Heartbreak is a hurt that’s hard to avoid. It can happen to you whatever your age, whatever your status. And no-one ever really sees it coming. If we did, would we ever dare to love? Well, yes, clearly we would, and we do. But there are degrees of heartbreak, and some are harder to deal with than others.
Getting over a brief relationship is not quite so agonizing as the end of an affair that’s lasted years. Separation and divorce take a huge toll on all concerned. The impact when a partner is unfaithful is the emotional equivalent of a car crash. Extricating oneself from an unhappy or abusive relationship is one of the hardest things to do.
So relationship breakdown is what we’re talking focusing on here. But every kind of heartbreak – whether it’s caused by the end of a romance or from a bereavement; the loss of a close friendship, or the grief experienced on the death of a beloved pet – it’s a crisis that nothing can prepare you for.
There’s an old saying, time mends a broken heart. But is there anything you can do to help yourself while you wait for the wounds to heal?
It would be trite to pretend there’s a formula for recovery. Obviously, each hurt and every individual is different and unique. Someone who’s basically quite secure, and who has a good support network, is likely to cope better than someone with less self-confidence who may worry about ever finding someone to love again. Even so, there are a few things that might be helpful to know.
The first is that breaking up is traumatic. The pain is real, and so is the shock, and it’s important to take it seriously. Some people want and need sympathy, others shun it. But either way, there’s usually a need to talk about what’s happened, and it helps if you can find the right kind of listener. There’ll be times when the primary need is to be comforted, others when you need to let off steam, to express anger and all the negative feelings that rise up from the sense of being hurt or rejected. Writing a letter – the kind you never post! – can be cathartic. Get those bad feelings off your chest.
To begin with, it’s natural to obsess, to have the same thoughts constantly going round and round in one’s mind, but it can also drive you crazy and at some point it may be necessary to do something to break that cycle. A change of scene, time away, can be a tonic. Or taking up a new activity which requires a change of focus and a new set of people. That also can bring relief. Rest is really important. Drowning your sorrows, though tempting, is not a great coping strategy.
Above all, just like with a physical injury, you need to be patient with yourself. It takes as long as it takes. It’s hard. But then, one morning, you wake up and find it’s not the first thing on your mind. There were moments when you thought you’d never get over it, but now you realise, yes, you’re feeling better. The healing’s underway, and you start to look forward instead of backwards. Maybe there is someone else out there for you…
Only love can break your heart, it’s true. But, paradoxically, it’s only love that can fully mend it.