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No one enters into a romantic relationship thinking about the part where someone says “I’m sorry. It’s over.” But, every time we set sail on a new one that possibility exists.
We don’t think about the goodbye that can come after we fall in love with someone—after we share ourselves emotionally, physically, spiritually, and psychically. After we dream up a future together and dare to be vulnerable.
But, it happens.
After a breakup, there is a feeling of non-reality. Our beloved, the most important person in our life, is no longer our beloved. They are not who we thought they would be in our life. The mind wants to negotiate, turn back the clock, fix, manipulate, deny, blame, numb, distract, keep busy, and most of all, start mending.
This kind of grief is inescapable. It finds us while we are washing dishes. It hides in the lyrics of that song we loved. It finds us in our bed, in the shower, in the grocery store, and even behind the wheel of our car.
We can delete all the photos from Facebook and Instagram, block phone numbers—do absolutely everything to protect ourselves from being reminded—but the grief will find us.
In this stage, we do not want to hear how “time heals all wounds,” or that “we are better off” without our beloved. We don’t want to hear that we are making space for someone better to come in, or that we have learned all there was to learn and it’s time to move on. Although these adages may be true, they only serve as comfort for those who don’t want to sit with us in our grief.
Two weeks ago, I never would have imagined that I would be healing a broken heart in the midst of a pandemic. And yet, here I am. Alone.
Due to the current state of the world, I don’t have the needed distraction of going to work. There is no visiting with friends for tea or attending social gatherings. No. I am alone—doing the work and feeling the pain that is like being branded from inside out. But, the pandemic has also given me the gift of awareness as I move through this grief.
Here are seven tools that have been helpful to me. May they be touchstones of safety in the acute stages of grieving:
- Take time.
The nervous system has taken an enormous hit. The body will feel tired. Rest as much as possible. Comfort is queen. Gather pillows, stuffed animals, and fuzzy blankets. Make a fort. Love the child inside who is hurting and needs compassion.
Moving through grief is stressful. Without realizing it, our breathing can become shallow due to a tight diaphragm. By practicing kumbhaka pranayama (or breath retention), we can calm our spinning thoughts, turn our awareness inward, and regulate our breathing.
Use the 1:1:2 ratio.
Inhale comfortably, filling the belly and then the lungs. Count simultaneously. At the top of the inhale, gently hold the breath for the same count and then exhale for twice as long. During the exhalation, focus attention on the body. Begin with two minutes and repeat any time.
- Wayne Cook Posture.
Sit in a comfortable position. Cross the right ankle over the left. Extend both hands in front of the chest with palms out and thumbs down. Cross the right hand over the left, palm to palm, and interlace fingers. Fold the clasped hands down and then inwardly to rest on the chest. Tuck the chin toward the hands. Breathe equal length inhales and exhales until a feeling of calm arrives.
This may take anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes.
Silence and stillness can be healing. There may be tears and physical pain. Layers of old programming and unhealed wounds will rise to the surface. Let them be felt and released, but do not listen to negative thoughts. The ego is always several steps ahead. Stay in the uncomfortable.
Not a meditator? Download the Insight Timer app and give the Yoga Nidra guided meditations a try. They’re a great way to bring sensations into the body and provide a reprieve from an overactive mind. There are even some guided meditations specifically for healing broken hearts.
Repetition is paramount. Set a timer for every 10 minutes for the first few days. When prompted, repeat the following:
I am good.
I am loveable.
I matter to myself.
I love myself exactly as I am.
Focus on the heart center when saying the affirmations. The frequency may seem like overkill, but severing self-harming thoughts is key to rewriting our self-talk.
While browsing the web, I stumbled upon the videos of Alan Robarge. He is a relationship coach and psychotherapist who specializes in the healing of attachment injuries. His work has assured me that what I am feeling is absolutely normal. Much gratitude to Mr. Robarge.
This tool comes from Brené Brown’s most recent podcast. The FFT stands for F*cking First Time. Grieving your beloved will be uncomfortable.
Name the grief. Admit it sucks. Brené teaches that when we name and own the hard things it takes away its power. It gives us the power to change and achieve a purpose. We must remember to:
Normalize it—grief is supposed to feel this way.
Put it in perspective—this is not going to last forever. I am in FFT.
Reality check our expectations—this is going to suck for a while.
Healing a broken heart is work. It requires patience, gentleness, vigilance, and awareness.
- Stay Connected
The most important tool in healing a broken heart is remaining vulnerable with those who have been around since before the relationship—and will be there after its ending. Make a plan to contact a trusted friend every day. Choose someone who feels like a safe place and can be supportive through the crazy.
Be vulnerable. Do not hide. Trusted friends are there to offer up a safe space to weep, grieve, and be seen. They will be a mirror for our healing.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke