Turn Your Broken Dream into a New Beginning

broken dream

The call to my wife’s cell phone came on Christmas Eve, 2010.

‘Hi Merryn,’ the voice said, ‘it’s Emily, from the clinic.’

That Christmas was shaping up to be a Christmas like no other. Just a few days prior we had been given some news that we never thought we would receive. After ten years spent trying almost every means possible to start a family—including special diets and courses of fertility-boosting supplements, prayers for healing and chiropractic sessions (you’ll try anything), numerous rounds of costly IVF treatment, an agonizing two-year wait on an adoption list, followed by even more rounds of IVF—we had been told that she was pregnant.

Pregnant!

After a decade of raised and dashed hopes, we were finally going to have a baby. We could hardly believe it.

Everyone Has a Broken Dream

Merryn was expecting Emily’s call. It was a routine call with the results of the latest blood test.

‘I’m afraid,’ Emily said quietly, ‘things have changed.’

‘What do you mean?’ Merryn said.

‘Your pregnancy hormone levels have dropped significantly.’

‘But, you told us we were preg…’

‘I am so sorry.’

An ultrasound a few days later revealed there had never been a baby inside Merryn. A gestational sac had been responsible for the pregnancy-like symptoms. Even the doctors had been fooled.

At that cruel news Merryn had put down the phone, walked into our bedroom and curled up in a fetal position.

Our ten year dream of having a baby was over.

You Can Start Again

By the time we reach our 30s, most of us have a broken dream. Perhaps we long to be married but are still single, or our artistic career has never taken off. Maybe a crushing diagnosis has shattered the dreams we held for our loved one, or the whirlwind romance has ended in divorce. The details of our broken dreams may differ, but they share some commonalities. There is sadness, a sense of unfairness, even jealousy toward those who have what we want. Life feels meaningless, we may battle feelings of failure, and we may harbor anger toward others because of our plight.

But you can start again after a broken dream. Merryn and I did.

Out of a broken dream can come a new beginning.

The ‘Resurrection Year’

A few weeks before that fateful phone call, and before the good news that preceded it, I had interviewed British author Adrian Plass on my radio show. Adrian and I had gotten to know each other over the years and so, after the interview, I told him about the difficult journey Merryn and I had been on this past decade, and how we hoped 2011 would be better. He listened intently to my story and then said, ‘After what you’ve just told me, I think a Resurrection Year is just what you need.’

A Resurrection Year—a year of new life after the death of a dream.

The phrase immediately struck a chord.

A few weeks later Merryn and I sat on the balcony of our Sydney flat and started wondering what a Resurrection Year might look like.

‘It needs to be fun,’ Merryn said.

‘And restful,’ I said.

‘And full of adventure,’ she added.

‘With lots of beauty,’ I replied.

We didn’t know it then but, in just four months’ time, Merryn and I would be strapping ourselves into a plane, taxiing down a runway, and setting off for an adventure that we’d never have contemplated had our original dream come true. Soon we would be walking the streets of Rome, visiting the Basilicas of Paris, wandering the Alps of Switzerland and settling into a new home in the United Kingdom. Merryn would start a dream job at the University of Oxford, we would start to heal, and I would get a contract to write a book about the experience.

None of this was what we had planned for our lives.

Out of our broken dream came a suspiring new beginning.

Four Things You Can Do

You may not be able to leave home and move countries to recover from your broken dream. No matter. It’s been two years since our Resurrection Year and, as I reflect back on it, I see it had four main elements that can be experienced in any number of ways:

1. Get Some Rest

If you’ve experienced a broken dream you may well be exhausted, having spent considerable energy trying to attain what you desperately wanted. If you’re anything like us, you need some deep, restorative rest. Some ideas include:

  • Weekends without housework
  • Sleep ins and leisurely breakfasts
  • Gentle walks in the country or by the seaside
  • Perhaps a reduced workload at the office
  • Time alone (if you’re an introvert) or with friends (if you’re extrovert)

For Merryn, this relaxation came particularly through reading novels. For me, it came through beauty—walking in beautiful places and visiting art and photographic galleries. Whatever it is for you, have a season of doing more of what truly relaxes you.

2. Have Some Recreation

People with broken dreams couldn’t create what they wanted and so they need to create something else. You could think about:

  • Taking up a new hobby, like drawing, painting, gardening, photography
  • Learning a musical instrument
  • Joining a sporting club or a gym
  • Starting a new project, like a walking group, or writing a book

Remember, recreation literally means ‘re-creation’. What helps you to re-create joy and energy? For me, this meant getting back into photography—a hobby I’d neglected amongst the stresses of the previous few years.

