The path to healing a broken heart after a painful breakup

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha

I found myself curled in a ball sobbing the night of my dark soul. It was like no other pain I had experienced before. The pain of broken heart.

Everything seemed bleak and hopeless, but there was only way to move from a place so low. After my body was depleted of energy and I had no tears left to cry, I picked myself off the earth and began again. I moved forward, one moment at a time, one breath at a time. It was survival.

I had experienced breakups before but nothing like this. I mistakenly believed we were fated to be together, twin souls brought together by the universe. I had fallen so deeply in love that I misread all the signs. I ignored my friends, my family and my better judgement, all warning me the relationship was doomed. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

After a two year toxic merry-go-round going nowhere I finally gained the courage to save myself. When the relationship finally ended, I wanted the pain to stop so I quickly entered another relationship that left me feeling even more broken as I layered grief on top of grief. Only when I finally allowed time and space for my heart to heal that I began to feel whole again.

I wish I had some sage advice that could save you from feeling the pain of a broken heart, but if you open yourself up to falling in love, which is one of the most beautiful human experiences this world has to offer, then chances are at some point in your life your heart will be broken. All I can offer is my own experience in moving through the grief. I say through because there is no way to circumvent this work. The only way out is through. The only way out is in.

Stop the insanity

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Does this resonate? We often see signals of an impending breakup long before its arrival. Either we ignore the signs or we are afraid to make a change, to free ourselves from the toxic dance. So we keep trying. Again and again. Hoping this time it will be different. Only it is more of the same. By the end of my two year merry-go-round relationship even my ex had asked me “what are you still doing here?” Only when we stop the insanity and end the relationship that has us on an emotional roller-coaster ride can we move forward and begin to heal.

Its gonna hurt

When a relationship ends, it is going to hurt. There is no way around it. The only way to move through the pain of lost love is to feel the loss. No matter the circumstances surrounding the end of any relationship, what we experience is truly a loss – loss of a friendship, loss of intimacy, loss of future hopes and dreams. With loss we inevitably experience grief. If there is no grief then we have not given ourselves space to heal. Perhaps we immediately enter a new relationship, as I had done in the midst of my own heartbreak, piling on more pain, or we shut off our heart from feeling anything at all. This only numbs us and closes us off to the flow of love always available if only we keep ourselves open. As deeply as our heart experienced the love, is likely the level of sorrow we will experience in our grief. Like the dark and the light, you cannot experience one without the other, they are two sides of the same shadow.

End the track playback

After a breakup why do we torture ourselves with an endless replay of the relationship details in our mind, dropping us deeper and deeper into sadness? Either we recall all the good times we shared together, or we relive all the painful parts. For me it was a way to keep me connected to my ex, playing our songs on repeat and rereading letters he wrote me, because I felt so lonely without him. Not only does this keep us living in the past, but rarely do we see the whole picture. We are too close to the trauma and too emotionally involved to maintain perspective. Staying in story, whether we replay the highs or the lows, only keeps our mind in the relationship which keeps us from moving forward. If you must, allow yourself a certain amount of limited time to revisit these past memories. Perhaps it’s a shoebox of letters and relics, or a designated time to reminiscence. Then put the memories away. Live your life which is not behind you, but rather exists right before you.

Let the light in through the cracks

Grief does not move in a linear fashion, rather it is like a spiral. At the center of the loss, it feels all-consuming and hopeless, as I experienced the night of my dark soul. Over time as we move further along the spiral there is more space and we begin to rediscover the joys life has to offer. Instead of seeing the world as hopeless and foreboding we begin to see light through the cracks. For me these moments came in small doses, an afternoon walk with a friend or swimming in the lake with my son. Slowly joy brought glimmers of love back into my life. You may also try a new hobby such as painting or writing. Something that brings you happiness. This is what happens when the heart breaks. It breaks open.

Freedom is in forgiveness

For the longest time I was still so angry at my ex for not being what I needed him to be, for not showing up for me, for breaking my heart. Mostly though I was angry with myself for allowing my heart to fall so stupidly in love in the first place. Eventually I grew tired of being angry which only kept me closed off and attracted more of the same. Through yoga and meditation I began to release the anger and discover forgiveness which was a daily practice. Only through our willingness to forgive can we find freedom to move forward.

The art of surrender

Surrender comes when we are ready to trust our path and let go completely. When we choose to grip and hold on it is like holding our breath. If we could trust our path like we trust our own breath, that with each exhale a fresh inhale will come and fill us back up again, then perhaps it would be easier to let go. Surrender for me is a regular practice which is why I tattooed the word “surrender” in Sanskrit on my ankle as a daily reminder. Short of a tattoo, find ways to remind yourself to let go such as through a practice of breath awareness or mindfulness. Only with release of what has been can we allow life to flow again.

Love yourself hard

Without self-love we will continue to attract relationships where are counterpart lacks their own self-love. We are a mirror for one another and we bring into our life those people and situations that are meant to teach us something about ourselves. When I met my ex I lacked self-love and was grieving the circumstances of my own life. I was looking for someone to fulfill me and I attracted someone who was looking for the same. Neither of us loved ourselves and what we saw in one another we failed to see in ourselves. Intimacy – into me I see – asks us to take a closer look within ourselves. Is there a part of us which feels we are not enough? Which fears being alone? Which fears abandonment? Find those parts of yourself that need healing and love them hard.

You deserve your own love more than anyone. Once you truly love all parts of yourself, and trust you are perfect in all your imperfections, only then will you attract the love you have been waiting for. The love that exists not out there but right within your own heart.

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