Many of us have been there: hearing the words, “It’s not you, it’s me,” or, “Maybe we should just be friends.” Others have dealt with the death of a loved one or role model. And while each end to a relationship is unique (to be sure, a breakup and a lost life are drastically different experiences), one feeling is common: HEARTBREAK!! Unfortunately no Band-Aid can heal this one.
Heartbreak is a term used to describe crushing, grief, anguish, and distress, often due to the pains and strains of love. The experience of heartbreak can be so intense that it feels the same as physical pain. In fact, it might even be true that people can die of a broken heart. There’s no denying the pain of a broken heart, but luckily there are ways to cope with one. Whether you’re going through a breakup or grieving the loss of a loved one, honesty, compassion, social support, and self-care can go a long way toward easing the pain.
I remember my most recent break up clearly. The weeks were dreary, I sobbed in the shower, sobbed while driving, sobbed at home, sobbed while I was working, and felt that my worth was at zero. I’d been dropped like a hot potato by someone who knew me; that had me!! We’ve all been there, left by someone to whom we attributed a big part of our identity, someone who confirmed us as worthy of love and partnership. To different degrees, we all recover, meet someone new, and perhaps go through variations of the same ordeal later on.
I’d been thru many make ups before, and painful ones at that. But at some point, in the fog of this loss, I got the feeling that rather than this one being something I had to get over, it was one I had to get, as in understand, beyond the corroboration or mending of my bruised ego. I avoided the traditional post breakup ranting to friends. It didn’t feel right, and there was little room for trash talking since I couldn’t see the inherent wrong in his change of heart or mind. That led me to suspect the real source of pain was absolutely inside of me.
I wanted to go there; I was on a mission. Determined to find the gold, I decided to put myself through a daily routine or questions regarding the source of my pain. I first asked myself, if it was really that surprising that the relationship had ended? Were things really going so well that it would make zero sense for this person to choose to end things? The answer was, unequivocally, no!!!
On several occasions, I found myself wanting out, wanting to not feel the potency of loneliness in the company of another; I just kept it to myself. That kind of blew me out of the water; I’d been feeling that way for a while too, and, I too, hadn’t addressed it. Lack of presence can create a disconnect between actual experience and fantasy or expectation. It certainly did for me. There’s what I had, and what I demanded it become, and it was my relationship to the latter that I was most attached to.
Another step in my recovery was accepting that I was upset about breaking up with my fantasy and my expectation, not with the real, flesh and blood person, and certainly not with the strained relationship. Then there was the matter of low self-worth. How could my self-worth be challenged by my worth to someone else? As it turned out, my low self-worth hadn’t actually been engendered by the breakup but rather exposed. It was there all along, supplemented by the relationship. The worthiness I had found in the relationship had little to do with self-worth and everything to do with my reliance on someone else’s evaluation of me.
While I was looking outward for sources of acceptance, affection, validation, and understanding, I could have been looking inward and cultivating that one relationship through which life is experienced, the one with yours truly. It was bittersweet to learn of this. It gave the situation meaning and a powerful possibility for growth and wellness. I was still grieving, but I realized that what I was grieving was the tragedy of abandoning myself.
I decided to go ahead and feel it all, with the condition that I keep a watchful eye on the narratives that came up. It was important to remain clear about what it was that was really hurting rather than letting the inner storyteller convince me that I had just lost the love of my life. I chose the path of natural grieving, and by doing so I became present to myself and acutely aware of how important my well-being is to me.
If I was grieving my own abandoning so deeply, then I did have deep love, tenderness, affection, and care for myself. I had so desperately needed my own company and acceptance that when the relationship curtain was pulled, the sight of the neglect was unbearable. Little by little that presence, awareness, and allowance gave way to trust and safely within on a level I hardly thought possible. I was able to stand by myself, with all that meant, my ups and downs, my strengths and weaknesses.
I haven’t since looked at romantic relationships in the same way. I haven’t since looked at any kind of relationship in the same way. I still remember the night of that breakup clearly as a sad and painful one, but as the distance between me and that night has grown, a fuller picture has come into view that leaves me utterly indebted and grateful to the events that came to pass.
That night was a rude awakening to a reality that demanded and ignited an important part of my healing; one that, in all likelihood, saved my life. I was blessed!! ~CTW~
“Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.” ~Ruth E. Renkel~