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Living Through the Broken Bits: How Acceptance Can Help You Survive Damage

broken pieces

My little boy is two-and-a-half. Just old enough to start wrestling with the big stuff. And I’m not talking about tantrums, here. But the stuff that many of us will grapple with all the days of our lives.

Like brokenness…

He brings a toy or a flower to me in too many pieces.

“Fix it?”

His eyes are bright and wide, face beaming, awaiting the alchemy of togetherness and glue. He’s seen this magic many times. He likes it.

But it won’t work this time.

“Sticky tape?” he suggests. I shake my head.

“A band-aid?”

I try to explain. How some things can be mended. And some things just can’t.

And maybe they shouldn’t be. Or, not in a stick-it-back-together-and-pretend-it-never-happened kind of way anyhow.

For some things – hearts, lives – feel things they just can’t unfeel. Live things they just can’t unlive. Break in ways that can’t quite be unbroken.

And sometimes maybe that’s actually ok; even though it hurts like hell. Because the brokenness is so much more than just busted. There’s a raw, raging kind of beauty there. An honouring of what transpired. A truth unbounded.

Sometimes the crack, the break, the tear is vital.
Sometimes it’s “…how the light gets in,” as Leonard Cohen put it.

Or perhaps it’s even a rite of passage of sorts? A Tibetan myth apparently affirms that

“…all spiritual warriors have a broken heart – alas, must have a broken heart – because it is only through the break that the words and mysteries of life can enter us.”*

Similarly, many therapists are thought to be ‘wounded healers’. No-one escapes this stuff…

But how do you explain any of this to a two-and-a-half year old?

How can you explain it to yourself during that ‘long dark night’, or month, or year or two?

Sometimes you just can’t.

Sometimes it’s all you can do to just hold the broken pieces in your hands and cry together for a while. To maybe wish it wasn’t so, but to know that it is.

And to learn. (Like this inspiring mother and son learned from brokenness).

And to love. Again. Anyway.

To heal in ways that honour the scars.

And to know that that’s enough.

And, then, when you’re ready, maybe even to wander into the next moment of your life, like my little boy does; a bit wiser and more closely connected to whatever it means to be alive…

Perhaps a little more broken, yes. But perhaps a little more whole.




Text and photos copyright: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
* Quote from Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening, Conari Press, 2000, p.56
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar  is a psychotherapist and writer who works with people all over the world via Skype, phone and email; and she sees clients face-to-face in Australia.  You can reach her via One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also offers subsidised counselling for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience (in Australia).













* Mark Nepo

Living Through the Broken Bits: How Acceptance Can Help You Survive Damage

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2016). Living Through the Broken Bits: How Acceptance Can Help You Survive Damage. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Feb 2016
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