It is that time of year, isn’t it? Where all the pressures of the “real lives” of people on social media can awaken both an internal fear that you are the only person on the planet who is grieving or sad and that you are all alone.
It is interesting that despite all the appearances so many of us place out into the world that we are always happy all the time, that most of my clients and most of my friends have reported sadness, feelings of confusion, and loneliness or isolation this holiday season. Some of that is just due to feeling pressured to “be” a certain way, but a large part of that is due to grief/loss and broken-heartedness this time of year (and, in some cases, all year).
Having a broken heart is a real thing. I know this because last year my darling coach of nearly a decade died of what doctors named “Broken Heart Syndrome.” (His soulmate died three weeks prior and his heart just stopped beating.) If you don’t believe me, look it up. Mayo Clinic and numerous other top medical sites list it as an absolutely valid way to die. While I don’t understand, nor can I report the biological or scientific components of how one dies this way, I can absolutely attest (both personally and professionally) that having a broken heart can really lead you to some dark and lonely places.
As I was contemplating what I wanted to share for my first blog of 2019, it fell on my heart that many people right now are needing to be acknowledged and validated for their broken hearts and to have some support around how to both honor this pain and to work a process of beginning to put the pieces of a shattered heart back together again.
This blog is dedicated to anyone and everyone who has a broken heart right now (or ever has) and to anyone seeking to support a loved one who does.
Three Ways to Heal a Broken Heart
1. Rewrite the Story
So many times when we are devastated in life – whether it be due to death or ghosting or someone who is ill or loving someone who doesn’t love us back – we add to our broken-heartedness by creating stories that make us either bad or at fault or not worthy or good.
While it is completely human and normal to create a negative personal narrative when life is going in the opposite direction of what we would choose (and when we are carrying heart-heavy pain inside of us), it is also not serving us when we do.
While it is always important to do internal reflection and see what our part might be in any circumstance(s), most things that are devastating that happen to us in life occur through no fault of our own. It is the illusion that if we were just good enough, if we had just said the right thing, if we hadn’t worn that outfit or taken that wrong turn or were prettier, smarter or more successful or (fill in the blank) that we wouldn’t have gotten rejected or hurt or disappointed or dumped or had a child who was suffering so much. That if we were just “perfect” enough, then life somehow might have been more likely to go our way.
One thing that I’ve learned from helping to transform the pain of my amazing clients (and just from getting older) is that life is absolutely unfair. We don’t get an equitable distribution of pain, nor do we always get what we deserve (and by what we deserve, most of us deserve amazing, spectacular, loving, and joy-filled lives). We can be amazing people and be single. We can be beautiful inside and out and get ghosted. We can try to be the best parent that ever lived and still have a sick child. Conversely, we can make mistake after mistake after mistake and still have miraculous, beautiful things occur (the latter is the good news).
When we get hurt, however, we quickly forget that sometimes pain can be random or unfair, and that still doesn’t mean we have done anything wrong. Blaming ourselves can be a great attempt at trying to feel in control when we are suffering. If I’m bad, then at least there is a reason something tragic or unexpectedly painful has happened. But the real healing comes from letting go of the need to feel “in control” of our pain and just allowing ourselves to feel it.
Creating a new story around heartbreak might look something like this: “Wow this is devastating. I just wanted this one thing to work out. I feel like I don’t ask for much, and it is heartbreaking (like my heart literally feels like it is cut in half) to find out that this is how the story is going. My brain wants to tell me that if I had done this or that differently or if I had been maybe even a different human being that none of this would have happened. What is more likely probably true is that I may not get to know. I may not have that much control. I may never find out what caused this bad thing. And that makes me even sadder. Being sad is horrible. I hate it. But it is a part of life. I wish it wasn’t this way, but hopefully I will feel better someday soon.”
That narrative, while in some ways temporarily more challenging than blaming ourselves, is much more authentic and most likely, more true. Sometimes we don’t get to find out why things happened the way they did. And as painful as that is, accepting that might turn out to be less painful than self-loathing in the long run.
