Wise Women in Heartbreak

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photo by Summer Hokulani Engman

I asked 22 women this question:

How do you heal from heartbreak?

Their answers blew me away. Read Part 1: The First 7 and Part 2: The Second 8 for so much inspiration.

As I’ve been compiling these 22 profound responses, I have had my own heart cracked open, again. Thank god. It’s a windy process that comes in waves and often when I least expect it.

Surrendering to grief is a deeply human experience that shows me the depths of who I am as a woman. When I let it take me, I am left cracked open — and from there, what’s present is love and truth.

The Last 7 Women: Raw & Unedited

16. Karen

66, New York, New York

Prayer. I’d been married for 25 years when I filed for divorce, and even as I did, I prayed for myself and also for him.

Boundaries. I read up on the extensive nature of his addiction and it made me so sad that I couldn’t handle it. So I stopped reading the 7 books I bought about his disease and I created a strong boundary to stop taking care of him. That was hard but I was learning to take care of myself. I was good to him during our divorce and I would have brief phone conversations with him when necessary, but I purposely limited all contact with him.I learned that I am not responsible for any other adult’s feelings except my own.

Therapy. I focused on my own emotional growth.

Twelve Step Programs. Even though I wasn’t a drinker, friends guided me to an AA Big Book step study meeting because they were not talking about drinking — they were talking about the spiritual journey of it. As a child of a recovered alcoholic, this was helpful. I did a personal inventory and started looking at what my part in all of this was.

Friends. They listened to me and offered me so much support. They got me in to Al Anon, helped me set boundaries and do the spiritual work. My friends helped me see that I could create something better out of this. I looked at all the things I thought I should have done or should have said and made a list of those. I realized I had lived a life of “shoulds”, taking care of everyone else. Finally, for the first time in my life, my therapist suggested I make a list of desires for myself. What did I want? That was harder, but a revelation.

Journaling. Instead of calling him or seeing him, I wrote and wrote, the anger, the pain, the profound grief.

Crying. Alone in my house, I was a walking waterfall and I allowed it. I would sound my grief. I wailed. I had never done that before. I also let out fierce growling sounds. I sometimes felt like an animal, a desperate animal.

Body Movement. I danced and moved my body. I would crawl across the living room floor, sobbing. I set up candles because I had craved romance and gentleness in my marriage and I didn’t get it. So I created it for myself. I would get to the other side of the room and beat the crap out of my couch. I would choose a phrase that came to me, like — HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? or WHY ME? And then I would crawl and yell that. I allowed the victim thing to fully unravel.

Allowing. I allowed myself to let all of my feelings out. I allowed this to take as much time as it needed to. The grieving went on for months. It was the most spiritual time of my life because I fully surrendered to it all.

17. Catherine

45, New York, New York

Be kind to myself, fill myself up, let myself feel it, go down to the depths of the pain and have a sister to hold me. Part of the surrender is knowing that if I go too low my sisters got my back and will pull me back up and out.

18. Alyssa

40, Austin, Texas

Therapy. I talked about all the grief that was rooted in my childhood stuff. There was so much sadness for me over what generations of people in my family have dealt with. I sat in it. It felt like I was breaking and like I was not going to survive it.

Nature. Walking and being out in nature a lot.

Friends. Being honest and transparent about what I was going through. We would do text check ins, and it was soothing to co-work online. I took walks with a friend a lot. The one on one connection was an antidote for me.

Feeling All of It! Sadness, depression, anger. Anger was very powerful to get that top layer off , because underneath was all the grief. I would scream!

Using My Hands. Creating, writing, drawing, doing dishes, knitting. Using my hands got my mind off of it & helped me with the anxiety and the overwhelm.

19. Molly

27, Brooklyn, New York

What comes to mind is women friends, love from sisters.

Crying. Watching sitcoms, funny shows, especially Friends.

Reconnecting with old friends I’ve lost touch with, making new friends, trying new things, moving somewhere new, praying.

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Artwork by Carla Holmes Taddeo

20. Patrish

75, Katonah, New York

Wow. Healing from heartbreak. The first thing that comes to mind is ‘time’. When heartbreak is fresh, it feels like it will never heal. Being swamped with questions and self doubt seems to be an early phase. What did I do wrong? It seemed so good! What signs did i miss? Sure, we had some problems, but….

Then with some time and distance I may be able to feel the places that it wasn’t really working for my highest good. The places I had compromised too far. The places that I had wanted this relationship to ‘work’, so badly that i didn’t speak up, didn’t insist on speaking my truth. Then I begin to wonder why I would do that. Why a relationship with an other is more important than my relationship with myself.

So, little by little, with lots of back and forth and more than a few tears, I start to breathe again — deeply, and eventually with gratitude — gratitude for the experience of love, and for knowing that ultimately and always, I am the one I come home to.

21. Ellie

29, Venice, California

Being around friends is the thing I crave most when I’m heartbroken. I cry a lot, and it feels so good to be held by friends when I’m in tears. Eventually we laugh, talk, or watch a movie… the pain becomes easier to bear and hope returns. I love yoga or dance- anything that gets me out of my head and into my body. I’ve definitely cried through yoga classes. Also writing my ex a letter that I never sent to him helped me process and get my feelings out.

Being in nature is the great healer. I remember walking down a beach that my ex and I had visited, several months after we broke up, and just breaking down in tears. No one else was around and I screamed into the ocean. It was really therapeutic and something lifted after.

22. Ségolène

39, Montreal, Canada

Getting over a heartbreak is no small feat. After the usual crying-cursing-screaming phase, I realized that isolating myself wasn’t really serving me. I made a point of reaching out to girlfriends, even when I didn’t feel like it. I became the master organizer of “fun things to do in the city”.

Connection was part of my medicine, and so was Truth. I was very honest about how I was feeling, sometimes shedding a few tears over a Bellini. These women are my tribe and they love me hard. Nothing really deep or strong can happen without our sisters.

Extreme self-care was also part of the solution. And it went way beyond Epsom salt baths and herbal tea. I literally MarieKondo-ed my emotional life. If it didn’t spark joy or excitement, I didn’t accept the invitation. Yes, it means that for a few months, I would only see the same 5 or 6 people. But hey! — they’re awesome and it gave me a chance to deepen those relationships.

The final stage was probably the most challenging, but also incredibly necessary. What in me attracted the kind of person that would co-create such a difficult situation? Shadow work and all of its little friends were my new team mates for a while. It was a scary, intense process (sometimes nauseating too), but I dug deep and I found the gold hidden in the darkness. And when things were going really tough, I made sure to remember that I had been heartbroken before and I survived it — several times.

Once we fully digest the experience, there is always a new love ready to embark on an adventure with us. And the more we grow, the more exciting and beautiful it is!

Read Part 1and Part 2.

You can find links to my other work on Medium and follow me here. Thanks for reading!

Written by

Coach & Writer. Musings on being a woman, creator of Body Love, alchemist, mother, brendafredericks.com

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