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Healing a Broken Heart

Navigating a devastating break-up

"funny how a heart shatters all at once, seems like it should make a sound"  -The Weepies

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now because heartbreak is an awfully lonely battle. I’m no stranger to a crushed heart. It’s one of the most painful experiences life has to offer. It’s so consuming and confusing that it’s hard to pick yourself up when you’re in the thick of it.

I felt inspired to write this because recently I’ve been working with several clients that are attempting to navigate through devastating breakups. They are going through the motions…moving out, separating belongings, dividing phone bills…all of the necessary moves that must be made when you’re in the midst of detaching yourself from another person. I find that this is the most difficult time for clients. It all starts to become very real and the panic sets in. Not to mention that if you’re the one getting broken up with, you don’t even want to separate all of these things because you’re still in love with the person. So there’s that…

I remember feeling like I was trapped. I was trapped in this body, on this planet, in this life with a completely broken heart and absolutely no idea how I was going to make it through the rest of my life feeling so depressed. THAT is a horrible feeling. I honestly just felt so sad for myself. I was so damn lonely already and then getting broken up with on top of it just pushed me even further into the dark parts of myself. I’d struggle through my days trying to act as normal as possible but inside I was silently grieving. Love is a strange thing. It’s euphoric when it’s great but it can be the depths of hell when it goes away despite your trying to hold onto it.

In some strange way that seems to be how life works. Growth and transformation are nearly always birthed from intensely painful situations. And I’ve found that to be true in the work I’ve done with myself and others. Although it is hard to see the wisdom being gained while you’re so close to the situation… when you finally come out on the other side you realize just how much you’ve grown. Because whether we want to admit it or not, breakups help us discover ourselves. They force us to. We want things to be easy and we make every attempt to avoid our pain but sometimes pain shows up without warning and it appears that it’s to be dealt with wisely or the devastation is prolonged.

That being said, I’ve thought long and hard about the ‘best’ way to deal with emotionally devastating breakups and although I don’t think there is one answer that will take all of your pain away, I do think the things I am going to mention are useful on your journey to healing.

I developed these practices with the idea that they would help to at least keep an already challenging situation from being experienced as utter hell. Because from what I’ve observed, breakups can be sad but manageable…or breakups can destroy your life for much longer than necessary if the underlying issues aren’t understood and aren’t integrated in a timely manner. So… here we go, my two cents on navigating a broken heart.

1. Let yourself be sad. You’re allowed to be sad. Someone that you deeply care for just broke up with you and that actually is a big deal.

When we’re in relationships we literally (in so many ways) become a moving unit with that other person. We merge into them and they do the same. Interpersonal relationships are so much more tangled up than we even realize. So when someone says ‘breakup’, that doesn’t just mean one thing…it means a LOT of things.

When you’re going through a breakup you are having to individualize yourself from the person that you’re used to being tangled with. It’s not just emotionally difficult but also physically. Your mind and body are used to playing ‘that game’, the relationship game…and now you’re having to prepare yourself for a new game. It’s ok to be sad about this because in a lot of ways it is sad. Death (death of a relationship) is always sad… but death is required for birth. If nothing ever died, nothing new could ever be born. So in many ways, this is the beginning of something new and different and there is something to say for that. Maybe you’re thinking “yea, but I don’t want anything new and different… I want the relationship that I had”… and that’s perfectly normal to think at this stage too.

But maybe that’s not actually what you want…maybe it’s not what your soul wants. Maybe things have fallen apart for a very specific reason. I’ve come to believe after witnessing many people go through these situations… that there always seems to be some greater plan that is allowing one phase to break down so that the new phase can be ushered in. And trust me, I’m a rather skeptical person but this is what I have observed when people allow themselves to come to awareness and to start integrating various parts of their personality that had previously been hidden. I’m not just saying this to give you false hope and to make you feel all good for no reason. This actually seems to be how it works. When someone rejects you and breaks up with you, they are allowing you the opportunity to dive into yourself and to understand the feelings that are being brought to the surface.

