How To Heal A Broken Heart

Recently, I was asked, “How does one begin to heal from a painful love
affair?”

Oh, if only there were a simple answer to heartbreak. Alas, I have yet
to find one. After witnessing countless women’s journeys on the road
to healing from a hurtful love affair, the conclusion that I’ve come to
is that ‘the only way out is through.’ This, dear reader, is probably
NOT the answer you were looking for. However, I’m a big believer in
dealing with reality and not seeking simple solutions to complex
problems.

When a healthy intimate relationship ends, the pain can feel unbearable
at times. But when a hurtful, or abusive, relationship ends, not only
are you dealing with the loss of the relationship; you’ve also got to
heal from the trauma of the abuse. I’m not sure if the relationship in
question was abusive or not because I don’t have enough information to
go on, but for the purposes of this column, I’m going to assume that it
wasn’t in order to simplify things. Please forgive me if I got it
wrong. If it was abusive, I strongly recommend that you seek
psychotherapy with someone who specializes in healing from abuse as
this is a very delicate matter that needs professional help.
So, in terms of healing from a relationship where there wasn’t abuse
per se, but it just didn’t work due to other reasons (there can be
many), I will state again that THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH. What I
mean by that is that you have to allow yourself to go through the
grieving process until you’re done. There’s no strict formula here for
what that should look like or how long it should take, but in general,
there are definite stages of grief. I’ve taken the following from
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ book, “On Death and Dying.” In it, she outlines
five stages that a dying person experiences when they are told they are
dying.

The stages identified are:

·Denial
·Anger
·Bargaining
·Depression
·Acceptance

Even though these stages were developed for people who are terminally
ill; experience throughout the years has shown that they are equally
applicable to many other forms of loss and grief. So when a
relationship ends, for example, you may go into denial and scream,
“this can’t be happening to me!”

Soon after that, you may explode with anger and think, “Why is this
happening to me?” You may blame your ex, yourself, or even God for the
end of the relationship. This can be especially intense if your
partner cheated on you. You may be enraged at the unfairness of it all
and want to punish him/her and the person they cheated with.
Then comes the bargaining stage where you’re in so much pain after the
break-up, that you’re willing to do anything in order to get that
person back and you shriek, “I promise I’ll be a better person if
you’ll just come back to me.”

Then, you’re hit with the proverbial “blues.” This is when you’re
favourite place in your home is your freezer and you frequently go
there for a tub of Haagan Dazs (and NOT the low-fat kind either!)
Billie Holiday records are also extremely handy at this stage, as are
countless bubble baths in which you soak your tired body, cry a river
of tears (all while listening to Billie on the stereo and consuming ice
cream- a sort of emotional ‘multitasking’, if you like).

Then, alas, the tears start to dry up, you don’t feel so crumby, and
you start to notice the good things in life again. This final stage,
the one you’ve earned through going through all of the preceding stages
and surviving, is called, “acceptance.” This is when you pick yourself
up, dust yourself off, and get back on the saddle of life with a
renewed sense of hope, some understanding, a dose of personal growth,
and even a sense of humour. Even though I’ve never had children, I’m
imagining that this stage is like JUST AFTER YOU’VE GIVEN BIRTH, and
you almost forget how painful it all was and can see that it was all
worth it.

To all of you who are trying to heal from a broken heart, I hope that
at least some of what I’ve shared here helps.