Finding Hope and Healing after Heartbreak
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
--From Anthem, by Leonard Cohen
If you've recently had your heart broken, experienced a divorce, break-up or another form of loss, there is no doubt you have heard all the platitudes. "There's more room in a broken heart; he/she wasn't right for you; there's a lid for every pot; there's plenty of fish in the sea; when one door closes..."
People who say those things to you are trying to help, but all you hear is, "Suck it up, man up (especially if you are male); get over it; move on; find someone else." When you're hurting, these things are hard to hear, harder to do and not at all what you should be doing.
It's encouraging to hear some experts on the subject say that the best thing to do for a broken heart is to nurture it, allow the emotions to pass through and let it heal. According to Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, "Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance.
She added, "I recently read in the book My Stroke of Insight by brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor that the natural life span of an emotion—the average time it takes for it to move through the nervous system and body—is only a minute and a half. After that we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression, or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue."
The Buddhist teachings of acceptance, self-compassion and mindfulness make a lot of sense when dealing with feelings of loss and abandonment, but being with negative, hurtful emotions is still easier said than done.
Renowned spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has a way of making the most difficult lessons easy, "If something negative comes to the surface, such as despair and anger, bring the energy of mindfulness to it," he said. "Embrace it like a mother embraces her baby. Embrace the pain that is coming to the surface and say, 'Breathing in, I know that you are there, my dear pain, my dear anger. I am here for you and I will take care of you." He goes on to say that if you choose to deny the emotions, they will get more painful until they get your attention, similar to the baby crying until it gets your attention.
The simple idea behind the philosophy of embracing painful emotions is that, while it is not good to hold on to negative emotions, if you push them away, they will only come back harder, and if you mask them with denial, substances or other people, they will create even more pain. The fact is that emotions are there. You can't control them, but you can control the way you react to them.
In the movie, The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man requested a heart and the wizard told him if he had a heart, he would wish he didn't, because it could be broken. When Dorothy left to go home, the Tin Man said, "I know I must have a heart because it's breaking." From that, we get that heartbreak is inherent in having a heart, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
As always, we love hearing from you. Tell us your stories of heartbreak and recovery. We've all been there. This might be just another platitude, but it's one I like:
"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." – Alexander Graham Bell
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