While interviewing Katherine Woodward Thomas, author of Conscious Uncoupling: Five Steps to Living Happily Even After, for the Love Well podcast, she said something that really struck me: “Time doesn’t heal a broken heart; we need to heal our own hearts.” That got me thinking about what we do to heal our hearts from loss, betrayal, and perceived abandonment.
When something catastrophic happens, we clearly have choices. We can harden our hearts, shut down, build walls, stop feeling, or we can gingerly climb through the cracks in our hearts and discover a rich and beautiful landscape of love, magic, and strength.
Quite frankly, the way I see it after losing both my brothers and my mother (not to mention numerous other relatives, sweethearts, friends, and beloved pets) is that we humans somehow try really hard not to face the reality that we are all going to part ways. All of us. We will lose all of our friends, lovers and family—and they will lose us, either through death, circumstance or choice. Since this has been happening to all of us since the beginning of time, and as far as I know, will continue to happen, why don’t we have a better grip on grief and loss?
I turned my attention toward how my own heart has healed, or is healing still—from deaths, break ups, deceit, and loved ones shutting the door to love and forgiveness.
Here are some tips and please feel free to add yours in the comments.
Be mindful of your self-talk. While the loss of a loved one is painful and sad, I’ve found that the story I have told myself about that loss has the capacity to make it way more painful or way less. When a boyfriend cheated on me, telling myself the story that I wasn’t loveable or was “less than her” caused more pain. Telling myself the story that he wasn’t the right match for me and that he just did me a favor by ending the relationship, made it less painful.
When my mom was dying, I was telling myself the story that this was the worst thing that ever happened to me. My spiritual coach at that time lovingly said, “Your ego thinks this is the worst thing that ever happened, your spirit knows it’s the best.” While at the time this was hard to grapple with, I held onto that new way of thinking like the safety bar in a roller coast ride. It held me safely through the experience and caused me to look for the possibility of truth in that statement. It switched me from looking for why this was terrible, toward the opportunity to grow.
Evaluate your thoughts for the truth. We tend to think that just because we think something, that it is the truth. These thoughts turn into beliefs that are often not true (unless we choose to make them true). Telling ourselves that we cannot survive without another is simply not the truth. Telling ourselves that we will never love again or be loved again or that we will never heal, we cannot handle the loss, that life is no longer worth living, doesn’t need to be the truth. Again, we have the choice.
Fully feel your pain. I know it sounds counterintuitive to healing, but for me the pain only lessened when I stopped trying to block it and numb it. “What you resist persists,” as they say. I sought help from a healer to stand witness as I sobbed and heaved the emotions from my body, but remarkably, I felt 100% better afterwards.
Turn toward your blessings. Recently I was talking with a dear friend who is 70 years old, struggling with cancer and facing homelessness all at the same time. When I asked how she was managing she said, “Every moment I want to succumb to fear and sadness, I count my blessings. There are so many!”
Enhance the joy. Watch the sunset, blow bubbles, swim, dance, sing, paint, write, hike, listen to beautiful music, and make new friends. Engage in all that makes life worth living. In my experience, trying to diminish pain doesn’t work nearly as well as growing and enhancing what makes us joyful.
“Bring back the magic; don’t make life so tragic,” to borrow from Jimmy Buffett. I like to believe the universe is out to do me good. Every time I have turned my attention toward, “How is this a blessing to me?” or focused on watching for the signs from a lost loved one, I am answered with magic. I get messages. I get answers. Every time. Don’t just believe me; try it. Watch for the signs and look for the blessings.
Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Choose to see everything as a miracle, even the painful losses, and your heart may just miraculously heal.