There’s a secret to healing a broken heart… and it’s far-less complicated than we expected. Dear Heart, help has arrived.
Break up. Split up. Separate. Divorce. Those verbs have pretty powerful, dramatic weight. They are vivid and active. They do damage—especially to the heart. A broken heart feels heavy, laden with sadness and fear, but a broken heart can heal.
There is hope.
Many years ago, I suffered a horrible break up. Sometimes the camera of my mind replays the scene of my younger self, lying on the bedroom floor, sobbing uncontrollably in devastation. I didn’t want it to end, but I couldn’t let that unhealthy relationship continue. My body shattered, and I could do nothing but fall to pieces on the floor. We broke up. I broke down, and somehow I had to find a way to live without this man that I loved.
While there is no accurate description of what a broken heart feels like, there are emotional reactions and behaviors that many who’ve suffered a broken heart have experienced. They are not pretty.
According to therapist Joyce Marter, Founder and CEO of Urban Balance, “a broken heart mirrors a depressive episode, and someone might have a decrease in appetite, disruptive sleep, and anxiety about the future,” Marter said.
Happiness Specialist, Rebecca L. Norrington said, “A broken heart is probably one of the most painful experiences this life has to offer…I know if I had a dollar for every heartbreak and disappointment I’ve felt, I’d be able to finance a cruise around the world…well, maybe a cruise half-way around the world.”
Part of the pain of a broken heart comes not only from the fear of being alone but also from the fear of feeling alone—as if no one could possibly understand what we are experiencing. “It’s not only losing the person you were with, but also the life you thought you might have,” said Marter.
Not one of us is an island. As human beings, we are social animals who thrive on relationships. “People come into our lives for different reasons, and we are shaped and molded by relationships,” said Marter.
When we invest ourselves, our time, our emotions, and our hearts into building a life with a partner, we are feeding our hope, nurturing our happiness. A break up cannot only destroy that happiness but also diminish or even rob us of any hope of ever finding love again. “There is a lot of grief, and people often feel like ‘I’m not lovable,’” said Marter.
There is no socially established mourning process for the death of a relationship. It’s just sad.
Sure, people felt sorry for me. Friends affirmed that I was a “great catch” and that l would meet someone else, but all the while he still existed, living in the same apartment only miles away, taking calls on the same phone that he never answered when I called because he wanted nothing to do with me any longer. It took many long months for that pain to begin to subside.
If breakups were easy, they would have a more accurate name—like a “filter” or “cleanse”—but what if we approached a break up as an experience to learn about ourselves? Marter said, “even though broken hearts are painful, there are lessons we learn if we honor the feelings of grief. Surf through the feelings and there is a lot of wisdom that can come.” The process of moving on from a relationship that has run its course can be an opportunity for growth and self-betterment.
What can people do to help heal a broken heart?
Norrington said, “Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to eliminate all heartbreak and disappointment. The secret is…choose to prioritize happiness.”
While this advice might seem like an oversimplification of healing, prioritizing happiness takes a lot of work, and Norrington teaches that eliminating expectations is the first step in healing a broken heart. “People with broken hearts have one thing in common—having expectations of other people. Having expectations of how someone else is supposed to act, feel, think, speak and behave. If you never want to experience a broken heart,” Norrington said, “eliminate all expectations from your relationships.”
More than anything, people who are pained need to learn strategies for coping with the pain. Because people can sometimes, “unrealistically expect or hope that life is all unicorns and roses,” said Marter. Finding the strength to search for the wisdom embedded in the hurt can be daunting though. Recognizing that healing is a process helped me to try to focus on living my new life one day at a time.
Those feelings that the result from this crisis of self-esteem can drive people to say terrible things to themselves, to devalue themselves. “Be mindful of self-talk, become rooted in the present moment, practice deep breathing and meditation,” advised Marter, who also said that, “practicing gratitude helps to shift perspective.”
“When we are rooted in the present moment we feel our best. Often people who are suffering from a broken heart tend to worry about the future or obsess over the past, and that’s where practicing mindfulness can be a helpful coping mechanism,” said Marter.
Keeping a gratitude journal can help to shift the perspective from focusing on the negative to recognizing the positive. There were, however, many days when I struggled to find anything for which I was grateful. Then a friend reminded me, “sometimes we need to remember that we can and should be grateful for a good cry.”
Feeling heartache is part of the healing process, and there is no shame in letting the body, mind, and soul experience all that it needs to in order to feel happy again. Marter advised, “get support. Talk with friends and family. Journaling can be cathartic. Remember self-care. Rest, eat nutritious foods, exercise to the point of sweat,” because the endorphins released through exercise will help.
I have found running to be therapeutic, and a lot of people take comfort in re-connecting with spirituality in times of emotional turmoil. “What is most important,” Marter said, “is to surround yourself with people who bring you up. And, to have hope that you will love again. If you aren’t there yet, have hope that you will hope to have love again.” Hope does indeed spring eternal, and when the heart is ready, it will open up to love again.[image: via shutterstock]