3. Find Renewal

There is a spiritual component to a broken dream. It can rock your sense of perspective and raise questions about the meaning of your life. You can wonder why this has happened to you. (As committed believers, Merryn and I wrestled with why a ‘good’ God didn’t answer our prayers for a child.) After some rest and recreation, you may be ready to start addressing some of these questions:

  • By finding a spiritual mentor
  • By expanding your perspective through good books, courses and seminars
  • By journaling your feelings, attending a church service, or experimenting with a silent retreat

While in Switzerland, Merryn and I spent some time at a retreat centre working through our own questions. There are profound lessons to be learnt from suffering. Don’t miss them.

4. Try Some Reinvention

When a dream dies a little part of you does too, as you can’t become the person you’ve wanted to become. A certain degree of reinvention is needed. Try asking yourself:

  • Who am I deep down? (Think about your personality and key relationships.)
  • What new role or identity could I explore?
  • What other dreams could I pursue?
  • Can lessons from my own suffering be recycled to help others?

Being Realistic

Has the new life Merryn and I started filled the void of not having a child? Of course not. Do we still have days when we wish things were different? Of course we do. There are still occasional tears.

But we have been able to start again and experience some things we never would have dreamed of.

We have seen our broken dreams turned into new beginnings.

Photo by Chiara Cremaschi

broken dream

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33 thoughts on “Turn Your Broken Dream into a New Beginning”

  1. I really like your #2 here as I believe everybody needs some sort of creative outlet and it’s a part of us that tends to be neglected as obligations take up our time and life rushes by.
    Everyone usually has an idea of what that outlet would be if we just take a moment to reflect on what our hearts are trying to tell us. We just need to take the first small step towards it.
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful article Sheridan and congratulations on your new beginning!

    1. Thanks Patrik. I do agree with you- that creative outlet is essential for all of us, whatever it is. Sadly, it’s often the first thing to go when a person is walking through a difficult life season.

  2. thank you for sharing yourself online. I am touched. May you adopt a baby if you still want to be parents…Or nurture the world’s children.

    1. Thanks so much, Eva. As I briefly mentioned in the article, we did try to adopt (in Australia) but, sadly, the phone call to collect our child never came. Others have a lot more success, though, so I do hope couples facing infertility will sincerely consider fostering or adoption. We will, however, seek to love and care for the children around us.

      Ironically, during our decade in the ‘wilderness’ of infertility, we were actively engaged in seeing children in the developing world sponsored through the charity Compassion International. We can all be a caring presence to the children of the world!

  3. Thank you sooo much came at a right time for me after such an exhausting past, no career only volunteering n collapsing of meningitis I truly need some deep rest, I’ve been blaming myself of being lazy as I often feel sleepy, now I get it resurrection year, thank you…

    1. My prayer for you, Unathi, is that you will have that season of Rest, Recreation, Renewal and Reinvention too. Meningitis is a serious illness. A rest sounds most called for.

  4. Thanks for sharing such a touching and personal story. I also recommend that you look into adoption. Two very good friends of mine chose to adopt after being strongly warned not to conceive for medical reasons. Love is flexible and adapts.

  5. Sheridan,

    Thank you for this –
    You wouldn’t believe how great I felt after reading this.
    It inspired me to purchase your Audiobook – Unseen footprints, I listened to this twice in one sitting.
    Thanks Again

  6. Why is being “realistic” so difficult?

    It is like we are pre-wired to set ourselves up for failure. We are stimulated by huge players in every genre and think we can do that too ( like in a month). Then when we fall short, we all of a sudden become the most unworthy people in the world!

    Such a cycle to break free from!

  7. What an amazing story and recipe for revival. I surely hope that with Gods will your dream still can happen. I went through a period of my career ending and becomming ill. I took a year off and i lost my place in the Corporate world so to speak but what i gained in that year, was insight, depth, perspective and a new sense of self which i would not have achieved. Had i not taken the down time. Now i am working towards my passion or shall i say my pleasure in life. I have stopped just existing because i am truly alive now and empowered to take the steps needed to get there.

  8. It must be hard for you two to accept things as they are. My reaction to this recently was, I blamed God and hated myself for a couple period of times. I hope the ressurection year will come for all of us.

    and I hope, from now on you’ll be blessed with happiness.

    Thank you for this post.

  9. In my previous job, I was a Producer and Presenter of a morning talk show. However, I moved to a new channel but now doing their Digital Media. Due to my prior experience as a tv host, I was given some training to read the news at this current channel.

    However, I’ve never been given the chance to read the news despite almost everyone in my batch is already reading the news.

    I got a little upset. I felt sad.

