Three Tips to Begin Healing After Heartbreak
Heartbreaks are hard, and that's putting it lightly.
Unfortunately, we all have to experience them at some point, in various forms. No one is exempt from this. Heartbreaks follow the end of relationships, loss of loved ones and pets, or simply- not achieving a goal. The fact of the matter is, when our hearts become tied to something, the act of separation gets complicated. Emotions are a sensitive subject especially since we all process them differently. Our processes for handling emotions and how we feel can be as unique as our fingerprints. Nonetheless, what we have in common are the emotions themselves, the pain we feel during heartbreak, and the necessary journey of healing that soon comes after. No matter the degree of which we individually feel, healing is still the common requisite.
I've experienced several heartbreaks in my life. One of the most devastating so far was the end of my engagement to a man that I loved very much. The pain felt unbearable. I couldn't get out of bed for weeks, and even when I finally could the heaviness of my heart would weigh me back down onto the mattress, under the blanket, in a dark room- balling my eyes out. Countless replays of everything that went wrong and what I wish I could have done differently would keep me up into the wee hours of the morning. I spent hours upon days blaming myself for things that weren't even my fault but also being accountable where befitting. All I kept seeing, was everything good that ever happened in the relationship and I'd repeatedly wish to be back in those moments with him. I just couldn't accept the reality. Little did I know, at the time, that accepting the reality was exactly what I needed to do in order to begin to move forward.
Before we can begin healing, we have to get through the heartbreak first. Most of my life I thought getting over the heartbreak was the healing and/or that healing simply meant getting over the heartbreak. I've recently learned, through this experience, that one does not equal the other but they both require each other. You see, heartbreak is its own entity. It requires its own time, its own emotions, its own thoughts, its own anecdotes. And that... brings me to my first tip:
Accept the Reality, Accept the Heartbreak, Feel the Pain
If you're anything like me then denial is your go-to when all hell breaks loose. Interestingly, I didn't even realize I was in denial but that's exactly what's happening when you keep holding on to good memories, or hopes that you can work it out, or that there's been some sort of mistake and everything will soon go back to "normal". There's a thin line between reminiscing and holding on to the past. And guess what? The past can be as soon as yesterday.
When you experience heartbreak, the best thing you can do first is allow yourself to feel the emotions of the heartbreak. Sit (or lay) with yourself and let your feelings fill your body. Let your thoughts fill your mind. Let your tears fill your eyes and fall. Just allow yourself to feel, even though it hurts. Put yourself first in that way. Just feel. Don't act. Don't respond. Take some time to yourself whether that be a day or an entire weekend. Don't reject a single thought, just listen to yourself and understand that you have now entered the phase of processing your emotions. These emotions can vary from sadness to anger to hatred to self deprecation. Let all the emotions and thoughts flood you. Just feel them, but do not act on any of it because what you may not be able to realize in the moment is that these are all temporary emotions and thoughts. These immediate emotions are what I now like to call "first draft emotions"... and as we know, when it comes to great quality projects, the first draft is always edited and updated before reaching its final form. The first draft is where we throw up all the thoughts and feelings we initially have and then later we go back to revise and create a better draft.
I used to be so reactive to everything. I'd react immediately to literally everything. Whether that be a reaction to what someone said that I didn't agree with or an impulsive reaction to my own negative thoughts. It took me very well into my adulthood to understand this about myself and to also understand that my initial emotions are mine to have and feel and release. When you allow yourself to feel the emotions, when you allow yourself to cry it out, without realizing it- you have already begun releasing the pain. I make it a habit now to check in with myself by simply asking myself "Hey, how does this make me feel?"
Surround Yourself With Love, Be Vulnerable + Talk it Out
In the previous tip, I mentioned that you should spend time with yourself, roughly 1-3 days max. I do think a little me time can be beneficial for the initial processing and acceptance of your emotions as described above, but not for too long. Surrounding myself with love was something I used to fail to do. I was a major self isolator when heartbreak or disappointment came knocking at my door. I just wanted to be left alone for days and days not realizing this was stunting my growth. However, my engagement ended during the pandemic quarantine and I was pretty much forced to leave the home I shared with my ex and move in with my family members. It was the last thing I ever wanted to do but proved to be the most beneficial part of my journey. Not because my family is the most doting and loving family there is, not at all (haha), but because there's something almost magical about being in the presence of people who love you no matter what during a time that you may feel unworthy of love or at the very least not loving yourself nearly as much as you should. It gives you strength, it shows you compassion, and it reminds you that this heartbreak is temporary. Plus, arguing with your sibling over an irrelevant memory is quite the distraction from heartache.
Surround yourself with love! As often as possible and as long as needed. This can be actual family or chosen family, friends or colleagues. The only requirement is that you are around a person or people who truly love and appreciate you for who you are. People who know you and accept you. People who don't care if you ugly cry or if you don't want to get out of bed or if you still haven't changed your clothes after 3 days. They understand what you're going through and they allow you to feel what you feel. This is important. It can be damaging to be around people whose advice is "get over it" or people who try to force you to move on before you're ready. The truth of the matter is, having a supportive person around you will automatically encourage you to move forward even without realizing it by simply engaging with them. Run that errand with them when they ask, let them bring you food when they ask, allow them to play the role they are offering to be... you need their love and they know it. Talk to them, tell them how you're feeling, express yourself, over and over every day. Let them know how much you appreciate them being there. I like to think of talking out emotions as the equivalent of tears when you cry. The more you get out, the better you feel. It's a release.
Lastly, give therapy a try. In addition to surrounding yourself with love and talking out your experiences and emotions with loved ones- therapy is a great addition to this. While talking out your emotions with family and friends will provide a sense of release, therapy will help you further process these emotions, how you interpret what's happened, and how you view yourself going forward.
Let Go of Blame + Forgive Yourself
Ah, the blame game. Because heartbreak isn't real unless it's someone's fault, right? Wrong. When I was going through my breakup, I blamed myself for everything. It's just the way I was. If something went wrong, I had to be the blame even if I absolutely wasn't which in most cases, I wasn't. Some people are the opposite, they have to blame everyone else for all that went and goes wrong. Regardless of where you fall within this spectrum of blaming, please know- none of that matters. Focusing on blame will get you nowhere. Blame does not change the outcome and blame does not undo what has been done. If you blame yourself, then you're continuing to hurt yourself and scratch open the wound. If you blame everything on other people, then you don't allow yourself to look within to reflect and grow. In both scenarios, you are only hurting yourself in the long run. There are certainly instances where blame is appropriate like in cases of murder or varying instances of assault, but short of that... in most other cases, focusing on blame can quickly become a hamster wheel that provides no true sense of healing.
Reflection and Accountability