2. Fall Toward a Power Greater than Yourself
One of the things that distinguishes us as humans from all other living species is the ability to create meaning. Another thing is the ability to connect to some sense of a spiritual life that feels grander and more vast than that of the limited human mind.
Part of why I have a passion for helping others transmute their pain into empowerment is that I’ve experienced a great deal of disappointment and heartbreak in my life, and I have always been able to transmute that pain into empowerment and growth. I believe in some ways I’ve gone through these things so that I would be poised to be more useful to my fellow humans. That belief is a perfect example of how anyone can use their pain to create a deeper meaning and a deeper soul evolution.
Sometimes, like everyone, in moments of pain I want to stomp my feet, rage at God and say “WHY ME!” And then I remember that it is only in the times of both great joy and great suffering in life that I have truly found a deeper connection with my Higher Power.
In fact, I might even venture to say that the entire framework of my spiritual life has been built around the moments in my life where I was at the bottom, out of answers, or totally in despair.
Perhaps the universe or this energetic power that is grander than us understands that when we fall apart, it is absolutely an opportunity to fall closer to that which we cannot see or hear, but that which we have an innate desire and soul-calling to believe.
Even if this concept is ludicrous to you or hard to get behind, I invite you to think about the alternative, which would be to fall deeper and deeper into despair until life seems untenable in every way. That doesn’t seem pleasing to me at all, and so I choose a different path in my pain. And every time I do, it works. Like every single time. Does it make it go away immediately? No. Does it magically get me the thing I’m demanding to the universe that I want now! A resounding no. But it does bring peace, comfort and an overwhelming sense of acceptance.
This type of process takes time. If you have been hurt over and over in life it can be hard to believe there is anything greater than you that could ever be safe. But even if it is the majestic nature of the Redwoods, a drop in the ocean, or the comfort of spooning your dog, find something that brings you any amount of comfort during your times of pain. Even if it is not quick or sweepingly intense, you will absolutely find that is a much safer haven than the dark corners of your own, frightened mind.
When someone walks out on us, lets us down, or disappears and we have no idea why, it can be gut-wrenchingly painful. In addition to blaming ourselves (like mentioned in number one) we can always turn the tables and rant and rage in our minds toward the person who has harmed us. While being angry and dejected is all part of having and healing a broken heart, holding on to the rage towards the other person for years on end is not serving you. In fact, it is dragging the broken-heart out and really only doing damage to you.
It can be so hard to forgive someone who we truly feel has wronged us in an inoperable way. And when it comes to matters of abuse, etc. maybe forgiveness can’t even be part of the path. But when it comes to broken-heartedness through rejection or separation, it is absolutely important to forgive in order to heal.
Forgiveness doesn’t have to look like an enthusiastic and grand gesture of love. But it does have to look like a tiny bit of willingness to admit that perhaps this other person, even if they have done something atrocious, is potentially sad and suffering too. Maybe they are afraid. Maybe they are frozen. Maybe they have no other tools for living. And maybe, just maybe, they did this thing because they don’t love themselves…and it had absolutely nothing to do with you.
Finding this willingness to forgive – especially when you are at the bottom with a heart that feels like it is shattered all over your body – can be terribly difficult. Sometimes we want to raise our proverbial fists and think we are totally justified in our anger and hurt. Ultimately, that never serves us. It doesn’t serve us on a path to healing and it absolutely doesn’t serve us in finding joy in our lives moving forward.
The neat thing about forgiveness (even as a slow process and over a long period of time) is that it also frees us up to revisit the idea of changing the story. If we can forgive the other person, then we can also live in the truth that our narrative of us being “worthless” as the cause of this pain is also absolutely untrue.
Having a broken heart is a real thing. If you are feeling this way right now (or ever), you are absolutely not crazy or alone. I’ve been there. My clients have all been there. And while it is an absolute part of life, it doesn’t have to be a place you hang your hat for a lifetime. You have choices in how you are going to face your pain, and these three steps are a useful and potentially life-changing part of getting back on track.
If you are trying to heal past a broken-heart and ready for seasoned, professional support, contact me here to book a call.