    After that period, I got my SELF together and told myself, “Forget that dream again… Focus on what you’re doing right now and be good at it. This is your NEW path. You might not appear on TV, but this is what you’re meant to do”

    I’m starting to embrace my current role here because digital media, new media and social media are my new passion.

  10. Reading your story got me all sentimental. Will be getting your book soon as I need some inspiration and hope in this department of my life. Having a baby has not been easy for my husband and I and yes after going through so many treatments I am afraid my dream will be broken. On the positive side we are planning to adopt.

    1. Remember, not everyone’s story ends like ours, Veronica. And I’m so glad you’re looking into adoption! The process is a little different in the US as to what we experienced in Australia.

      I hope you enjoy Resurrection Year, too. It’s bringing a lot of hope to people. And to think – it was a book I really didn’t want to write.

  11. What a wonderful idea. Deep in my heart I know everything in life is perfect, meaningful and filled with insights if we are willing to look. The idea of a resurrection year is the icing on the cake.

    Thanks so much for that idea. I may just put a resurrection day into every week! Maybe that is what Sundays used to be for….

  12. A lovely post – thankyou :-) I think we have all been hurt or had our dreams shattered at some stage of our lives, I think a marriage breakdown is a perfect example. I recently heard a sport psychologist say: “it doesn’t how you feel or what you say – its all about what you do and how you execute”. Writing and trying new things are my saviours :-)

  13. A beautiful story embracing the life-death-life cycle… renewal of spirit is so important after heartbreak. Like St. Paul’s 3 year meditation after his conversion, Spirit will inspire and give us strength for our new vision and missions. Thanks for sharing.

  14. All of this was so familiar to me, and I realised after a couple of paragraphs that what I experienced last year was exactly this. Nice to have a name for it now! My resurrection year happened after the unexpected break down of a 7 year relationship, serious health issues and an intense period of work. I took myself off to a place where I could rest and just focus on finding joy again, rather than having to make serious decisions about the future. It was a place that I found so beautiful and inspiring that I ended up having a resurrection 18 months! After the near collapse of my life, my intuition told me exactly what I needed and I followed through, even though it probably seemed crazy to some people (myself included) sometimes, but I think it literally saved my life. If I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t be in the happy, contented place I am in today, feeling much stronger and ready to face whatever life has to throw at me.

  15. I had had one too many years of one too many broken dreams – romantically, creatively, professionally, and personally with myself in my battle against depression, chronic fatigue, PTSD, and a whole host of getting too close to unhealthy people over a long span of time. A car accident back in 2000 really started a downward spiral over time and I am burned out as hell and am now working hard at fixing my medical problems. One thing that saves me though is any little burst of creativity I can find to do. Getting into photography has been a big help. It throws a whole new perspective on the eternal now in some way.

    1. Melissa Marie Lora

      Holy crap I swear I was just reading a play by play of someone’s else’s interpretation of my story all the way down to the dates and medical conditions.! Wow! So I can literally say I know exactly what you are feeling/felt and what you went/are going threw.

  16. Your story echoes mine.

    We had tried IVF, adoption and considered surrogacy, all because I was infertile due to a health issue. I howled at the moon in pain on the night when I realised I would never ever have a child. We did have a pregnancy, with a due date of Christmas Day, but sadly it didn’t go as planned.

    At 37 I had to have a hysterectomy and that made sure my dreams came crashing down.

    But, how life tricks us!

    If not for the childless state I find myself in, I would not have found my current husband, nor been blessed with overseas travel and a partner who adores me. My life is not what I originally planned, but it is different and much better in some ways than I could have ever hoped for.

    Coming to terms with the grief and loss and allowing myself to feel it were crucial in my recovery. And as I have gotten older (I am now 49), I find myself grateful on a daily basis for the life I have today.

    Your journey resonated within me, thank you for sharing.

  17. Melissa Marie Lora

    I’ve been in every situation that just poured from your heart (from your wife’s side of the glass). I wanted nothing more from childhood than to be a mother and have desired the chance to be blessed enough to experience that bond and the feeling that you get when you become a mom, but because of a medical conditions that I have I struggle to carry past my 3rd month. I’ve been pregnant a few times but I lost all of them. It was so devastating every time! It has caused me to feel like I’m half a women, or that I’m a failure I can’t even perform the duties I was originally as a women was proposed for. I can’t be a women! It’s real depressing, and deadening and in the past caused me to do unthinkable things to myself because it felt like I was useless and defective. I hope I one day am able to get to where you and your wife are in your lives today it sounds amazing but for me just about impossible. Thank you for your encouraging words and story cause it gives me a little bit more hope.

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