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13 Lessons on Life and Love from Our Hospital Visit

Losing Bret goes at the top of my greatest fears in this life.

So, after having mysterious heart symptoms for 4 months and then hearing, a few weeks ago, that it looked like he had what can be a fatal heart condition, a journey began…

This week of LOVE feels like the perfect moment to share a few things I immediately put into practice to move through this little chapter with him (he is now healing beautifully!).

I didn’t expect to write about this here, and yet — if any of these reflections could ever help anyone else too (whether you are in a relationship or not), I couldn’t not share.

(And happy, happy, happy Valentine’s season to YOUR heart, in whatever ways are most meaningful.)


As much as I recognize and embrace the inevitability of challenges in this experience on planet Earth, I am much less interested in engaging in the category of unnecessary suffering, the added pain we dear humans can pile on top with how we respond to life.

(Which I still catch myself doing at times, of course.)

Instead, what I most love to do is what I call “grow the good.” 🌱

And I am perpetually amazed (and perhaps you have been too) by the absolute miracle of how our greatest learning, awakening, healing, service, growth, and purpose often gets born directly out of our greatest challenges.

Especially if we make that be the case.

So, below are 13 ways I/we grew the good in this experience.

And I hope, if and when you are ever in a difficult time…

…perhaps something here will add a little extra peace or ease or hug to your own dear heart. ❤️

—–

✨ 1. From the moment things started unfolding, and I had no idea what was ahead, I said to myself and to Bret:

“We are going to turn this into something beautiful, no matter what.”

The moment we declare this, we signal to our brains to show us evidence of how that can and will be the case. We turn towards a benevolent, abundant Universe and open to receive the support and guidance always available to us.

It’s not about waiting for something good to happen before we believe this. It’s about choosing it, committing to it, orienting our minds and hearts in that direction, and, therefore, creating it to be true.

(It doesn’t mean we avoid the challenge – but that we also wholeheartedly grow the good all around it which, I find, changes everything.)

✨ 2. Similarly, when we are in a time of difficulty or uncertainty, we want to ensure that what still stands, after the storm, are the things we value most and want to keep — because that is what will indeed remain.

For example, if, during an experience, we hold onto things like resentment, fears, or regret, that is what grows stronger and stays standing.

However, if we hold onto things like kindness, integrity, love, gratitude, spiritual connection, peace, service, trust, and grace, on the other side, that will endure instead.

Throughout the experience, I got clear, over and over, again and again, on what qualities I wanted to cultivate through this.

They became my spiritual anchors.

And here they are now, strong as ever.

✨ 3. Whenever I would find myself having worrisome “what if” thinking, I would challenge myself to zoom out, expand the aperture of my awareness, and counteract them with at least as many positive “what if’s” too.

✨ 4. We were eventually moved from the ER to a hospital room and stayed there 5 days. We decided to call it our honeymoon suite.

Denial? No way.

We are all the makers of meaning.

Life has the meaning that we give it, and all I know is that, by calling it our honeymoon suite, it sure did make the experience even more bonding, connecting, enjoyable, and healing.

It turned into that.

And we got in some extraordinary quality time that deepened our love and connection like never, ever before.

✨ 5. I let the emotions, tears, etc. move through me as pure sensation in my body, without attaching to them and creating added stories to them.

Rather than rejecting, denying, avoiding, or clinging to any of them, however big the feelings were, I sat in meditation, breathed into and through them, and I invited an even bigger presence of Love to greet, hold, and envelop every one of them.

No matter how big the feeling was, Love was always willing to get even bigger.

✨ 6. I believe that things sometimes need to fall apart before they can fall back together, and there was one moment when I called my sister and asked her:

“I need to just fall apart for a moment. Can you hold space while I do?”

(Forever grateful for how she did just that – and how much lighter and stronger I felt after.)

Again, these moments are about growing and expanding the amount of Loving space around our feelings, so they can come up into the light to be seen, heard, allowed, accepted – and freed.

We can do that alone or together – but what a gift it is when we let the people in our lives know how to best love and support us in a certain moment — and when they answer that tender call of our hearts.

✨ 7. I did countless rounds of what I call “the magic and.”

It’s so important that we name all the feelings, including those typically seen as less enjoyable.

One of the biggest “criticisms” of people who experience more joy is that we’re in denial, but this isn’t about denying anything. It’s simply about not stopping there or ending with a period.

It’s about adding on an “and.”

The “and” paves the way for all the treasures and gifts we get to ALSO awaken to.

It includes things like…

~ what we get to learn from it

~ how we can use this to grow into a better version of ourselves

~ what we also appreciate

~ how we will use this to better serve and contribute to others

So, anytime I would think or speak about an upsetting feeling, I would follow it with an “and…”

It changes the whole story, it prevents us from getting stuck in painful thought loops that have no off ramp.

It creates an upward spiral. It ensures we don’t overly zoom into a challenge and miss everything else going on around it.

Ironically, it prevents us from being in denial — about the goodness also right here…

…just waiting for us to see it.

✨ 8. I believe that challenges in life can either harden and close our hearts – or soften and open them.

I choose the latter.

After 21 years together and running the Center for Thriving Relationships for the past 12 years and doing a whole lot of growth together over these decades, I can still say that we had some of the most open-hearted, vulnerable, deeply loving conversations of our lives.

We dug deep to apologize, acknowledge, and appreciate things beyond what we had before.

It was so tender and so, so beautiful.

