced.”
This is similar to how we chose to proceed in the aftermath of my husband, John’s, death as the result of a preventable fall at unsafe workplace. By “we,” I am referring to the police officers who started the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund and all the people who have (and/or still do) work for, volunteer with, or lend support to the Fund in some way.
In the early years, pain and anger certainly fueled our passion and guided our purpose. Nothing we did could bring John back but we all agreed that the workplace safety campaigns were better than doing nothing at all. We will never know the number of lives we have saved, or the injuries we’ve prevented…and we’re okay with that.
Would I recommend this path to others in a similar situation?
Working closely with the JPMF to help raise public awareness about why and how to ensure workplaces – and the roads – are safer for everyone, including emergency responders has been my path, yes. I knew in my heart and soul, very early on, that workplace safety was an issue that I would need to tackle.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
But being a workplace safety advocate did not come without sacrifice in other areas of my life. The time, money, effort, love, and attention I put into the JPMF meant there were other areas of my life that didn’t get that. And that’s okay. I chose the path I did…every moment of every day. I have no regrets.
However, now that I have 17 years of experience behind me, I can safely say that trying to transform a tragedy into positive change so that others don’t have to experience similar suffering comes at a cost. We cannot do it all.
“Pleasant experiences make life delightful. Painful experiences lead to growth.”
– Anthony de Mello, Awareness
Thankfully, we get to choose how to respond to whatever loss we have experienced…and forge our own way forward. So regardless of whether we allow loss to be a catalyst for growth and change for ourselves and/or for others, just remember:
“Allow heartbreak to guide you at every turn.”
– Glennon Doyle Melton
When the love in your heart is your road map, you cannot go wrong.
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Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.