Every February 14th, we focus on the love that we have.
We sent our partners flowers and chocolates. We take our friends out for dinners and drinks. We call our family members, loved ones, distant connections and let them know that we’re grateful to have them in our lives. That their impact has been positive and strong. And it’s wonderful to celebrate love. Whether it’s romantic or platonic or familial, we all need that reminder from time to time. That we’re here for each other. That we care about each other. That love is still boundless and plentiful.
But here’s something we so rarely stop to celebrate: The love that we’ve lost. We tend to view losing out on love as a negative experience. We break up and our heart cracks in two. We part ways with a friend and a part of ourselves leaves along with them. We lose a treasured family member and never quite fill the space they left. There are a lot of negatives that come along with losing love. But there are a lot of positives too.
Because the truth about love is that it doesn’t always get to last forever. Sometimes circumstance tears us apart. Sometimes we cannot rise up to the occasion. Sometimes love falters and fades out and fails when we thought that it was going to last forever. We don’t always get those happily ever afters. But maybe that gets to be okay.
For the relationships that were ultimately wrong for us. For the friendships that cracked under pressure. For the love that was fleeting or faint or inconsistent but that nonetheless taught us something real. Because in their own way, those relationships matter. They still stand to teach us something genuine.
Because the thing about love is that it’s impossible to be touched by it and remain unchanged. It is the ultimate catalyst for so much of our personal development and growth, even when it cannot last. And so why not let ourselves celebrate that impact?
Celebrate the person who couldn’t love you right. The one who kept you guessing and left you hanging and who made you feel like a tiny, desperate version of yourself. Recognize and realize what inconsistent, unbalanced love does to a person and remember not to give it out yourself. Resolve to be better than that.
Celebrate the love that destroyed you. The one that got inside you, took your heart hostage and then ripped you apart from the inside out. Remember what it felt like to be the most genuine, vulnerable version of yourself and to still not have it be enough. To still be left broken and reeling.
And then remember how you picked yourself back up. Remember how you stitched those broken pieces back together and kept going. Remember the ways you loved yourself when someone else couldn’t, and realize the strength that’s born from that.
Celebrate the love that you couldn’t hold onto. The love that death or disease or distance ripped from your fingers and claimed as its own. Remember the sense of powerlessness that accompanied that loss and all of the ways in which it changed you. Realize how quickly love can be stolen from us, and how fully we ought to appreciate it while we still have it. How grandly and boldly and fearlessly we are capable of loving each other while we still have the chance.
Celebrate the love that you messed up enormously. The person you couldn’t love properly, the ones whom you failed and let down. Realize that love exists in a thousand shades of grey and that you have sometimes chosen the murkier ones. That you still have a lot of growth and development to get through. That you are not exempt from loving others wrong.
To celebrate the best of times, the worst of times, the most confusing of times and the absolute most absurd of them. Because the truth about love is that it doesn’t have to last forever to teach us something. And so this year, just be grateful for the lessons. Because if you’ve learned absolutely anything through loving, then you haven’t really lost out at all.