✨ 9. If I found my mind drifting into “could have, should have, or would have” thinking, I gently noticed those thoughts and let them be heard…

…and then lovingly redirected them towards other more empowering thoughts that were forward-focused…

…into the future, into the land of possibilities and stories-yet-unwritten…

…where goodness can still be grown.

✨ 10. In my practice of growing the good, I love to play with using contrast intentionally.

In other words, I notice the thing that DOESN’T feel good, and rather than fixating on it (which often means we end up becoming even more like it)…

…I like to use the contrast to help me get clear about what I DO value, how I want to show up, and what I want to multiply.

And then I grow that.

For example, if I am not experiencing kindness?

I use the contrast to inspire me to show up with even more of it myself — for that person or someone else.

And just like that — a reset of a flow of kindness.

In this situation, where we faced more serious health challenges…

I got curious:

“how can we use this experience to become healthier than ever before – in mind, body, heart, and spirit?”

Different questions lead to different answers…and a whole different life.

✨ 11. I expressed mega gratitude to every single person we interacted with.

Like deep, often teary-eyed gratitude.

And I FELT it.

I allowed myself to take it in, to feel the service and support all around us.

Was the support perfect? Of course not.

But appreciation is a mighty (and completely free!) superpower we all have available, and it’s one that colors the world with beauty and makes us and nearly everyone around us feel so much better.

Appreciation turns strangers into friends, lack into abundance, resistance into openness, and dead ends into doorways.

✨ 12. When it came time to bring Bret back to prep for his procedure, I was told to expect a certain amount of time — unless there were complications.

I was holding steady in deep trust for a good while, but then the time slowly spilled into hours beyond what they said would be normal…

…and I could feel worry arising.

Again, I asked myself “how can I grow the good right now?”

Because the goodness can always, always be grown.

I sat devotedly in prayer and visualized positive outcomes and hands of light supporting him. I called upon all the positive energy of all that is.

I sent texts of appreciation to loved ones.

I found affirmations that felt nourishing (like “I am centered. I am calm.”), and I let them wash over and through me on every inhalation and exhalation.

I deepened in my faith that it was all going to be okay…

…not because of how it specifically turned out…

…but because we live in this vast, life-giving Universe.

I also recalled the quote:

“fear is excitement without the breath.”

I turned towards and befriended the fear with compassion. It was so understandable.

And then I expanded my breath and got curious – could I channel this same energy into excitement?

It seemed kind of radical, given the seriousness of the situation.

But I decided to try it.

I leaned into imagining the excitement for how indescribably wonderful it would be to see his sweet spirit rolling back into the room, excitement for getting to send out a celebratory text message to let loved ones know he made it through (I even started to write this message up, as it felt so good to do so), excitement for all the experiences we would have together ahead and how we’d try to make the most of each one…

In these moments, I had zero updates from the doctor or nurses and no idea what was happening.

And I realize the outcome could have been quite different (and is for others).

(I also realize there are instances when this would not be helpful. Only use when it is.)

However, no matter what, these things changed the journey itself, buoyed me, and gave me resilience.

✨ 13. I love the motto:

“never waste a bad experience.”

One of my core beliefs and guiding principles in this lifetime is that there are gifts in everyone and everything.

During and since the experience, this is one of the conversations we’ve had the most – reflecting on the gifts and opportunities, what we want to learn from this, and how we want to grow.

Unless we pause to reflect and get clear, these kinds of insights scarcely come.

But when we do…they are everywhere. 🌱💐

—–

Although I could go on and on about all the tools I was SO grateful to have to put into practice and all the gifts that continue to ripple from this, I think I will pause at 13, as that was the number of both our honeymoon suite and the surgical prep rooms.

Our nurse pointed out to us that some people see it as an unlucky number. Apparently, it depends on what cultural tradition you are in.

And, thankfully for us, I know it gets to be whatever we want it to be.

And I am definitely seeing it as a number of tremendous blessings, of falling more in love, of opening our hearts, and of awakening evermore fully to the gifts and goodness of life.

—–

A little caveat…

I realize there are absolutely instances when any or all of these things would not be helpful. They are helpful when they are.

And when they’re not, they’re not.

Trust your amazing intuition, and may they only be of service whenever they feel right and beneficial. ❤️

—–

Update on dearest Bret…

Now that his heart condition is treated, it should not interfere with either the quality or length of his life. Blessed blessed blessed be.

We still have a little more detective work to do but are embracing it as a spiritual scavenger hunt and opportunity to become healthier, more connected, more in love, more grateful, and more aligned with joy than ever.

He is rapidly healing and has every plan to live a long, purposeful, service-filled, and vibrant life. 🤸‍♂️

Lastly, deepest bows of endless appreciation to all the medical staff all over the world and all humans through all time who are committed to being sources and forces of healing and to all who contributed to inventing these awe-inspiring technologies and procedures. Big holy wow.

~~~~

Sending blessings upon blessings to you and all you love,

Christine (and Bret!)

PS: Thanks soooo much for being in our community ~ speaking of hearts…it fills ours to have you here 🥰

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marriage counseling couples counseling eartheart institute center for thriving relationships Christine eartheart and Bret eartheart marriage engaged therapy pre-marital counseling couples therapy couples retreat couples workshop getaway reignite the spark affair divorce communication how to get him to listen partnership long-term love commitment husband wife marriage self care conflict retreat sex therapy conference convention phone skype video conference online counseling online therapy Bloomington Indiana IN Illinois IL chicago midwest fishers indianapolis martinsville Bedford spencer Ohio Michigan Carmel Naperville Kentucky Detroit Louisville KY OH MI Gottman gay Hendricks kate Hendricks Harville Hendrix sue johnson

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