When things are going well no one ever does the work. Why would you? There’s nothing pressing on you. That’s why big life lessons are usually learned painfully…because often times they have to be. Otherwise we would sit in relationships for far longer than we should, wasting our life away with someone that is no good for us. So because sometimes we’re chickens and we get caught up in the fear of it all, or we get too comfortable for our own good…we need a wake up call and that usually comes in the form of an experience that is deeply painful. And then if we fail to understand that this is a call to the self, we repeat these painful experiences throughout our lifetime…creating more suffering than necessary.

2. Remember this is about you. This is your life. This is your work to do.

You are the greatest creative project that you will ever have a hand in.

So often clients get hung up on the partner. They don’t understand why the other person doesn’t feel the same way. It’s deeply painful to be in love with someone who is not in love with you. We feel this way because of the little understanding that we have of ourselves. We spend our whole entire lives relying on someone else to love us because we have very little love for our own self. It’s quite sad actually because life is much more painful when you don’t know who you are without the love of someone who is no good for you.

I used to stumble through the world trying to avoid the pain…forgiving and attempting to forget the memories that had hurt me. But eventually life calls you forward. It brings all of your experiences to a boil and that’s when you have to decide whether you are going to confront your inner demons or keep buying into the false illusion that has kept you from truly knowing yourself (which in turn, has kept the relationship that you want away from you).

This is your time to really get a shot at cultivating who you truly are. You have an opportunity to create a worth within yourself that doesn’t require the love or acceptance of someone else (not to mention someone else who seems uninterested in that task). When I started to look at things from this perspective it really changed the way I handled life and it seemed to change the situations that life handed me.

I’ll give you an example. I met this guy I thought was pretty cool but it didn’t take long for him to totally reject me. I got that little sting of heart break. I immediately went to “I must not be pretty enough…or interesting enough…or fun enough. I must just not be good enough in general”. Then I started thinking about how pretty other girls are and how much they have going on for them and I started to feel like a piece of trash.

Somewhere along the way I finally gained some awareness and had a light bulb go off in my head. I started to look at myself in the mirror and to tell myself the honest to god truth about myself (as I knew it in that moment). I stood there and rattled off all of the things I liked about myself. Then I confessed to all of the things I knew I could work on. I’m no idiot, I’m very aware that I’m flawed but I also realized that so is everyone else.

I started to think about who I would be if I could be anyone else in the world. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really want to be anyone else in the world. I had at least tackled some of my own issues so to think about jumping to someone else’s problem set sounded daunting. I didn’t want to be anyone else but me…whoever that was…I could feel my being just wanting to be that…ME.

I started to understand that we all (no matter how great someone’s instagram looks) have problems…and they are great big problems because no one gets through life without great big problems. Life is a great big puzzle where you’re constantly finding new pieces and trying to configure them appropriately.

When I got rejected I started to understand that it wasn’t a reflection of my unworthiness. I didn’t take it so personally. I mean who really knows what is going on in someone else’s head and what events in their life are playing into the way they feel. Perhaps he didn’t think I was pretty, or interesting, or maybe he had issues with females in general or maybe he was into someone else. Who knows and who cares. The point is that I wasn’t going to let the way someone else decided to feel about me determine how I felt about myself. I made a promise to myself that I would continue to develop and discover who I was. I would try new things, get out of my comfort zone and treat myself as if I were someone that I truly cared for. When I tell you that this made all the difference I mean it with my whole heart.

You are your work of art and you have a lifetime of creating yourself into the person that you feel you truly are in your soul. A lot of people don’t know where to start with this idea so I’ll tell you where to start. Start where you are. Instead of focusing on the person that just broke up with you, focus on becoming who you are. It’s like an unfolding. You are constantly discovering something new about yourself and the braver you get and the more you challenge yourself, the more opportunities the world has to reveal itself to you. So to me, a breakup is revealing a whole bunch of stuff to you. And yes it’s painful and yes it takes time to fully heal but my god, you have no idea what kind of experiences are on the other side of your transformation.

