Christina Dugan
September 06, 2017 10:00 AM

Vanessa Grimaldi is moving past her heartbreak.

Six months ago, fans of ABC’s The Bachelor watched Nick Viall and the Canada native fall in love and get engaged on last season’s finale. Five months later, the duo announced their split, saying in a statement, “We gave this relationship our all and we are saddened that we did not get the fairytale ending we hoped for.”

Now, the 29-year-old is opening up about why things didn’t work out and how she plans on moving forward.

“My relationship with Nick and experience on The Bachelor has given me so many amazing and memorable moments in my life, and I am forever grateful,” Grimaldi exclusively tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Nick and I were always transparent about the challenges in a relationship. We certainly had ours. I fell for him hard, and when you fall in love that hard, your heart breaks even harder.”

David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

“In the end, as much as we loved each other and tried to make it work, we just realized we were different people fighting to keep a relationship when ultimately we just weren’t’ the best fit for each other,” she adds. “It wasn’t the distance that was ever an issue. Both Nick and I decided together, with our families’ support, that I would put my teaching career on hold and uproot my life to Los Angeles to support him on Dancing with the Stars and build a life together.”

MARLON KUHNREICH

Of the emotional Instagram she posted last week, Grimaldi tells PEOPLE, “I wanted to share that message with the world. Whatever hardships people are going through, don’t be embarrassed of feeling no feelings – if it’s anger, hurt, sadness – just remember at the end of the day to remain optimistic, because you will come out of it, and you’ll come out it a stronger person. It always will be okay in the end.”

It's okay to feel broken. It's okay to cry. It's okay to lean on a friend. In the end, it will always be okay.

A post shared by VanessaGrimaldi (@vanessagrimaldi30) on

Viall appeared on two previous seasons of The Bachelorette and season 3 of Bachelor in Paradise before taking his turn as the lead suitor.

Even before getting engaged, L.A.-based Viall and Canadian Grimaldi struggled to decide where they would continue their relationship.

Viall is handling the split “okay,” a source previously told PEOPLE. “It wasn’t an overnight decision, and they’re amicable.”

“There’s no one set way to get over heartbreak,” Grimaldi says now. “When going through any hardship, it’s okay to take the time to grieve the loss of what could have been. It’s okay to cry and curl up under your covers for as long as you need. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve done all of those things, but with my family’s and close friend’s support – it’s all really helped the process for me.”

MARLON KUHNREICH

“I’m trying to look forward now and remain positive,” she adds. “It’s hard sometimes, breakups aren’t easy, letting go of the idea of what could’ve been isn’t easy, either, but I’m trying to stay optimistic about the future and that one day the person that I’m meant to be with and start a family with — when the timing is right — we will find our way to each other.”

In the end, Grimaldi came out of this a stronger person and wants nothing but the best for Viall.

“When you fall in love with someone with all that you have, it’s hard to let go. Every part of you gets shattered,” she says. “I’m trying to pick up the pieces. … I hope he finds his person and his happily ever after that we unfortunately couldn’t find together.”

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