I woke up early one morning, deep sadness washing over me. I wanted to believe yesterday was a nightmare. I looked at the sparkling engagement ring on my finger, not wanting to take it off.
Because taking it off meant acknowledging my fiancé had walked out of my life.
My best friend Carly arrived with a basket of our favorite snacks and a heart full of compassion. I couldn’t help remembering what should have been happening that day—touring the new apartment and admiring the bridal bouquets that arrived. I desperately needed her that day.
We spent the evening with my family, life feeling heavy and unfamiliar. But I felt deeply loved amidst the greatest loss I’d ever experienced. I couldn’t have known it then, but this was the start of my journey to finding hope after a broken engagement.
Healing Steps after a Broken Engagement
If you’re navigating a broken engagement, or know someone who is, this article is for you. Over the last year, taking steps like unplanning my wedding, seeking support, and remembering my worth have propelled me toward healing. I hope reading my story will let you know you are not alone and practically guide you through your own healing journey.
1. Saying goodbye.
Hugging my ex-fiancé goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wrote letters to him and his family in case I forgot to say something in the moment. With my brother waiting for me in the car, I took the time to verbally apologize for my mistakes and forgive my ex for his.
Painful as it was, it was the best first step I could have taken.
If it’s safe to do so, I encourage saying goodbye in person. Going in, you may have a mix of emotions from feeling terrified of letting go, to being excited to see their face one last time. Saying goodbye hurts no matter what, but you won’t regret creating a safe environment for closure after your broken engagement.
2. Sharing the news of the broken engagement.
One of the initial things to do is let your guests know the wedding is off. I suggest asking your parents, bridesmaids, or groomsmen to help you share the news.
Remember, you don’t have to explain why the engagement was broken off. If someone presses for details, it’s okay to say you don’t want to elaborate. This was difficult for me, so I asked my family to graciously discourage any prodding questions.
3. “Unplanning” the wedding.
Perhaps the most painful part was grieving our future—life beyond the wedding. It isn’t merely something you hoped for, it’s something you planned for. You’re left with rings, a wedding dress or suit, and reservations as reminders.
It’s okay to ask your friends and family to help you make phone calls, sell/return items, and pack stuff away. This gives them opportunities to support you through this difficult time.
If you don’t have a built-in support system, a local church is a great place to find support.
4. Facing the wedding day.
I felt wildly unprepared to face December 28th, but it came anyway.
As a needed distraction, my friends filled the day with my favorite things: sipping coffee, sitting by a waterfall, eating Chinese food, and getting our nails done. Surround yourself with people who know what you need.
And if you find yourself alone, consider planning a trip or doing something out of the ordinary. That way you can enjoy the memories you did make rather than focus on what didn’t happen.
5. Finding a counselor.
Opening up to a counselor can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never seen one or have had a bad experience. I would recommend counseling to anyone, but especially to someone grieving a significant relationship.
My counselor helped me process the situation and make time-sensitive decisions. She helped me set aside time with the Lord and time to grieve. Even if you’re not sure you need it, don’t dismiss counseling before praying and asking around.
Invite your friends to be your primary support system for the times outside of counseling. They can hold you accountable to take care of yourself. You can also meet with Christian leaders in your life such as your pastor, small group leader, or mentor.
6. Reclaiming special places.
“Your table, that restaurant, that concert, those spots with memories—do not avoid them … go back and do so immediately with your friends and make new memories.” I read this from a Christian blog post written by someone who’s suffered a broken engagement. Her words were the push I needed.
So many places and activities only reminded me of the relationship I had lost. These words challenged me to remember why I appreciated those places, songs, and games in the first place.
I remember the moment well, the moment I stood alone in my room and belted out the words to our favorite song. It was the small but meaningful victories that pushed me toward healing.
7. Listening to the truth.
After a week of grieving, I grew impatient with myself. I feared if I didn’t feel better soon, I’d never move on. Drowning in feelings of failure and rejection, I determined to prove myself lovable and capable.
It didn’t take long to crash. I was struggling at school and work, questioning my value and right to stay in this world. It seemed easier to leave than face failure.
Listening to reminders of who God made me to be and what I had to live for rescued me from sinking further. I still remember a friend reassuring me, “he will never define you.” I wasn’t able to rest until I believed the truth of God’s love.
If you can relate, I am sorry you’re hurting so deeply. I pray you’ll believe the truth—the truth that your ex, your broken engagement, and your failures do not define you because God has already called you His (Isaiah 43:1).
8. Surrender Your Plans.
My journey to healing was bookended with moments of surrender. A week after the breakup, the wedding officiant unlocked the church doors for my friend and me. As we walked around, I imagined how the church would’ve looked decorated for our Christmas wedding. I pictured every moment that would never happen, at least not here with him. After several tear-filled prayers and hugs, I gave my plans for that space back to the Lord.
It took six months to feel at peace about the broken engagement. Six months of navigating emotional tasks and fighting for hope. Six months of experiencing God’s love through others.
While I wanted God to take away the pain, He wanted to grow me through it. This meant seeking God in His Word, taking my hard questions to His throne, and seeking other believers’ help. God used that year to teach me How to be Single and Content as I entered a new season of life.
I know it’s hard imagining a different future when you’re still grieving your broken engagement, but trust God to use your story. When I came to God with open hands, I watched Him redeem my shattered plans and prepare a more beautiful future than the one I had first planned. He can do the same with you.
Copyright © 2021 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Alex McMurray is a writing intern for FamilyLife at Cru headquarters in Orlando. She graduated from Cedarville University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a concentration in child and family studies. She grew up in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania with her parents and older brother. In her free time, she enjoys going on outdoor adventures with her friends and playing card games.