3. Quit being so terrified of being alone. No one else is responsible for your life or your happiness except you.

Western society is quite detached from themselves as individuals. It’s as if the average modern man is so scared of developing some of his own ideas about the world that instead, he just breezes through life following someone else’s lead without ever contemplating what he actually thinks about life (and death). You are an individual. It is up to you to investigate and understand the world around you because no one else’s understanding is as useful to you as your own.

You know what makes someone SO attractive? When they have their own life going on. When they have a passion for life that drives them to make their life better and to then extend that to the world around them. No one who has their life ‘going on’ wants to be with someone who has nothing going on and I see this happen all of the time. People make themselves small in relationships trying to be what they think their partner wants. BE YOURSELF, that’s what a good partner wants and that’s what the world needs you to be because you have something incredibly unique to offer. And if you don’t know what that is yet, then it’s your job to work on figuring that out (pursue what interests you…you can’t fake what you’re truly interested in so that’s a good start).

When you allow yourself some solitude and you learn to be alone then you finally get the chance to discover things about yourself that may be rather useful to you. You may have a chance to think about what you actually think about life and relationships. That’s what I’ve found…it seems like a lot of people don’t think much about their life. They don’t plan it out very well. And I’m not saying life goes according to a plan all of the time anyway… but at least if you sit down and think about what you want out of life or out of a relationship, then you’ve at least set an aim for the universe to start working its magic.

4. Embrace your rejection. Invite failure in. Learn to be tough.

It’s obvious that most people make it a goal in life to avoid failing or getting rejected. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. You HAVE to fail if you ever want to grow. You HAVE to get rejected if you ever want to develop. You don’t get to be perfection and you don’t get to have a perfect life. It seems more like the human is meant to overcome challenges. That’s what gives us meaning, that’s what makes us feel alive. When this idea is integrated, it opens you up to the world because you realize that it doesn’t matter that you fail or that you get rejected, it matters that you experienced it and that you can take away valuable life lessons that develop you as a human being.

Incremental progress is where the magic is at. If you’re going through a breakup, take it one day at a time. Huge changes are made by adding up a bunch of tiny changes. You don’t go from point A to point D without stopping at B and C on the way. If you’re just starting to heal yourself, be patient. Don’t throw your hands up after two seconds of trying. Make wiser choices every day and suddenly your life is much more put together than it was before.

Don’t be afraid of rejection because people who get rejected and still persevere are the people that you admire. No one admires a weakling… which means that we all see value in being brave and picking ourselves up even when we have been beaten down (often times unfairly). There is something noble about the person who remembers that it is his job to believe in himself and strive for greatness despite the pressures of the world working against him.

People come to me with their life problems and the unraveling usually plays out in a smilier way despite the uniqueness of the individuals. When they come they are first confused about how their life got to such a terrible place. They have all kinds of reasons and stories about bad hands they were dealt and tragedies that occurred along the way… and it’s no joke, life is difficult and we’re all faced with overwhelming challenges throughout life.

However, as they start to do the work and they begin to analyze the decisions they’ve made over the course of their life (specifically the last 1-2 years)… it suddenly doesn’t seem so mysterious as to how their life plunged into the depths of hell. We tend to be quite blind to our role in the problems that develop in our lives. Life definitely has a random element, but everything in life is not random and if you are willing to take responsibility for your life then you are rewarded with experiences that otherwise would have stayed hidden from your awareness. When you’re unaware of a better option, you don’t get to discover that better option. You have to open yourself up and allow your potential to manifest itself.

In conclusion…

I think that if you want to truly heal your heart, you have to commit to the work. Unfortunately no one else is going to fix you. No one else is going to heal your broken heart. You can have help along the way, but ultimately this is your creative project. This is you that you’re creating. You get to make this life into what you want. And from what I’ve seen, if you have the courage to do that, then you really get to LIVE. You get to experience true love and partnership. You don’t have to continue the old patterns if you develop the awareness. Trust me…I’ve tried it…It works.

So if you’re struggling to understand your rejection…just remember, you are the only one of you. You have god knows how many gifts of magic within you if you can take the time to reveal these things to yourself. Then after you do this, I promise you that someone else who has found their own magic will cross paths with you and you will be seen and appreciated for everything that you are…because you will finally know your uniqueness and your value in the world.

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