The Healthiest Ways to Mend a Broken Heart
Ahhh. . .the only condition of the heart that cannot be cured or treated by modern medicine’s potions and procedures—the broken heart! According to Wikipedia, “a broken heart is emotional pain or suffering one feels after losing a loved one, through death, divorce, moving, being dumped, or other means”. More aptly, it is defined by one suffering from the affliction as “living hell”.
We all know what a broken heart is. But what we really want to know, as that famous trio of harmonic brothers put it, is…
"...how can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?
How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again."
- The Bee Gees
The honest answer is. . .there are no 'best' or 'healthiest' ways to mend a broken heart. Each person is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. But despite our differences, we can feel comforted (if that's possible) by the knowledge that the suffering we feel is not unique. It’s a human condition. Every living, breathing, feeling human being suffers a broken heart at least once in their lifetime. No one is immune: no matter how beautiful, talented, or rich some may be. All you have to do is open any tabloid magazine in publication to know that. And while we are all prone to suffering a broken heart at some point in our lives, there are no instant cures. But there are good ways, and not-so-good ways, to get through and over one.
Helpful versus Unhelpful Coping Skills
The terms ‘coping skills’ refers to a set of behaviours a person develops and regularly uses to help him or her manage difficult situations or painful feelings. Like any other behaviour, some are useful and help us to move forward, while others are unhelpful and hold us back.
But how do you know the difference? It would be easy to think any coping skill that makes you feel better is a good one. It is not that simple. Revenge might make you feel better, at least temporarily, but it is not necessarily a good way of coping with your grief and loss. Why? Because the relief will be short-lived, and later replaced by a regret that will make you feel even worse than you did before.
Feeling better is not the same as dealing with and getting over a heart break. Feeling better implies an absence of bad feelings, and this could be achieved by any means – avoidance, psychoactive substances, or revenge - just as much as healthy coping skills. Getting over implies moving on with your life – learning from the pain, and going forward. So, in essence, a ‘good’ coping skill is one that helps you to feel better in the long run; one that teaches you new lessons about life and helps you to grow as a person. And a ‘bad’ one is one that teaches you nothing, does nothing to help you in the future, and is aimed solely at avoidance of pain.
The Nature of the Broken Heart
Many things can cause a broken heart, and only the sufferer can ‘diagnose’ one. You just know it when you feel it. Divorce, break ups, and death are common causes of heartache, but almost anything could be a catalyst, depending on how it affects you. Some people are even broken-hearted after events that are ‘supposed to be’ happy, i.e. retirement, moving to a new home, etc. No one can say what is or isn’t a reasonable cause. The pain that a person feels is real, no matter what the reason for it is. The way that you cope, however, all depends on the cause.
For the sake of convenience, we will look at the ways of dealing with a broken heart instigated by one of the most common causes of this malady – breaking up with a partner.
Healthy Ways to Heal a Broken Heart
The first role of thumb in your journey to recovery is to remember that one simple thing we’ve already discussed – you are not alone. You are not the first person to go through a break up and you certainly won’t be the last. As lonely as you may feel right now, don’t let your pain isolate you or make you feel alone. If nothing else connects humanity, the pain of a broken heart certainly does. From America to Zambia – I can guarantee we all feel the same when it comes to being dumped! If nothing else can be achieved from your grief, let it be a reminder of your humanity and connected-ness to the rest of mankind. Talk to other people about how you are feeling, they may be able to offer you some wise advice on mending a broken heart or, if not, at least offer you some comfort.
Go Ahead and Cry
Crying is a healthy way to release pent up emotions and has been proven to be a key trigger in the release of endorphins into the blood stream. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers. So if you think that by avoiding crying you will be avoiding pain, what you could actually be avoiding is pain-relief. Tears are also another way that the body cleanses toxins from its system. So, if you think metaphorically about it, each tear you cry is a sort of self-made detoxification tool that purges your body of the bad feelings you are left with after your breakup.
Don’t worry if you can’t cry—it’s not something that comes naturally to everyone. Instead, find a remote space where you can be alone for awhile, and scream your lungs out! Or, try vigorous exercise – another key trigger for releasing endorphins into your system.
