Do you remember your first true love? That person who made your heart and mind flutter for a moment when they looked at or touched you? The feelings of love rush in like the tide and we get swept away with feelings of excitement, joy, and passion. Your thoughts turn to the person every waking moment. You dream about that person. You live to hear the sound of their voice. At times, you resist these feelings in the hopes to gain some control over yourself almost wanting those feelings to just go away even for just a minute. You can't help but falling in love and wanting those feelings to last. You tell everyone your feelings because you are not afraid of these feelings. You expose your inner dialogue because you need to proclaim to the world this feeling of bliss.
Do you remember the moment when this feeling ended? Do you remember when those feelings were changed into something you did not recognize? That moment when the person stopped loving or caring for you in the way which you grew accustomed. You feel as if the world is collapsing around you. It is like being stuck in a box and the walls are caving in. Sleepless nights, anxious moments, low feelings all become a reality. You tell yourself you will be ok, but you really do not believe it. You smile politely when your friends say you will find someone new. It hurts. It really hurts. The feelings may linger for days, weeks, months, or years. Time stands still when your heart is broken. Time has no meaning. Songs, places, people are painful remindersof the love you once had.
Louise Eldrich once said, “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
Heartbreak is a part of our human condition. If we have never experienced a heartbreak, dare I say, we have not truly lived and put ourselves out there in the world. Love, at best, is a risky proposition. We run the risk of not having our love reciprocated leaving us vulnerable and emotionally naked. If our love is reciprocated, our risk pays off 1000 fold. Recently, I spoke with a couple who have been married for 70 years. They both are 90 years old and were high school sweethearts who married shortly after graduation. I asked them if they ever experienced heartbreak prior to them meeting. He looked at me with a smile, "I never had to have my heart broken because it didn't beat until I met my bride." For them, the risk was investing in each other's love and rolling the dice of life. Although a wonderful couple, I firmly believe they are not the norm in society. I believe the majority of us have gone or are going through heartbreak at some point of our lives.
How do we mend a broken heart? Mending a broken heart is going to be different for everyone. It is not an easy process especially as an adult. There are no quick fixes and clearly no magic solutions. Do not fool yourself into believing you will stop loving the other person. However the relationship ended, there was love there at some point. Those feelings just do not go away. They are stored in the lovely computer known as the brain. Those feelings are activated any time you hear "our song", eat at "our restaurant", or hear from "our friends". Do yourself a huge favor and never tell yourself you will stop loving the person. Just acknowledge it and begin the healing process. Trust me, it is much easier.
So how do we get through this pain of a broken heart? The healing process is just that, a process. Similar to the physical death of a person,we grieve the emotional death of a relationship. The grieving process does not have time limits. I wish I could give you exact times when the hurt will dissipate, but I would be lying if I did. The following stages are a mere outline of how the grieving process works.
Stage One: Shockand Denial - You are devastated and life is turned upside down. You may say, "This is not happening to me", "Why me?", or "This is all a dream". It is the mind's way of buffering you from the pain of the loss.
Stage Two: Bargaining - As you emerge from the initial shock, you begin to think of ways to correct the loss. "If only" statements are used. "If only had I called more often" "If only I had said I love you more". You question yourself in the attempt to make sense of the loss.
Stage Three: Anger - Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger,even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits. Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure tothe nothingness of loss. At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything. Then you get angry at someone, maybe a friend who says the wrong thing, a commercial about relationships or even a family member. Suddenly you have a structure – your anger toward them. The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.
Stage Four: Derpession - After Anger,our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It is important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a loss of love. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all? Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of. The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you are in is actually depressing. Heartbreak is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a heartbreak would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your heart has been broken is understandably depressing. If grief is a process of healing,then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.
Stage Five: Acceptance - Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “allright” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’tever feel OK or all right about a broken heart. This stage is about accepting the reality the relationship has ended and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our love relationship has ended. In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before the broken heart. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles,re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our lost love. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful loverelationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.
Ok, I have accepted the heart break, now what? The practically of moving on from the ending of a relationship varies from person to person. Friends will tell you to get out there and date. Co-workers may try to fix you up with someone. You may dive head first into work and isolate for awhile. You may start dating right away. The re-entry phase is different for everyone. I can offer a few things to try to help with there-entry:
1. Stop the insanity - Put away the pictures, stop going on the other person's Facebook or Twitter, stop listening to the songs you listened to together. Constant reminders impede the re-entry phase.
2. Get in rhythm - Experiencing new or inspirational music may change mood. Listen to songs that get the blood flowing.
3. Hit the gym -Try some physical activity to sweat out your troubles. Physical exercise may allow some frustrationto be released.
4. Smiling is my favorite - As it has been said, "Laughter is the best medicine". Watch a funny movie, go see a comedy show, laugh with friends, or read a funny novel. Put yourself in a position to laugh.
5. Surround yourself with positives - Try to reconnect with positive friends and people. Put yourself in a position where the people around you are a positive influence and have your best interests at heart.
6. A whole new world - Try something new or different. Involve yourself in new activities or experiences. Now is the time to reinvent and re-enter.
Heartbreak is never easy. It is a difficult process to go through, but with persistence and patience, you will get through it. Do not be afraid to risk loving someone again. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable again.