Are you broken hearted over someone or something? What leaves you longing because you have this love and no one to give it to? What way of life are you being asked to say goodbye to?
Grief has been defined as love with no place to go. When our heart gets hurt, the natural inclination is to shut down and prevent further damage. It’s like the body is saying, “That sucked! We aren’t doing THAT again!”
Shutting Down Is Not The Answer To Being Broken Hearted
What if that knee-jerk protection response is exactly what we don’t need? Shutting down after grief harms us and keeping our heart open heals us. Why is this? Because we all want to feel connected–to life, to ourselves and to others.
If you’re having a hard time, let’s chat. Being broken hearted is a normal part of the human experience. I will give you a safe space to be you. No judgement of where you’re at.
After losing my daughter, Maddie, 4 years ago, at age 22, I was in a state of shock, overwhelm, essentially trauma. It’s a subconscious reaction to want to protect our hearts after a tragic loss. But what if there is a more conscious way to grieve that both honors your lost loved AND you?
Our Fearful Actions Show Our Broken Heart
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had partially closed off my heart to further tragedy. How do I know I did this? I took fearful actions, not realizing they were coming from a place of fear at the time.
1. I became more hyper-vigilant about how my mom and husband took care of themselves.
2. I was insensitive with some of my words to my step daughter, Chelsea. I compared my love and grief of Maddie to hers.
3. I formed some business collaborations from a place of neediness rather than from a place of being a mature business owner.
4. I felt needy of my networking group and had expectations of what they should do for me to support me.
5. I took my suppressed anger, frustration and feeling victimized about the unfairness of the situation out on my husband. Our spouses get the brunt of our emotional disconnection pain, don’t they?
6. I compared my connection to my husband and how it fell short of my connection to Maddie.
5 Reason To Keep Our Heart Open After Feeling Broken Hearted
1. Consciously Express, Not Suppress Pain
We can express our feelings in whatever fashion we feel most comfortable. There is journaling, blogging, talking to someone we trust with our tender heart, hugging someone, painting, scultpure, pottery, building a treehouse, any form of creativity.
I love the quote from Princess Leia, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.” Our triggers and our pain can be the catalyst for creativity.
When we are conscious of our pain, we will be easier on ourselves and more understanding. “Oh that’s the pain talking. That is my grief reacting to that person, not my true self.”
2. Feel The Feelings
Feel whatever we need to and know it’s OK. Very often we will feel a lot of guilt and shame for our part in the ending of the relationship which left us feeling broken hearted, whether it ended with death, divorce, alienation, etc.
I felt a lot of guilt after Maddie died because I wanted to be able to go back 22 years and be a better, more conscious mom who didn’t relinquish custody of her. I had many “shoulds,” like I should have known better about how the antibiotics were affecting her gut before they had done too much damage.
Intense Feelings Are Like Waves
The key is not to run away or compartmentalize feelings, but to sit with them. Intense feelings are like waves. If we put up a wall of resistance, the waves of emotion crashing into a wall will get bigger. If we don’t brace against the waves of emotion, they will move through us. I’ve heard it takes 90 seconds for a feeling to dissipate.
Remember the importance of the breath. When we stop breathing, we go into a stress response. By deliberately slowing and deepening the breath, breathing through the pain and brokenheartedness, the intensity of the anxiety lessens.
The below exercise can help emotions flow through us. The idea is to feel the feeling and alchemize it into peaceful acceptance.
- Sit quietly with eyes closed.
- Take a deep breath in to the count of 4 and then hold it for 4 seconds.
- Exhale to the count of 7 seconds, loud enough so you can hear your breath.
- Inhale the breath and imagine delivering little peace signs to every cell of your body.
- These signs deliver the message, “You are safe to relax and breathe through the fear…”
- With the exhale, imagine the pain and sorrow exiting your body.
- Repeat 3 more times.
3. Be Aware Of Self-Worth And The Vulnerability Of Feeling Happy Again
We may not feel we deserve to feel happy because that will bring on feelings of guilt. We don’t want any part of healing because somehow that makes us selfish or bad, “Why should I feel good when I’ve inflicted so much pain on another?”
For quite some time, I wouldn’t consider moving on with my life without Maddie. It felt like a betrayal of her. It took me a while to switch my paradigm to “I am moving forward with Maddie as my angel guide.”
A Part Of Us Feels We Deserve Punishment
We may not want to hear, “It’s not your fault.” A part of us is still holding on to feeling bad, guilty, and broken-hearted as a form of punishing ourselves. In other words, our own self-beratement may feel more familiar to us than self-praise. It might help if we could remind ourselves we did the best we could.
There is no perfect parent. If we continue to be laden with guilt and shame, others will feel this disconnection within us. It simply feeds more saboteur thinking, disconnection, and broken-heartedness.
4. Let’s Not Expect People To Become Someone They Aren’t
In this interview, Tara Nash, creator of the Conscious Grief Series, speaks with Susan Hannifin MacNab, a social worker, educator, and author of the book, “A to Z Healing Toolbox.” Susan discusses that there are 3 types of people, Be’ers, Do’ers, and Put-on-the-Shelfer’s.
Do’ers Get Things Done
Do’ers are those people who know how to get things done. They are very task-oriented and typically have loads of energy to be of service to us. On the other hand, they may not be that in touch with their feelings, because they make them uncomfortable. My mom is a perfect illustration of the Do’er.
When Maddie died, my mom was pretty stoic. I saw her tear up at times, but overall I believe she feels like she needs to hold it together (a/k/a stuff down the feelings of grief). She’s much better at preparing a meal or going shopping to pick something up than being there for me emotionally.
