(Nothing is ever wasted, and everything, including pain, is grace)
Perhaps it’s the coming holiday season that makes the ache of missing someone so much stronger than it normally is. In the Western hemisphere, there is a condition called SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—a kind of depression that usually takes hold in winter.
Well, we have no winter, but lately, for some reason I’ve been receiving a lot of mail about how one can mend a broken heart.
I don’t profess to be an expert, but there are some valuable lessons I have learned along the way, both through personal experience and through those of close friends, that have proven to be quite useful in navigating the journey toward healing a broken heart.
First, the person who is hurting needs to accept and realize that “there is no other way but through.”
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts, and there are no timetables either. You have to grieve whatever it is you have lost (a loved one, a job, your home, a friend) to move on.
There’s no way around it and when you try to set it aside, believe me, at some point, it will catch up with you.
It’s much better to embrace the pain early and face it. Don’t make yourself numb to it by overindulging yourself in food, shopping, work or whatever else you think will erase the pain. No, you have to allow yourself to feel it, and you have to give yourself permission to cry it all out. Eventually, your tears will dry up and the pain will loosen its grip on you.
It varies with each person; grieve at your own pace, but grieve so that you can move on.
Learn how to be alone and enjoy it. No one is responsible for your happiness, only you are. You cannot rely on another person to fulfill all your needs; that is too much of a burden.
Learn how to fly solo and practice doing things by yourself. Enjoy and be still in solitude. I know this is easier said than done, especially if you are the type who has always been with someone.
It is ironic, but it is when you have learned to be content, when you are no longer afraid of being alone, that you become truly ready for a relationship.
Helping someone else, even if you feel you don’t have the energy to drag yourself out of your house, or worse, out of bed, does wonders for the heart and spirit. If you think a broken heart spells the end of the world, try to get over your sadness, even if momentarily, and reach out to someone who is in a worse situation than you are. The act itself of reaching out, of forgetting one’s self and pain, has miraculous healing powers in itself. If you don’t believe me, try it.
Exercise, or at the very least, take a walk or a hike somewhere. What? “But I can hardly get out of my misery!”
That’s precisely it. Movement is key. Grief and sadness tend to immobilize us. Exercise releases the happy hormones responsible for changing your mood from glum to glad. I find this to be a tried-and-tested technique—I walk my blues away.
Investing in new activities and new people also helps heal a broken heart. Traveling, taking a class, picking up a new sport, going back to school, changing careers—these have a way of making us reevaluate our lives and revisit those parts of ourselves that we have placed on the back burner.
Opening up yourself to new friends, forming a new set based on a shared interest—that includes others with broken hearts—can heal, too. Setting up a support group, so long as you all don’t wallow in pain or throw yourselves a pity party, can be a wonderful experience. Try new things together.
Get a pet. The unconditional love of a dog does wonders on the wounded heart. Having another life that is fully dependent on you, loving you no matter what you do or say, is a balm when you have known deep sadness, rejection or pain.
Finally, remember that forgiveness can set you free. A close friend asked me once if forgiveness is a sign of weakness. On the contrary, the power to forgive, I’d like to believe, is given the brave.
It takes so much to forgive, and often one cannot do it alone.
To forgive also requires that we believe in hope, the hope that one day things will get better, that all is grace and that everything will one day fall into place.
During a particularly challenging period in my life, when my heart was breaking, I opted to use the difficulties that came my way to strengthen my resolve to move on. In doing so, the fear and pain I had known for so long lost its hold on me.
I also learned to forgive and be thankful for all that had been.
In the end, I felt peace, strengthened and comforted by the knowledge that in His economy, nothing is ever wasted, and everything, including pain, is grace.
Follow the author on Twitter @cathybabao or through her blog www.storiesbykate.wordpress.com.