1. Take Heart: You Will Not Die
Even though it really, really feels like it. Even though you can feel your heart physically swelling in your chest and pain pulsing through your entire body and your ribs are sticking to your sides like macaroni on a microwave - you will not die from this. It might mess up your mental and physical health a little in the short term (you’re allowed to eat some carbs, for Pete’s sake). But you will not die. It still hurts, though.
A lot of the angst of moving on comes from self-judgments about when and how and why you should move on and what you did wrong. Don’t compare yourself to others. You’re not nuts; you’re not strange; you’re not obsessed; you’re not a fool. Your big crime is ignorance. The only real sin you can possibly commit is doubting yourself. You’re just human and you felt something. At the time, whenever that was, it felt right. Accept that your feelings are your feelings and let them be. If you work with your emotions instead of resisting them, you can reach wisdom that is more accurate than that of your rational intelligence alone.
When you are heartbroken the simple fact is that you feel bad because a relationship has ended. You want what you can’t have. But for most of us, that’s not the end of it. We feel scared of feeling so bad, or angry about it. We feel scared that we may never stop feeling bad, or ashamed of being such a ninny. All of these are feelings about the original feeling of heartbreak and add to the burden. Feelings about feelings can be stronger than the original feelings. Feelings about feelings create loops that amplify themselves. So, try to respect your feelings rather than treat them as problems.
When we look at reality from a different perspective, on a higher level, in a larger context, then we can start seeing how what we perceive as a tragedy on one level, can fit into the plan perfectly on a higher level. How it is a perfect part of a larger picture, of a longer journey. Then we can begin to understand how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, God calls a butterfly.
Every ending is a beginning. Every cloud does have silver lining. For every door that closes, another door does open. It is always darkest before dawn. Every obstacle is a gift, every problem is an opportunity for growth. These are all expressions that refer to the paradoxical nature of life. The point is that there are different levels of reality, and that if you stop focusing on problems and obstacles, and start looking for the gifts, the lessons attached to them, the easier life becomes.
2. Treat Yourself Right
While making sure you bank sufficient emotional and other reserves, don’t deprive yourself of little pleasures. Even small, seemingly unimportant sacrifices in your wellbeing during crisis may prevent you from emerging from confusion into clarity. A sensory bank account promotes wellbeing. An appropriate balance of input and output creates strength. Are you one of those people who gain weight like a Sumo Wrestler on a serious binge when things go wrong? Or do you stop eating altogether? Well, that can be a good thing for some, but not that good if you look like a forlorn Holocaust survivor two weeks into the breakup.
It is by no means easy to manage your sensory needs when your heart is broken, and your impulses may have gone haywire. Nevertheless, do ask yourself, what are the deposits to your sensory bank account? Anything that nourishes and delights your five senses without causing you harm in either the amount you are doing them or what you are doing.
Try to get out as much as you can (but don’t force yourself to jump into something new or go out partying every night). Talk to your friends, even if all you can squeak out is “it’s another rough one today”. Don’t worry about annoying them - even if you do, they are the ones who really know you and they will still love you. You can’t fool them anyway - even if you don’t say anything, they know.
Buy your favourite beer, enjoy an entire pint of ice cream. But don’t go overboard - you’ll just end up feeling worse. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for when you’re about to cross the line. I think you’ll know your limit if you listen to your instincts. In fact, I believe our instincts will never, ever let us down, if only we would pay them heed.
Do expect missteps, faux pas, and other embarrassments - so give yourself a break. If you cross your line, that’s okay. Mistakes are not bad, they are learning, and that is what life is all about, right? Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but wear the pie on your face as a badge of honour!
No matter what, it is possible to be happy, joyous, and free - if you are willing to be scared and hurt, angry and sad. And please believe me, even if this one particular person no longer loves you...
You are Lovable.
You are Loved.
You are LOVE.
3. This Too Shall Pass
Things simply are what they are. And now they are different. They cannot be any other way. Life is a series of moments and all you really have to do in this life is accept them. No one expects anything more; and believe me, no one upstairs does, either. Sometimes those moments turn into chapters, but ultimately even the chapters conclude.
I know - I know - it doesn’t feel that way right now, but the pain will pass. Reality bites and life will give your heart a ruthless pruning, but you’ll grow back even fuller. You might miss a season or two - no worries, so did the damaged peach tree I watched my grandmother coax for 10 patient years. The fruit it finally bore was the best slice of sweet imaginable. That memory has always comforted me; find one that comforts you.
In fact, right now, take a deep breath and allow yourself to be carried back to a comforting memory. Allow this memory to transport you as it triggers another memory - the experience of comfort blending from one memory to the next, from one sense, sound, feeling, thought, taste, smell, to another. Allow the nourishment of comfort to remain with you as you open your eyes, seeking something in the room to notice that will bring you more comfort.
