Romantic love is mystical and magical—permeating every aspect of mind, body and spirit until you are completely consumed. The intensity of the attraction, the depths of the desire, and the power of the passion are simultaneously exhilarating, intoxicating and terrifying. Tremendous courage is a prerequisite for the awesome vulnerability of opening up your heart, body and soul for love.
When that love is not reciprocated or sustained, it is like a death. It’s like a flower that yearns for the sun until it blossoms completely, until every last petal drops. Heartbreak feels like you are left turned inside out. The symptoms mirror a depressive episode—difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, sadness, apathy, hopelessness and sometimes even loss of the will to live.
Through therapy, we try to understand and analyze our love relationships. Are we recreating old patterns? Filling a void? Addicted to love? Seeking ego validation? Dysfunctional? Delusional? Naive? Insane? Perhaps. Or maybe we are just human and subject to the forces of love.
Recovery from heartbreak is much like processing grief, so we go through the following stages:
- Denial (“This can’t be the end, I’m sure he will call.”)
- Anger (“I hate her.”)
- Bargaining (“Maybe if I behaved differently, it would work.”)
- Depression (“I never want to love again so I never feel this pain again.”)
- Acceptance (“It was. And now, it is over.”)
In my practice, I have counseled hundreds through the depths of the depression that accompanies heartbreak. I recommend the following:
Know your love is/was real. Your feelings are always real. Just because it didn’t last doesn’t mean it wasn’t real or true. You are not crazy, foolish, wrong or delusional.
Understand love is always a gift. Love is a blessing, even if it ends painfully, for heartbreak bears great wisdom.
Consider that all things happen and people come into our lives for a reason. A relationship that ends is not a failure. As Eckhart Tolle says, ““Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.”
Stay in the present. Don’t ruminate about the past or second guess your actions. Don’t worry about the future (“Will he find somebody else? Will that relationship be better?) Stay out of your head, for that is a dangerous place to go. Practice mindfulness techniques like deep breathing and meditation to ground yourself in the present moment. Allow yourself to feel the feelings in your body and imagine you are breathing in what you need (strength, hope, energy) and out what you don’t (pain, aches, sadness.)
Release feelings of anger, hatred and thoughts of revenge. Understand this are all related to ego and cause you more harm than good. Anger exacerbates anxiety and depression, keeps us tethered and prevents us from moving forward. As Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies.” Instead, in a moment of peace and quiet, repeat the mantra, “I forgive and release you and let you go.”
Don’t be a whack-a-mole and repeatedly poke your head up for rejection from the object of your affection. As Mark Twain said, “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”
Get support. Talk to friends and family who are empathic and kind. Seek therapy or counseling. Get immediate help if feeling so depressed you are suicidal.
Know you are lovable. Do not misinterpret the end of a relationship as meaning you are somehow not enough. Sometimes people aren’t capable of giving us the love we need and deserve, which is their issue and not yours. You are exactly as you should be and are perfectly lovable just the way you are.
Practice self-love. Recognize masochistic and self-harm behaviors (not eating, substance abuse, risky behaviors, etc.) and nip them in the bud. Take care of yourself and set boundaries for yourself as you would for somebody who you love very dearly. Stick to structure and routine. Get enough sleep. Get up in the morning, get dressed and get out. Eat nutritiously. Remember that exercise is a natural antidepressant. Keep busy and don’t isolate yourself or your depression will take a deeper hold on you. Put one foot in front of the other.
Know this too shall pass. Even if you can’t imagine feeling better or being open to love again, you most certainly will. In my practice, I have been awed and amazed by the resiliency of the human spirit.
“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it…” ~Nicholas Sparks
What else do you recommend to help recover from a broken heart?
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