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How to Heal and Grow After Getting Your Heart Broken
2019-12-13 13:01:17

How to Heal and Grow After Getting Your Heart Broken

Time heals all wounds.

When the space between us and another person we love is severed, the enormity of their absence is often all we feel. We can’t eat. We can’t sleep. We can’t focus.  We notice all the ways they’re missing from ordinary moments, like mornings, like sleeping, like empty hangers in the closet.

The pain of heartache can be expansive and vast– beyond what we believe we can handle– but equally expansive is the space created for growth.


How Heartache registers in our Bodies

The loss of a love causes the stress hormone, cortisol, to swell in our bodies. Cortisol can be helpful in short bursts; it allows us to respond to dangerous situations effectively. That said, our bodies are not always the best at differentiating between real and perceived threat. Cortisol floods in response to something like heartache because our system senses the shift as a danger; the lack of love is experienced something like a deficiency, and the release of stress hormones are meant to evoke a response from us that will bring us back to a space of safety where we can relax and connect again. Unfortunately, we can’t outrun heartache the way we might outrun a lion; our system’s way back to safety is gradual and slow, and the stress state in our bodies tends to stay elevated longer because of this.

When our bodies are flooded with cortisol for long amounts of time, we might feel the effects in the form of physical pain, like a tightness in our chest. An excess of cortisol also redirects blood away from our digestive system and turns it toward our muscles; in response, we may experience stomach problems or loss of appetite, hence why many of us are not often hungry when we’re broken hearted.  

The Intersection of Heartache and Growth

Often, one of the hardest parts of heartache is the meaning we make about ourselves when things fall apart. We label ourselves as incapable, we rake through our rolodex of shared memories in search of the moment we said the thing that made it burst; we tell ourselves “I should have been different”; we wonder if we are lovable. Our quest for understanding blooms from the belief that answers will heal us, but ruminating on these kinds of stories starves us and only leaves us dissatisfied. Growth cannot happen when we suffocate its seeds with stories of whether or not we’re good enough.

Instead, it is important to be kind to ourselves: allow our bodies to release through movement; allow ourselves moments of feeling okay; allow ourselves distractions; allow ourselves excitement for the future; allow ourselves the anger, the sadness, the missing and wishing things were different; but above all, allow ourselves compassion as we move through it.


When we’re going through the motions of Heartache

While it’s important to grieve, we are not required to live there. Give your brain and body a break by allowing yourself things that feel good to you, that ground you: be in connection with friends or family who will listen and hold space for you; spend time alone doing something you enjoy, even if it’s hard to find that feeling in the moment; go for a walk; treat yourself to something special or sweet; try something new.

In the face of heartache, we can be pretty hard on ourselves; a lot of pressure comes from the question “What do I do?” . Instead, it might be helpful to ask the question “What needs to happen next?” It is the way forward that will lead us back to ourselves.

For those who feel the tension of transition: Sad is not a sign of the wrong choice. Doubt isn’t either, nor lonely, nor regret. These are the growing pains; they let you know you’re doing something important. Choice requires us to grieve what is given up. Often, the movement of grief carries us closer to the life we’re after.

Heartache is hard, but it can also carry you toward your big, open life ahead.


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