Source: Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash
Sooner or later, we all face our dark times. Moments when we feel alone, isolated and lost. Times when we want to hide because our hearts feel so broken.
No matter how we try to avoid it, we all experience heartbreak. As long as your heart beats, it’s only a matter of time before it’s hurt.
You may only notice small hurts, such as judgmental remarks, a negative encounter on the street, or a bad day at work or school. Then there are the bigger hurts, like being rejected by a lover, betrayed by a friend, or suffering financial hardship. Even if he manages to avoid such injuries, the anguish of illness or death eventually sets in and destroys his sense of security. (See “How to bounce back when life crushes you”)
Since heartbreak seems inevitable, is it possible to speed up healing?
the broken heart
I can remember several times in my life when I was overwhelmed with emotional pain. I remember seeing a member of my family struggle with a life-threatening illness. I watched helplessly as she wasted away, not responding to every intervention. I searched for answers, prayed and consulted professionals; nothing worked.
Heartbreak reminds us that there are limits; Not all dilemmas in life can be resolved. (See “Seven Wounds That Never Heal”) Even when the body heals, emotional scars can linger. With each heartbreak, we come away profoundly changed.
When all interventions failed to save my family member, despair washed over me and I was tortured with unanswered questions.
“Why did this happen? How can someone so young suffer so deeply?”
Many nights I went up on my roof and cried. I looked at the stars and argued with the heavens about the injustice of life. Over time, I gave in to my pain.
mending your broken heart
After long periods of mourning, if you completely grieve and give in to your sadness, the desire to recover arises; sometimes you tell yourself, “I have to move on.”
I have provided individual and group psychotherapy to hundreds of heartbroken people for more than twenty-five years: people who lost spouses to cancer, children to accidents, or suffered deep betrayals or emotional difficulties.
While some people remain mired in resentment and isolation, others seem to recover sooner. Here are qualities I noticed that helped them heal their broken hearts:
1. Healthy relationships
The adage, “shared happiness is doubled, shared pain is halved,” stands. I have found in my work that bereaved people who surround themselves with good friends and a supportive community come out of emotional pain enriched with a greater capacity for empathy and compassion for others in distress. As a Buddhist advocate for peace, Daisaku Ikeda wrote:
There are countless people in the world whose hearts have been hurt in some way. In those moments, what gives someone the strength to go on living? It seems to me that it is the human ties… There is no happiness as long as we are wrapped up in ourselves.
2. Creative outlets
Creativity is a soothing balm for the wounded heart. Creative mediums like music, dance or poetry connect directly with our subconscious and provide emotional relief when words fail us. Find a way to be creative; write, draw, take photos, anything that draws your attention outward and distracts you from the torment you feel inside. Or use that torment in a creative process. (See “Turn your pain into something beautiful.”) If you can’t think of anything, take a class or course on something new and spark your creativity.
I remember a friend who finally received a kidney transplant after ten long years of dialysis. The operation was a great success. Having faced death and won, he wondered what he would focus on next. A nurse offered some wise advice. She told him: “Use your pain to inspire others.” It was a moment of such clarity that she took his breath away.
Since then, he has written about his experience, spoken with dozens of patients, and to this day is an inspiration to many more. In my experience, people who get involved in charitable activities, helping others by donating their time and energy, heal their broken hearts faster and awaken a deeper sense of mission in life. (See “How Altruism Increases Happiness and Empowerment”)
To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.