Up until the age of 32 I’d never allowed myself to really heal from a heartbreak. I went from relationship to relationship, always running from my pain into the arms of someone new. This worked up until the day the man I loved with all my heart died suddenly, and without any warning, from a heart attack. In the months and years that followed his death I had no choice but to work through my grief and learn how to heal my heart.
As often happens when you go through something traumatic, his death opened the door to all the other pain I’d avoided in my life, and as I unravelled and healed the layers of my loss, I discovered the relationship I’d need to nurture all along: the one I have with myself. Loss breaks us open so we can heal, and if we do it consciously and thoroughly we will move forward in our lives all the richer for it.
But how to heal consciously when you’re writhing in pain after betrayal or abandonment or the death of a dream you held so tight? You’re already experiencing the first step: feel your pain. This might seem obvious when you’re reeling from the shock, but it’s also very tempting to do whatever you can to NOT feel it. It’s normal to want to get plastered and hunt down someone else. Trouble is this is only a temporary fix – it doesn’t take your pain away, it only masks it.
So how do you feel your pain? You surrender to it. You lie on the sofa and wallow in it. Feel your sadness. Feel your disappointment. Feel your fear. Feel your anguish. Don’t push it away. Let the tears flow and the anger rage. Whatever you’re feeling, express it – don’t bottle it up.
The next step is to talk it out, first with friends and family, and when they run out of bandwidth reach out to a therapist – then with yourself. Pour everything into your journal. Write out what happened, what was said, write out your sorrow, your dashed hopes and your fears. Write a letter to the other person telling them how you feel. Tell them everything that’s been left unsaid. Be as raw as you can, safe in the knowledge that you will NOT be sending this letter. This is for you alone.
Writing helps us process our feelings in a way thinking alone cannot. Write a letter every day until you feel the pain start to shift. The next step is to let the passing of the days hold you in their predictability.
Time on its own isn’t enough to mend a broken heart but it does lessen the impact of the blast. Treat yourself kindly. Think of your healing heart like a broken bone – rest as much as you can. Don’t put any pressure on it. Strengthen your body from the inside with healthy food. As you continue to process your loss notice when you feel strong enough to explore what the relationship gave you. It’s hard to move forward when we’re stuck in anger or pain, but when you can acknowledge what you learned about yourself during the relationship it’s easier to feel gratitude – and gratitude is a green light to better days heading your way. Even if you can only think of one thing, hold on to that, it’s a start.
The final step is to fall back in love with your life. Identify the things that delight you and do them as often as you can. Spend time in nature to connect to something bigger than you. Pray or meditate or sing. Do gentle exercise to stay present in your body. Escape into a cathartic novel. Plan a city break with your bestie. Get out into the world as much as you can. When a relationship ends we’re left feeling adrift without the promise of a shared future so it’s time to anchor back into YOU.
This was my biggest blessing as I healed through my grief. I got to find out who I was without being defined by another person. Even filling my fridge with my favourite food was thrilling. Choosing how I spent my time, going to bed when I wanted, decorating my flat with colours I loved. Remaking my life on my own terms helped me piece my heart back together and fill the gaping hole that his absence had created. I became a whole human being again. You will too.
Looking for more wellbeing advice? Learn how to cope with change using mindfulness techniques, how to stop comparing yourself to others and how to deal with your baggage from past relationships.
3 ways to heal a broken heart
Learn how to heal a broken heart with Susannah's uplifting tips:
- Change the air you’re breathing. Go outside, lie on the grass and look at the sky. If you’re feeling energetic go for a hike. If you’re not, find a park bench and watch the world go by. Bonus points if you can get to the sea!
- Plan something to look forward to. Could be a workshop or retreat, a day trip or even just a lunch date. Having things in the calendar gives you something to aim for when life feels aimless. Know that when you get there you’ll be feeling very different to how you feel today.
- Watch your favourite feel-good film. Put your phone on silent, wrap yourself in a blanket and indulge in a blockbuster you loved as a kid. Pick a TV show that makes you laugh out loud or even better, go see a comedian live. Who makes you laugh? Search for clips on YouTube. Laughter is always the best medicine.
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Featured image by Unsplash/Linda Xu.