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When your heart is broken, it physically hurts.
We all know the feeling.
Its universally accepted as one of the most difficult emotions to endure. Heartbreak. “It’s the worst,” so everyone will tell you. We all relate. We all agree. It leaves you feeling powerless, fragile, and so, so sad. So very human. You can read all the self-help books, study all the theory on emotional intelligence, and still, you can’t avoid the struggle. Nobody is immune.
We try all sorts of things to get us through. Pep talks, which range from “it’s his loss” to “it is what it is,” and even the slightly misguided “there’s plenty more fish in the sea.” We try anything to convince ourselves that what we are going through is “for the best” and definitely “will pass,” though honestly, nobody believes that at the time.
We all have our methods to get through. Some people allocate specific times to cry and listen to sad songs only in the car while making sure they are busy for every other moment of the day. Others indulge in the arguably torturous activity of scrolling endlessly through old texts and photos of happier times. Some simply try and ignore the other person ever existed. We all have our style. Distraction is helpful, focus on work is helpful, and doona days can even be helpful for getting you through what seems like endlessly long days battling the sinking regret and heartbreak of the past or the fear and “what now’s” of the future.
We do what we have to do to pass the time at first and largely try to delay accepting the reality of a future that may look very different than we imagined. Unfortunately, however, there is no avoiding the pain and deep, deep discomfort from having to start a new chapter in our lives when perhaps we weren’t ready to let the old one go.
There is no way around this reality. You must transition through it, and you must experience it fully and this, my lovely human friend, is rough. Don’t try and do this alone. There is an easier softer way, though it may not feel like it at the time.
Self-care becomes like a life raft and looks different for everyone. It may be walks on the beach, runs by the river, exercise, meditation, chocolate for dinner, endless conversations with patient and understanding friends, Netflix marathons, pajama days, or even a new health kick. You do you, but be sure it’s ingrained with kindness. Heartache does not need punishment or deprivation. It needs nurturing and connection.
We need compassion. Give it to yourself and give it to others.
It may take months, possibly even years for the really big ones to pass. It’s different for everyone, though it’s rarely done and dusted in weeks. Some will leave scars on your heart that you may never fully be free of. You may tell yourself “I will love them forever,” and I’m sure it feels that way and maybe you will.
Though, in all honesty, it’s unlikely. Loving someone is so much about being with them, spending your time with them, actively caring for them and about them, sharing your body and soul with them. When you stop doing this actively, you’re not really loving them. You are remembering how you loved them. This, in time, will become less intense and remembering how you loved them won’t always feel bad.
I wish I had a magic cure for the feeling of heartache. I’m aware that after a while, it starts to feel like you may carry it in the pit of your stomach or in your chest forever and you wonder if this is just who you are now. A slightly less happy version of who you were. It’s not and you’re not. Though the feeling may consume you both day and night for a while, it will eventually pass. This is temporary. I promise.
I wish I could provide you with the strength and confidence that one feels when listening to their favourite confidence-boosting power anthem on full volume in their car. For me, I’m fully convinced that there’s nothing I can’t overcome for the two minutes and 52 seconds where Lizzo truly convinces me that I really am “that b*tch” when “Truth hurts” is blasting on my stereo. Sadly, I can’t give you that, but I will prescribe you find your own song. It sounds like a joke, I get it, but the effect can be powerful. Try it, at least.
Song or no song, the truth for everyone is that time is a necessary ingredient to mend a broken heart. While it need not take years, it probably won’t happen in weeks.
It takes time to adjust. To being alone. To not message them when you see someone doing something hilarious that you know they would really appreciate. To processing a future that looks a lot different than you planned and, of course, to deal with all of the emotions that come with that. Rejection, disapproval, abandonment, anger, deceit, and disappointment to name a few.
There’s an active process to healing and all of the things I mentioned above are an important part of it, yes, even the song.
So what’s my professional advice as a counsellor and psychotherapist?
Well, it’s just to sit with it. Go through it. Hold your own hand through the pain. The disappointment, the uncertainty, and yes, the heartache. Let it wash over you. Breathe as the waves of grief come and breathe as the waves of grief go.
Do not turn your back on them. Or yourself. Connect deeply to each day. Walk near the ocean. Put your feet in the sand. Stand in the rain. Listen to music that makes you cry and also music that makes you feel invincible. As tempting as it may be—do not disconnect. From yourself, from others, or from these feelings, as painful as they are. Feel them all. They are truly every single thing it means to be human. To be alive. To be an active participant in life, in relationship with others.
Trust you will be okay. You will. We all will. Even more than that, trust you will be more than okay. You will one day be happy again. Do not let this take from you your humanity. Your vulnerability. For it is beautiful. Try not to feel disillusioned about love or people.
We are all doing our best. We really are.
Finally, love yourself fiercely.
You’ve totally got this.