How to survive a broken heart
Falling in love is effortless. It is a wonderful and intoxicating experience and is the inspiration for countless romance novels, movies, songs and poems. Most people hope to find a love that will last a lifetime, and thankfully, many people do.
The feelings associated with falling in love can only be overshadowed by the intense feelings surrounding a break-up. Most often people report feeling a great deal of sadness, hurt, longing, fear and regret. Others worry that this was their last chance at love and imagine spending the rest of their life alone.
Given all of this, it is no wonder that surviving a broken heart can be one of life’s greatest challenges. Below are steps you can take to heal your broken heart. Once completed you may find yourself in a new life filled with renewed strength, meaning and love.
Steps for healing:
The first and most important step you can take toward your healing is to begin letting go of the hurt and pain you have been holding onto. It is exhausting to constantly focus on the person who has broken your heart and it is a strategy that never works. The writer Malachy McCourt says it best, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die”. I have counseled people who are still hurting over a marriage that ended 20 years ago!
Next, you must resolve yourself to never do anything that you’ll look back on and cringe with humiliation, such as driving by your ex’s house, calling on the phone just to “check in” or sending dozens of emails reminding them that you still exist. Try a strategy I use with my clients called “Take 30”. I ask them to wait 30 days before having any contact with the person who has broken their heart. It seems like an obvious thing, but is often difficult to do. The reason is simple – the person who has hurt you is the very person who has been your support system, advice giver, etc. Unfortunately, they cannot be there for you or help you with your pain. It’s not healthy for either of you.
The third step involves changing the negative messages you may be re-playing in your mind. For example, if you start to say to yourself, “I’ll never meet someone again” or “I’m going to spend the rest of my life alone” try replacing these thoughts with more realistic ones. You can do this by making a list of the qualities that your ex saw in you during the happier times. Your list may include: fascinating, smart, funny, beautiful, great fun to be around. THIS IS YOU! Although the relationship did not work out, that does not mean that you no longer possess these wonderful qualities. You do! Show them to the world.
Reach out to your family and friends. Ask for help and support when you need it most, plan activities and accept offers to go places. By simply living life, you are allowing your mind and your heart to heal. Spending too much time alone will lead to ruminations about your ex and how awful you feel. The people who care about you will help a great deal if you let them. They can also re-affirm that you are indeed loved and loveable.
Now it’s time to create a positive and vivid plan for your future. See it in your mind, write it down, meditate on it, do whatever it takes. Put your full energy into your own hopes, dreams and goals. Sometimes relationships can take a good deal of our time and energy and we have less time to focus on our own needs. Instead of seeing yourself as alone, old or needy, recognize that you can re-discover yourself and focus on what really matters to you in this world. Sometimes it helps to ask the question “what do I want to do with my life from this point forward?”
The final step is aimed at focusing outside of yourself. As difficult as this may be during this time, focusing on others who could benefit from your support can be immensely healing. It gives you perspective and helps you connect to others in a more profound way. Do you have time to volunteer at a battered women’s shelter, an animal shelter or Habitat for Humanity? Would you be interested in becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister? Maybe you can spend time focusing on your children and connecting with your family in a deeper way. Sometimes by looking outside of yourself you can find a part of yourself that you never knew existed.
Healing from a broken heart is kind of like taking an unexpected journey. At the end of this journey, you look back and realize that your life has changed for the better. You realize that you learned to let go of the past and in the process of letting go you began to understand what really matters – becoming who you were meant to be.
Diane Lykes is a Principal of Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany where she specializes in individual and couples counseling, educational training and clinical consultation. Synergy is a unique counseling practice providing compassionate, solution-oriented treatment for adults, children, adolescents and families. She can be reached at 466.3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.