Remember Your Loved Ones
Think about everyone who does love you. Sometimes being dumped can make you feel as if you are totally unlovable or as if no one will ever love you again. Or, if you were the one who instigated the breakup, even if for a good reason, it can leave you feeling as if you are an awful person. Make a list of all your good qualities and positive attributes – the things that other people love about you and/or that you like about yourself. If you’re too down and are struggling to think of anything positive – ask other people, they will remind you! Surround yourself with these people if you can. Spend time with family and friends, and remember that your ex isn’t the first person to have loved you and won’t be the last. He or she also won’t be the last one you’ll love!
Do Something Nice for Yourself
Pick your self-esteem up from the floor and do something nice for yourself—something that will make you feel good about being you! Pamper yourself and get a new hairstyle, buy a new outfit, or get a facial/manicure/pedicure. Or, better yet, do all of the above! Maybe take up a new hobby—a writing class, cooking, working out, origami—whatever! Just do something different to what you usually did when you were with your ex. Doing something different signifies to the world and to yourself that you are moving on with your life rather allowing yourself to be crippled by your heart ache. It doesn’t matter whether or not you feel like you are moving on inside; sometimes the action comes first and the feeling follows later. Just make sure that whatever you are doing is something that is ultimately good for your overall health and your view of yourself. The added bonus of getting busy is that it will serve as a welcomed distraction stopping you from sitting home and pining over him or her.
Detach Yourself From Your Emotions
Try to adopt a slightly detached or ‘academic’ attitude towards your situation and your feelings about it. In a sense, try to put yourself in the future and imagine vividly a time when you won’t be so raw with emotion, when you will feel happy again. This is definitely more difficult to do than the rest of the suggestions we have discussed, but nevertheless important. Bear in mind that this is not the same as escaping into denial. What I am suggesting is that you simply allow yourself to feel bad, knowing that it is a normal part of life, that it will pass, and that you will emerge from the experience a better, more evolved person. Do not over-identify with your feelings and thoughts. Do not judge yourself or your ex if you can help it. Relationships dissolve for many reasons, and as cliché as it may sound, you two are not together anymore for a reason, one that will only become obvious to you in time. Only God and the Universe may be aware of that reason right now. But one day there will come a man or woman into your life who will be very glad that you have suffered this break up, because it has meant that you are free to be with them! I believe that every failed relationship a person endures teaches them something about relationships in general, and helps them evolve into the kind of person who is ready to be with their life’s true love. So, essentially, every break up brings you closer to ‘Mr. or Miss Right’.
What Not To Do With a Broken Heart
- Drink or use drugs to block it out. The pain will still be there in the morning, plus you’ll have a bad head or hang over. Even worse, you could end up adding to your problems by throwing in an addiction on top of a broken heart.
- Jump straight into another relationship. Occasionally, rebound relationships do work out. But more often than not, someone just ends up getting hurt. You can’t cure one broken heart with another one.
- Slip into denial. Pretending everything is okay, or that you aren’t at all bothered by your break up is not really a way of dealing with pain. It’s really only a way of delaying it. Sooner or later you will feel the wrath of your heart ache, and the sooner really is the better.
- Isolate yourself. No man is an island, as John Donne says. Reach out to the people in your life who care for you. Everyone needs a shoulder now and then.
- Dwell too much. While it is important to allow yourself to feel the pain of a broken heart as part of ‘growing up’, life really must go on. Feel your feelings, but don’t stop living while you feel them.
Good ‘Pick-Me-Ups’ to Try
- Read inspirational stories, books, and poems that describe how others have transcended their broken hearts and become happy or even fallen in love again.
- Write out your feelings in a journal or diary. Become your own therapist.
- Write your ex a letter telling him or her everything that upsets you about your break up—then tear it up and throw it out.
- Volunteer. Sometimes the best way to help yourself is by helping others.
- Join a self-help group or see a counselor if things don’t seem to be getting any better in a few months time.
If all else fails, just remember that time really is the greatest healer! One day, you will no longer feel as bad as you do now. So for now, just try to grin and bear it!
Have You Recovered from a Break Up You Thought You'd Never Get Over?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.