Heartbreak can be the result of many situations. It can be the loss of or a change in a relationship, the loss of a loved one, a major life adjustment or the loss of something that is important to you. The common denominator here is loss and change that feels like (and is in some respects) loss. Often, when we lose something or someone who was important to us, we experience trauma. Sometimes we are able to work through this loss and trauma on our own. But when the loss is great and we were not adequately prepared to deal with the trauma, it can be very difficult to move forward.
Many people who have experienced a great loss are unsure about how to heal. It can be a confusing and daunting task. The following are steps one can take in order to begin healing heartbreak.
Acknowledge the emotions that are coming up without getting caught up in them and without pushing them away.
Heartbreaking situations will inevitably cause painful emotions to surface. It is tempting to want to push them away, but doing so will only prolong the healing process. Part of healing is allowing yourself to feel and experience your emotions. Even though emotions may feel bad, they are actually adaptive and part of our survival system. They are hard-wired in our brains and it is important that we allow our brains and bodies to heal by allowing them to release any emotions that may be necessary. On the other hand, it is important that you don’t try to hold onto any emotion (comfortable or uncomfortable) as doing so may prevent other necessary emotions from coming up. The best way to do this is to just pay attention to what the emotion feels like, allow yourself to fully feel it and then move on with your day. Essentially you are allowing yourself to ride the emotional rollercoaster that comes with experiencing heartbreak.
Practice self-kindness and patience
Heartbreak can be worsened when we are critical of ourselves for not moving forward as soon as others or when we assume we should. There is no set timeline regarding how fast someone should heal after a loss. What is known is that it takes time.
Being critical of oneself is actually harmful to the healing process as it sets up an expectation regarding what healing is supposed to look like and how long it’s supposed to take. This criticism and expectation adds stress to an already stressful situation. If you notice yourself having critical thoughts about yourself, consider how you might treat someone else who is going through a rough time. Likely, you would be kind to a person who was trying to mend heartbreak. Do the same for yourself. This is one of the most important times in a person’s life to practice having kind thoughts directed inward. Doing so promotes healing.
One of the most effective skills for coping through loss is mindfulness. One of the best aspects of mindfulness skills are that they are meant to be practiced without expectation, meaning there is no wrong way to do it. Mindfulness skills help one bring his or her mind to the present and help to gain control over thoughts that may be keeping one stuck in grief.
The basic practice of mindfulness involves simply paying attention to something fully in a moment. This can be focusing on breathing, sensations in the body, sounds in the environment, something you can see, touch, or smell, etc. Taking even a few minutes to really focus on something can begin to help you in taking control of your mind and give you a break from the noise in your head.
Other coping skills can include journaling, spending time doing activities you enjoy, breathing exercises and physical exercise just to name a few. You may have to experiment to find the coping skills that are right for you.
Find a balance
It is important during a difficult time such as mending heartbreak to find the balance between time alone and time with others, time spent in quiet and time spent doing activities. Too much distraction and avoidance of time alone to process emotions can be detrimental as can too much time alone and not enough time participating in life. The balance is different for each person and it may take some trial and error to figure out the right combination for you.
When considering outside activities keep in mind the importance of finding and participating in activities that you enjoy or once enjoyed and having moments (even if they are fleeting) of uplifting emotion and positive experience can help the brain in its healing process. Also, when spending time alone and allowing yourself to process through emotions, consider making that time as self-nurturing as possible, surrounding yourself with comforting items, smells, pictures or anything else that will provide some sort of support for you.
Find a support network
It is difficult to work through tough times alone. We as humans are not meant to be alone in life. Reach out and find people who can be supportive and patient as you heal. Make sure they are people who have your best interests in mind and who will provide some nurturing. If you don’t have anyone currently in your life who can do this, consider seeking out a support group for people who have experienced a similar heartbreak. Also consider finding a good trauma therapist if the heartbreak doesn’t appear to be healing or is becoming more difficult to live with. Heartbreaks are traumatic and good trauma therapy can help the brain to move past blocks that may be preventing healing from progressing. The Internet can be a great way to find resources for therapists and support groups in your area.
Above all, remember there is hope for healing. With the right tools and assistance, anyone can recover from heartbreak and move forward with his or her life.