Healing a Broken Heart: Part 1

Post Written By: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

When we think about heartbreak, we tend to think about the loss of a romantic relationship.  However, heartbreak isn't just about the end of romantic love.  Any time we experience the loss of something meaningful in our lives - the loss of a friendship, a beloved pet, a dream we've carried for ourselves, etc. - we may find ourselves feeling heartbroken. When we're heartbroken, we tend to feel exposed; vulnerable and uncertain.  Sometimes, our whole lives feel broken open.  We may feel deeply sad and scared and, because we tend to build our identities around our relationships as well as what we do (e.g., for work), heartbreak can rock our sense of self and lead us to feel unsure about our future.  Whatever the cause of your heartbreak, there are some things you can do to help yourself move through the process, with love and compassion.  Below are the first three tips in this two-part blog post on healing a broken heart:

1. First and foremost, give yourself permission to live "broken open" for a while.  When we're feeling heartbroken, our first reaction is often to resist the pain that we're experiencing because it can feel desperately uncomfortable.  We want to feel safe and secure and firmly planted in our lives, so we resist feelings like sadness, fear, and uncertainty that make us feel unsettled.  Furthermore, we live in a society that teaches us to stay away from "negative" feelings and move on quickly!  But, as the saying goes, "What we resist, persists."  In other words, the more we resist our own heartbreak, the more likely it is that we intensify and prolong the emotional pain.  Over time, emotional pain may start to manifest in our bodies and become physical pain.  And as we're walking through the world with this unprocessed emotional (and possibly now, physical) pain, it's more likely that new experiences will trigger what we've been carrying around inside of us that was never processed from the past, so that our present experience becomes further confused and intensified.  And now, with more intensity and a lack of clarity, our present experience becomes even more challenging to work through, which may lead to more resistance...and on and on we go in a vicious emotional cycle.  Giving ourselves space and permission to feel our feelings, sit in our pain, and just let it be is a really important part of healing our heartbreak and living emotionally healthy lives.

2. Another important part of healing a broken heart is connecting with people you trust who can witness your pain.  These are people who can allow you to feel however you feel and who won't rush you through the process.  We all know people who are uncomfortable with their own feelings, as well as with other people expressing their feelings, so when they see you feeling sad or scared they say things like, "Don't be sad, don't cry!  You've got to be strong and move on!" They want to rush the process, which isn't necessarily coming from a bad place - it's most likely coming from a place of caring and wanting to comfort their loved one - you! - and keep you from hurting.  It's not easy to see your loved ones in pain.  As well, it's likely that they've been taught to resist unpleasant emotions themselves, as so many of us are.  Finding people who are willing and able to just let our feelings be and sit there with us and say, "I see that you're hurting and that's okay.  Take the time you need, I'm here for you", is incredibly valuable and can be a powerful part of the healing process.  If we don't have anyone in our personal lives who can be a witness to our experience in this way, it can be really helpful to connect with a professional - a therapist, a mentor, a spiritual guide - or a well-founded on-line support group.

3. In addition to connecting with trusted others, practicing self-care matters greatly for healing a broken heart.  Self-care is essential for our day-to-day mental and emotional well-being, and it's something that so many people struggle with, which is why we keep coming back to it here on our blog!  The ways that we can practice self-care are varied and unique, but one way we can all practice self-care is by paying attention to ourselves and really tapping into our needs in the moment.  Ask yourself on a daily basis: what is it that I need right now?  Sit in silence until the answer comes to you, and trust and honour the answer.  The answer that is coming from your true self will be a loving answer.  So, if the first thing you hear when you ask the question is, "What you need is to get a life, you loser!", that's not the truth of what you need!  That's your ego mind getting in the way.  Notice what your ego mind says, but then let it go and continue to wait in silence until the truth comes to you.  The greatest gift of love we can give to ourselves and others is the gift of our full, undivided attention.  Paying attention to what you need will likely reveal specific self-care steps that you can take, such as taking a nap, or scheduling a mental health day, or planning a visit with a good friend, etc. In order to figure out what you need, you have to pay attention - slowly, quietly, and intentionally.

On October 14th, in Part 2 of this blog post, I'll be providing you with four more ways to heal a broken heart.

Until then, take good care of yourselves - wishing you wellness, always <3