Make bedtime a moment of peace. Find an inspirational CD to speak over your own inner voice if you are having destructive “head speak.” Perform a small ritual that assures you that things are being resolved as you sleep. Go to sleep knowing the first positive act you will take the next morning. Make a list of things for your subconscious to work on or resolve while you sleep.
We can have moments where we feel like God/life is punishing us and still know that “This, too, shall pass” and “More will be revealed,” that later on, down the path, we will be able to look back and see that what we perceived in the moment to be tragedy and injustice is really just another opportunity for growth, another gift of fertilizer to help us grow.
4. Now Is Not the Time to Change Your Career or Emigrate
Initial small accomplishments can give you a bump, but if you’re using them to avoid feeling the hurt, that hurt will just come back with a wallop (I don’t know about you but I’m an expert at this one). Do make positive changes and invest yourself in projects that are both distracting and productive, because these things will help you move on with greater confidence. But just remember that as you take positive actions, don’t try to repress those feelings. Feelings always come out eventually.
Although, when they do…that’s good, too. Have a good, long lick and remember everybody plans picnics in the park. Everybody carries a private hurt (or hundred). Good for you for feeling something and taking a risk. That’s called living and all we can do is our best in each moment. There is no right or wrong; there is no should. There is only real.
When small children are in crisis, experts encourage us to give them sameness of people, place, and things, to anchor them fully in the power of their own being and in the security of familiar surroundings. In crisis, when our “adult” constructs fail, nourishment is needed by our original, essential, child self. The compassionate eyes and arms of those who love us, and the wisdom of those who have travelled our road before us, give meaning and support to our journey when we cannot find it within ourselves.
Now is the time, however, to change false beliefs. One of the false beliefs that it is important to let go of, is the belief that we need another person in our lives to make us whole. As long as we believe that someone else has the power to make us happy then we are setting ourselves up to be victims.
A knight in shining armour is not going to come charging up to rescue us from the dragon. A princess is not going to turn us from a frog into a prince. The Prince and the Princess and the Dragon are all within us. It is not about someone outside of us rescuing us. It is also not about some dragon outside of us blocking our path. As long as we are looking outside to become whole, we are setting ourselves up to be victims. As long as we are looking outside for the villain, we are buying into the belief that we are the victim.
As little kids we were victims and we need to heal those wounds. But as adults we are volunteers - victims only of our own choices. Robert Burney (in The Dance of Wounded Souls) says the people in our lives are actors and actresses whom we cast in the roles that would recreate childhood dynamics of abuse and abandonment, betrayal and deprivation.
We are / have been just as much perpetrators in our adult relationships as victims. Every victim is a perpetrator - because when we are buying into being a victim, when we are giving power to our childhood patterns of helplessness, dependence, and codependence, we are perpetrating on the people around us and on ourselves.
We need to heal the wounds without blaming others. And we need to own the responsibility without blaming ourselves.
5. Go Through It, Not Around It
I realize the most difficult task for a person with a broken heart is to stand still and feel the crack. But that is exactly what you must do. Because no shortcut is without its share of obstructions. Here’s a simple fact: You have to grieve in order to move on. If you try to go around some of the issues that are tearing you apart inside, then you will bump into them somewhere down the line, just like being caught in the centre of a traffic circle. By going through the intense pain, you will eventually surface as a stronger person ready to tackle problems head on. Soon the pain will lose its stronghold over you.
Laughter heals on many levels, and so does crying. You think it’s just a coincidence that you always feel better after a good cry? Nope, there are many physiological reasons that contribute to the healing power of tears. Some of them have been documented by biochemist William Frey who has spent 15 years as head of a research team studying tears. Among their findings is that emotional tears (as compared to tears of irritation, like when you cut an onion) contain toxic biochemical by-products, so that weeping removes these toxic substances and relieves emotional stress. So, go grab a box of Kleenex and cry your afternoon away.
A ritual of grief brings accumulated losses into the open, to be grieved and thereby stripped of their destructive power. This, no doubt, is why virtually every formal grief ritual found in every culture in the world has an element of celebration. The following is an example of a personal healing ritual suggested by Steven Stosny (in Love Without Hurt):
· Take a hot bath and towel yourself dry as if in a kind of ceremony.
· Dress in freshly laundered clothes, as if they were vestments.
· Dim the lights.
· Play sad music especially meaningful to you.
Try to think slowly and deliberately of all the hurt you’ve experienced, every sad movie you’ve seen, every bruised shin, every loss that has sliced your heart. As you think of these painful incidents, envision chips of corrosive, rust-like pain loosened from the walls of your heart and washed out by the cleansing flow of tears.
As the pain washes out of your body, as you are freed of the dead weight of leaden shame, feel yourself growing. Once you have completed the grieving and healing process, you are free to attain ultimate peace. You will find a good place for your former partner in your heart, based on the love and positive experiences you once shared.