How to heal your heartbreak.
Look, I’m not a doctor but I am getting up there in age and since time is the greatest teacher it’s like I’ve received my Doctorate in Matters Of The Heart. I’ve got a PhD in M.O.T.H. (or MOTHer for short). I’ve witnessed via friends, and experienced via self, a lot of heartbreak. I’ve paid attention to and taken note of people’s ability to successfully move on from tragedy. If the goal is to bounce back from grief while also learning life lessons and growing internally then there are definitely some people who get it and others who don’t. Sadly, the ones who don’t get it are the ones destined to repeatedly make the same mistakes. They are pretty easy to identify as they are the ones who just can’t seem to live in any type of sustained happiness.
First, let me give you some good news. The dark and miserable feeling that currently saturates you to the core of your being and overwhelms you on a cellular level is a temporary one. It’s not going to be how you feel forever. And although you don’t feel like there is any end in sight and that everything is out of your control, you actually do have some power over its length. Isn’t that great?
The single most effective mantra that I can offer to you is that you need to “feel it to heal it.” Grieve, grieve, grieve. Cry until your throat hurts. Wail, scream, mourn. Put on Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” and cry the lyrics at the top of your lungs. Don’t stuff your emotions deep down inside or I guarantee you they’ll stick around and show themselves at the most inopportune moments. Grief is a process and there are certain steps that need to be taken to get to the end of the path. It’s much like scuba diving. As scuba divers descend into the water they need to equalize the pressure in their ears. Every few feet they will slowly blow out through a plugged nose relieving their ear pressure. If a scuba diver misses one of the steps, they have to swim back up to the location of the missed maneuver and start all over again. In other words, you can’t ignore the missed steps or it won’t get better. You’ve got to go right back there and deal with the pain.
An interesting fact that I’ve noticed about heartbreak and grieving is that you’re not sad every minute of the day. There are many moments of laughter, anger, boredom, happiness…until something reminds you of your situation and makes you sad again. But you aren’t sad 24/7. That’s a good thing because as time progresses you’ll notice that those moments of sadness get shorter and less frequent. Make a note of that, because it’s a great indicator of healing.
Sometimes you’re in a relationship and you just can’t figure out what went wrong; everything seemed so perfect. Other times your relationship has been a day to day struggle where you’ve never felt completely comfortable. When you are in the midst of your breakup, try to look at your relationship without the rose colored glasses. This is hard to do when you’re grieving because the “good” stuff is what you miss and what you put your focus on. Nobody misses the “bad” during a break-up. Nobody exclaims, “I miss him cheating on me!” or “I miss him telling me he’ll be home at 6pm and then showing up at 4am!” Nope, we miss the good stuff. We miss the soft voice in the mornings and the warmth of his skin. We miss laughing over inside jokes and looking deeply into his eyes. The “bad” is temporarily set aside. Missing the “good” stuff is normal…but include the “bad”, too…because that was just as much a part of your relationship and deserves equal billing. Don’t romanticize it.
Your relationship didn’t work. Whether it was them or whether it was you does not matter – it didn’t work. Now chew that sentence up and swallow it whole because you’ll need to walk around with that for a long time. It did not work. In your mourning process your mind will pop out these great “if only…” scenarios. “If only they didn’t drink so much.” “If only they liked my mother.” “If only they would have tried harder.” Sorry, but this is where I get out my ruler and slap your piano hand because THEY DO, THEY DON’T and THEY WON’T. If they didn’t, did or would then you wouldn’t be in the situation you’re in. Get rid of the “woulda coulda shoulda” attitude and accept the fact that it did not work. One of you was the round peg, one of you was the square hole and you just didn’t fit together. Accept it. Repeat it.
I think this is the toughest point about letting go…the Dream. We started building it the moment we looked at our potential spouse and thought, “What if…?” What if he wants to see me again, what if we get along, what if this works, what if we move in together, what if we start a family, what if we’re together forever…? Our brains work overtime asking that question, weighing reactions, deciphering text messages and emails; what if… We begin to color in the blanks of our dreams, adding relatives, mixing friends, establishing history so that eventually we change that question of “What if…?” to a statement of “What is.” We accept the dream and work on fulfilling it. A break-up cuts that dream off at its proverbial kneecaps. Having that dream taken away is devastating and oftentimes is the reason why we have so much trouble moving past grief. You have devoted so much time and energy into your “What is” that it is like your very future has been ripped from you. That right there is some very heavy shit. That “dream” of what was in front of you has died and you should take the time to honor it and mourn it.
Now is not the time to stop eating altogether and become rail thin. Now is not the time to start abusing your body through alcohol, sex or drugs. Now is the time to take care of you. Eat healthy, exercise and release those fabulous endorphins, learn something new, create something, reconnect with family and friends, travel. Spend your time making yourself feel better on the inside and the outside so that you have the strength move through this difficult period in your life and prepare yourself for your next great adventure.
Work through your feelings and become an active participant in the healing process. I liken it to the 3 R’s, the skills-orientated education program within schools: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic.
Reading: Read self-help books and articles that mirror your situation and try to identify why the relationship didn’t work out. Are you consistently attracted to someone who is commitment-phobic or a serial cheater? Do you think you can swoop in and with the power of your clear heart and magic voice completely sway them in your favor and change a lifetime of poor decisions? Find out why you are choosing the wrong people and make a list of the traits that simply don’t work for you. What are your “must-haves” and your “must-not-haves”? What are the deal breakers? Establish that list so that you can recognize those traits in the next potential mate. If the person you meet is chock-full of “must-not-haves” and only 1 or 2 “must-haves” kill it before there is an emotional attachment.
wRiting: Write it out. Journaling and letter writing can help you cope tremendously. Take pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and have a field day. Write with the intention of being brutally honest. Rake them over the coals, write down every irritating trait, call them assholes, admit your deepest feelings, confess your darkest fears. Be as honest as you can be…because nobody is going to judge you or tell you that you’re wrong. In letting yourself “free-write” you’ll uncover golden nuggets of self-awareness. Later down the line you can re-read what you’ve written and gain an even greater understanding of what you were going through and how you have grown. If you are not one to journal for fear of your diary being confiscated and read or feel like you need an audience, you can always submit your letter to our sister site, www.lettersillneversend.com. It’s completely anonymous and usually readers give great, positive feedback.
aRithmetic: Hanging around positive friends that share a similar outlook can do wonders. Most friends have been scared to tell you what they really think of your relationship in case you get back together 2 weeks down the line. Get with these friends and ask for the truth, ask to hear their warning signs, ask their opinions. (WARNING: Don’t ask if you have any intention of getting back together with the ex-. You will damage your friendship if you’re in a roller coaster relationship). Invest money in a good counselor. Working actively with a counselor can lessen the duration of your heartbreak. They are schooled in listening and offering sound and solid advice and they do so with an unbiased opinion. Bottom line, with both your friends and your counselor’s guidance you can figure out why the relationship just didn’t add up (sorry, bad math pun).
As I stated at the beginning of this article we have all been faced with great heartache in our lives so you are surrounded by empathetic souls who have felt your pain. We say that this feeling is temporary because we’ve gotten to the other side and we know you can do it, too. Yes, it feels like you’ve been hit by a bus but eventually you need to stand up, knock the dirt from your clothes and keep going. We’ll be right down the road waiting for you. The best of luck to you!