My mom is a wonderful woman, very kind, generous and thoughtful. I used to want her to be more emotionally in tune with me, but I’ve come to accept her for who she is. And she IS plenty enough. I no longer want to force her to be like me.
The Be’ers Be With Us
The Be’er is someone who can sit with us in our grief. Be with us–feel us–not run away from the uncomfortable feelings. I would place myself in this category since typically I can sit in the fire with people.
One exception was at times when I saw Maddie in pain; when she’d cry or whine, I had a hard time with it. I guess it was too close to home for me as I was very attached to her, AND it reminded me of my own suffering which I hadn’t learned to sit with.
When grieving, we definitely want the Be’ers in our life to hold us and comfort us, or simply sit with us. In addition, we want the Do’ers to support us through acts of service.
The Put-On-The-Shelfers Don’t Get Us
The Put-On-The-Shelfer’s are folks we really don’t need to actively pursue if they are unkind, critical and generally don’t get us. I’m not talking about cancelling or ignoring them if they don’t agree us. Let’s let people be who they are without needing them to change for us.
However, I am saying that until people can be supportive (maybe that’s never) in a way that feeds our soul, perhaps we can “put them on the shelf.” We don’t have to chase them to get them to like or approve of us or feel obligated to hang out with them.
5. Let’s Not Compare Our Grief
Grief Is An Individual Journey
About one month after Maddie’s death, my stepdaughter, Chelsea, and her boyfriend, Brandon, and I were sitting outside in the car, on a cold November day. We were waiting to go into a annual open house for a CPA firm I used to work for.
It was one of Maddie’s favorite things to attend with me, mostly because they had really good food (LOL–eating was one of her favorite things). And I got to see some old friends. The last year we went there together in 2017, we took pictures in Santa hats and acted goofy (see below picture).
Our Words Hurt
Our grief was at an all-time high. This event reminded us of Maddie, and we’d been talking about her. I said something about Chelsea’s relationship with Maddie, and how they used to call each other soul mates, and that I seemed like more of a soul mate to Maddie than her.
I shouldn’t have said this and don’t recall what motivated me to. We got into an argument, and Brandon was the referee. I really hurt her feelings. And it created a rift in our relationship that probably is still there, to an extent. Of course, it was more than that comment created the disconnection (topic for another day).
Unconscious Grieving Destroys Relationships
Being broken hearted has a way of destroying relationships if we think someone isn’t grieving “appropriately,” namely like we are. We each have a different relationship with the person who left, whether through death divorce, emotional abandonment, etc. So it stands to reason our grief reaction will be different.
The best we can do is to stay on our side of the street and mind to our own healing. That is a full-time job. Plus, if we do a good job of healing our hearts from grief, we won’t end up abandoning the other important people in our lives, our spouse, kids, and others.
When we feel broken hearted, it can feel like we:
- Don’t know who we are anymore.
- Avoid expressing our feelings and feeling our feelings.
- Are unsafe to open our hearts and love again because we wonder if we deserve it.
- Want people to rescue us from our pain by being the perfect listener and supporter.
- Compare our grief to others.
It’s clear that we haven’t learned how to consciously grieve. But what if we looked at being heart broken differently? What if we saw it as a sign that we are capable of great love?
Being Broken Hearted Is A Great Teacher
Being broken hearted can teach us a lot about ourselves. It can show us how strong we are and how much we are capable of giving. It can also remind us that we are not alone in our pain.
So if you are feeling broken hearted right now, know that you are not alone. Each of us will eventually experience feelings of emptiness, loss, grieving, and loneliness, to an extent.
Love comes from many sources, and you deserve to love again. I want to leave you with this heartfelt poem as a reminder we are all one and never truly alone.
Poem, Grief Burst, By Tara Nash
I shrivel into a fetal position wishing I could be comforted like a baby,
there are times in our lives when we physically resume to the child,
when we are sick when we are elderly and when we are grieving.
It is not words that I want in these moments, it is actions.
The embrace, the shoulder to cry on, the box of tissues
brought to me, the glass of water placed by my side,
my hair stroked, my lips kissed, the smile that tells me I am loved,
I am seen, I am okay.
I whimper and cry like a toddler in distress, my breath changes
from fast to slow, sometimes hyperventilating trying to catch my
breath. It turns to screams and carnal sounds as I dive into pillows
to disguise the noise.
My jaw tightens, my face contorts to explore all the unpleasant
dramatic expressions that I would prefer to do behind closed doors.
It exhausts me, every part of me.
This deep well of pain that I do so well to contain.
Thoughts of stopping myself pierce my mind.
My thoughts scanned the earliest stages of my life.
Why bother taking life so seriously?
Where do I go when I die?
Stop! I need to get on! I have a schedule to attend to, I don’t have
time for this shit! Countless tissues surround me filled with snot.
Will it ever stop? Will it ever stop?
I feel not.
Deep breaths, tears popping, rolling down my cheeks,
1, 2, 3, 4 hitting the floor.
The roar of grief needs to be released,
If I don’t allow it out, it will creep up on me in a darker way.
I placate myself, it is okay, it is okay.
Let myself feel, let myself heal.
Now that I know tears like this,
The tears that I can’t turn off however hard I try,
I will let myself rest
Until every last drop is squeezed out
My breath is steady
And I feel gratitude for my cry.
You are enough. You are lovable and you deserve to be supported as you find your way through being heart broken. Let’s chat.
Energy Healer for Grief & Trauma