Wise Women in Heartbreak
Heartbreak. Heartache. Grief.
It’s beyond gut wrenching. Like vomit. Or a heart attack. It feels like you’re dying, or slowly withering away, except you’re still alive. It hangs on your chest like wet laundry, keeps you awake at night and elicits the most gut wrenching sounds.
And waaaay worse.
In a moment of heart wrenching grief, I texted 5 women I admire. How the fuck do you handle grief, damnit?
As their answers came in, I was reminded that I was not alone and that there is no way out of the hell of deep loss. It must be forged through and felt. I was also reminded that there is light on the other side, even when devastation and heartache feels like it permeates your very being. Beauty can be created from the ashes. After all, the root of grief is love.
5 + 17 = 22
I was so moved by the responses that I asked 17 more women. The question was simple: How do you heal from heartbreak?
Raw & Unedited: The First 7
47, Scottsdale, Arizona
You don’t get over it. It becomes part of you.
40’s Los Angeles, California
I really have no idea.
What I do know is that trying to get over it didn’t work.
I lean into it anytime it comes up.
Because it still does from time to time. Giving myself as much love as I can with each wave. Acknowledging that I am heartbroken. Like when I realized I needed help in Positano. When I surrendered that when I returned from Europe I would go on meds, it popped the pressure and I almost immediately felt better.
Even though I didn’t end up going on meds, I believe the permission I gave myself to just be heartbroken, was exactly what I needed to take my power back.
I have come to realize that permission is power.
37, San Francisco, California
The short answer is I let myself go out of control with pain and grief and I created safe containers for myself to do that.
The containers being: therapy, girlfriends, journaling, step work, bodywork and prayer to name a few.
I have many containers because I’ve found that one size does not fit all for me. Sometimes I need tough love, or someone to collude with me, or a professional, or to be alone, or spirituality. And TIME is the only thing that heals. TIME….and trust.
I’ll add that I think having some kind of spiritual foundation really helps with healing — having something bigger than myself that I believe is there for me even in this pain. I’ve spent many years trying to heal from break ups and not being connected or engaged with spiritually, and now that I am…I fear emotional pain less than I did before. I also only knew how to numb pain so healing took WAY longer.
35, Larkspur, California
I once spent about 10 months in a low heavy aching space, lots of tears, feeling my way through the deep darkness I felt. Ordering take out and barely eating it. I minimized my life responsibilities in this time, spent my waking hours in the bath tub, or watching Netflix-I felt my way through the deepest pain of losing not just the man I loved-or in this case a simultaneous loss of two relationships, but losing a part of myself that had to literally die, an internal spiritual death that would have plagued me for years after if I hadn’t allowed myself to feel all the way through.
I sought spiritual and emotional help, I talked to a therapist, and a coach, I used the tools of a Twelve Step program focused on emotional sobriety, talked to women friends when I could find the courage, and tried to eat, sleep and drink water. One of the best things ever said to me about break up recovery was to give myself the things my partner would have given me. At first I did that literally, spending money, or allowing myself to have experiences I’d wished to have in the relationship. Eventually it became more of a reminder of how to deeply and truly love myself.
I think it’s important to make a distinction between pain and suffering. I think in this time I had both, and I allowed myself to sit in the suffering (sometimes) and I think it’s good to name that thing I am moving is PAIN. And that suffering doesn’t serve my healing or what I want for my life in the long run.
28, Grass Valley, California
Sit in it.
Stay close to friends and groups I’m in, but not spend much time with people I can’t be a mess or silent around.
Hot tubs, hot springs, walks in nature, massages.
When I have an ounce more energy — take myself on a trip, to somewhere I really want to go or to someone I really want to see and really have fun.
Eat what I want, dress is clothes I like. Enjoy new surroundings.
40, New York, New York
Cry, cry, cry and cry some more
Put my hand on my heart and whisper to myself “It’s OK to feel exactly what I’m feeling”
Breath, breath and breath some more
Move it through my body, dance, scream, punch, fall on my knees and let it all out
Be super gentle with myself and give myself as much time as I need to feel it, move through it and let it go
Give myself plenty of time alone to just be
Make dates with girlfriends and people who make me smile
Remind myself of who I am and what I deserve
Redirect, get immersed in something else that brings me joy : a new project, hobby or experience
Keep moving forward
Pray for guidance and get quiet enough to listen
Journal out my feelings and write letters to the person as many as it takes to share my love, my pain, my heart break until it moves
Kindness to myself and positive affirmations
Silent meditation and inspiring meditations to see what there is to learn and grow from the experience
Faith that there is always more love to be had and patience
59, Boston, Massachusetts
During great loss, I practice even more self care, more baths, more time in bed, more herbal tea and rest. I write, meditate, do gentle stretching and sunbathing. When I write, my entire energy seems to flow from my being, out through my arms and hands, and expresses onto the paper.
I rage and scream. I fully and completely allow myself to emote vocally in a safe space, no censorship. (The car is a fantastic, alone, kind of sound proof place for this, especially if you have kids.) . The reason why this method of full out emotional purging is so fast and efficient, as well as deeply thorough for me is because I have absolutely no shame about it. I hold it in the spirit of purging, that it’s in safe space where nothing leaks out, it’s all deposited in its entirety, and it is not a reflection of my worth, wisdom, goodness or how spiritually evolved I am or am not.
It’s simply like taking a dump. We all have to do it. I don’t know anyone who takes partial dumps on purpose.
There have been several times in my life when the grieving has been so large, so all encompassing and so terribly deep that I’ve laid there for months at a time, not eating much, not moving, not bathing often. Just feeling as if I could die. And I simply suffered through it, wrote it out, laid there, took a bath once in a while, and went back to lay there some more.
I’ve emoted buckets of tears, used box after box of tissue, cried in front of my husband and by myself…just to let it out.
And eventually, when the time is ripe, the grieving begins to life.
I live with grieving my parents no matter how many years it’s been since they passed. Grieving reminds me of how very much I love. It keeps them alive in my soul.
I feel with my whole self, not just parts or pieces. I’ve lived so many decades that at this stage of my life, a sort of acceptance has taken the wheel, and it’s not a giving up but more of a surrender to knowing the drill and finally relaxing into the flow of cycles.
When the down cycle comes, I relax into it now and patiently know it takes time and that all will be well as it comes back around again. Heartbreak is a friend if we allow it to have its way with us. Grieving is a bittersweet reminder that we are here for the ecstasy, not solely the bliss.
I don’t know about you, but I like some salt in my chocolate, some hot pepper in my casserole and some level of bite to my lover. Life without heartbreak would, for me, be shallow indeed.