Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Surviving Break Ups or What Happened to Me?
"I don't know why they call it heartbreak. It feels like every other part of my body is broken too." ~Missy Altijd
It seems to me that when folks come through my door looking for help healing a broken heart, the whole of their face is a question mark. "What happened? What happened to me? How will I survive this? How will I function like this?" "Will I ever feel okay again?" One my readers recently emailed me and asked for some ideas, nothing heavy, just some thoughts on functioning while in pain. While in the aftermath of losing something - a relationship, and someone, who you love.
More questions too. "How do I grieve someone who is not dead. Who is walking around somewhere on this green earth, looking up at the same sky, getting caught in the same rain?" Maybe even living in the same house that was once "ours," taking care of the same kids, pets or projects. How do you also grieve all the little, and not so little, satellite losses. Places you used to go, jokes you used to share. Even, in our age of tech, designated ring tones. All the reminders, all the loss, and all the longing. It can all seem like too much.
"Forget about moving on. How do I even move?" writes one visitor to my blog. And "Forget about letting go, how do I even let up on myself?" I keep thinking about all the mistakes, the would haves, the could haves, and the if onlys."
There are many different kinds of grief. But broken heart grief, especially when you are not the one who wanted out, ranks way up there on the pain register. So first things first, I think. And easy does it. When you are in the first stages of grief, its hard to believe, or even fathom, that time itself will most likely help shape your pain into something livable, bearable, breathable. And that while you may never really forget, you will actually feel well one day, and interested in life again. Joy will return and you will get better.
There are some folks who do stay stuck in grief for a long time. Longer than long. And for this kind of grief, extra help is needed. Not to let go, or to forget, but to get interested in life again, to not sacrifice a good future because of a painful past. Those who also struggle with addiction, depression, or anxiety sometimes react to grief in more severe ways.
Perhaps one the biggest pieces of losing a love is losing part or parts of yourself. And knowing, only a little, about what really happened and why. Coming up for air amidst extreme sadness can seem impossible sometimes, but taking good care of yourself is always the way to go.
And underneath all the usual survival advice is this: Talk. Talk to someone who can listen gently. Talk to someone who can help you unpack what happened, at a pace that feels safe and sweet. Talk to someone who's voice feels like gauze around your insides. Talk to someone who can help you find yourself again. Talk to someone who can help you see your side of the street and learn a bit about yourself, both your needs and your character, so that you can grow forward and not repeat things that don't serve you well.
And if anger is a piece a of the pain, then talk about that too. Unexpressed anger can be toxic to the body and soul. Get to the bottom of the anger, which is often about fear, and sometimes about betrayal, no matter how long it takes. Give yourself permission to live in the meantime. Focus some time each day on someone else, your kids, your friends, a stranger. Giving can be healing.
Some good attention to the subtle but powerful thoughts playing in your head can help things along. If, in addition to sadness, there is a quiet but repetitive and convincing tape in your brain telling you that you are worthless, hopeless, stupid, pathetic or awful, or that you will never love again, all is lost, you can't survive this, that you must or will hide, shrink or worse, then you know that you've got to listen, to answer back. If that voice is attacking all that you are, and all that you have and do, then you have work to do. Acknowledging and answering that voice is crucial to surviving breakup pain and finding yourself and your life again.
Emotional pain can rival and trump physical pain at times. So we have to access all our possible resources. And employ the usual roll of "do's and don'ts" for healing. That is when you are ready to heal. Sometimes we need to hang to the pain for a while. But we also need to let some light back in.
It is hard to accept things as they are when pain is coloring everything. But I think a gentle note to yourself: "okay, so this is what it is right now," can help you turn the corner and walk in a good direction towards better feelings and better days.
There is more, of course, to healing a broken heart, but you can agree somewhere in your psyche to join the ranks of the walking wounded and take care of your responsibilities, and not slip away into the dark.