By Jillian Turecki
Note: For a free audio training on how to survive a heartbreak, click here
Can you remember the last time your heart was broken? Maybe it was from a major breakup with a lover, or from a different trauma entirely. Below are my 7 Steps to Survive Heartbreak - inspired by my most recent break-up, my divorce 3 years ago. But listen, that break-up wasn’t the only heartbreak I experienced at that time, so these steps can help you move forward no matter what the circumstance. So whether you’re in the midst of splitting with your significant other, happily coupled, OR single - read on. You never know who it might help, including you.
Before I delve into the steps, I want to tell you this: nothing I share with you is going to take away the pain, especially if you’re in the thick of it right now. BUT, there is a way to reduce the suffering. You see, pain and suffering are different. Pain is an inevitable part of life and is therefore a very natural and organic part of the human experience. You will experience physical pain, and the emotional scratches, burns and bruises cut even deeper. This is why all spiritual leaders, books, metaphors and masters describe pain as something to accept, something to surrender to, as it will all pass. But suffering is different. Suffering is when you have deep pain AND you feel like you have no control. The moment you feel powerless to change your circumstance is the moment you suffer.
But here’s the truth: there is so much we can’t control – especially in a break-up. But, there is a lot we CAN control. So, although pain is a fact of life, suffering is optional. Right now I want to talk about ending and preventing all unnecessary despair. There are steps, actions and shifts to your thinking that can be taken to ease your transition into this (often) abrupt new life.
- How you grieve is your business. I will warn you that avoiding your feelings all day long will only delay and amplify your pain. However, I think distracting yourself at times during the week is necessary. A lot of people are of two camps: distract or feel everything. I say both. Do NOT avoid your feelings, but don’t think you have to be wallowing in pain all day long. Distract yourself with: being with friends, trying new activities, watching a movie, reading, writing. If this heartbreak is fresh, go into a cave and lick your wounds if you need to, but come out for air periodically. If you need to talk about it obsessively, find a friend who will listen and then take moments of silence. Feel your feelings AND MAKE ROOM FOR OTHER FEELINGS TOO. Joy is always available to you – even if it’s fleeting. And so is RELIEF. Seriously, it’s ok to feel relief.
- Get help. There are people in your life who love you and want to be there for you even if they don’t know how. (Forgive them for that). So round the troops. Call your tribe. Even if it’s just one person. We really can’t do the vicissitudes of life on our own.
- Move your f*cking body. 3 years ago I lost my marriage and my mom was on her deathbed. I could barely lift a finger - I was so fucking wiped all the time for an entire year. But thankfully I have a dog that needs to be walked. So, I walked. A lot. I breathed deeply when I remembered to. If you’re tired, walk and breathe. If you’re the opposite with pent up anxious energy, get your ass to the gym, go to a yoga class, or jump rope and dance in you apartment. Do something. Breathe, lift your chest and raise your head on top of your shoulders.
- Change the meaning. If you’re in the throes of heartbreak, I bet you’re focusing A LOT on the other person and playing a movie, narrative and story in your head on repeat. But here’s what you may not know: you actually have a choice as to what this loss is going to mean. Yup, re-read that sentence again. Trust me. For example: This experience could mean that you’re unworthy, unlucky in love and life, fucked up, a failure, stupid, mean, bad. All of which are extremely limiting thoughts that are bullshit even though you believe them. OR, this breakup/loss can mean you are being pulled to GROW PAST YOUR COMFORT ZONE. It could mean you’re meant to take a different direction in life that will be more fulfilling and meaningful to you. It could mean you’re meant to see, feel and know your strength. You see, if you give this event an empowering meaning, one that is meant to grow you, then growth is what you’ll focus on. And when we focus on our own growth and progress, fulfillment follows.
- Date yourself. Now’s the time to get in touch with YOU. Your values, your principles, your beliefs. And not the ones you have been conditioned to have and believe based on your environment, but the ones you want to cultivate right now. What is truly important to you? What old wounds or stories of your past are still controlling you and what you believe? What do you value at the highest at THIS time in your life –meaning not last year or last week? Write them down. Make a list. Add to or delete from it every day for a year, then monthly after that. When you shift your focus AWAY from the other person/relationship, away from shitty meanings that support self-loathing or inadequacy, then you will grow. Remember this: Growth = progress = fulfillment. You can grow and still grieve. You can be sad and lonely, but if you know you are evolving you will feel fulfilled in spite of your pain.
- Create a future to look forward to. I believe we all need something to look forward to, and when we can’t imagine a brighter future, this leads to suffering and despair. It’s unfortunate that we’ve been conditioned to believe that our future just happens to us. NO. We have to create the future we want. Will there be delays and detours? Yes. But there will be nothing worth mentioning if you don’t create. As out of control and confused you may feel, move towards something. Maybe it’s a career change you’ve been dreaming about one day making, or an epic travel experience, or continuing education, or joining a club or a group of some sort. Or perhaps there is a person or organization you’ve been wanting to serve in some way? Whenever we give back, we get out of our heads. And getting out of our head is the ticket to healing.
- Recognize moments of Grace. I think of grace as moments when life feels like it’s giving me a gift. But often these gifts go unrecognized because they appear seemingly small, and we’re too in our heads to notice. But no matter what your belief system is about the universe I promise you this: You are being gifted all the time, and the more you wake up to them, the more love you will feel. For example: On the day after my husband unexpectedly called it quits I was sitting on a bench outside my apartment building in complete shock and intense despair. My neighbor, who happened to be a coach, found me, sat down, and we started talking. I won’t burden you with all the details here, but that evening marked the first day of my new life. To listen to the story, you can subscribe here: (link to anna’s podcast) That’s a big example, but there are others - such as when you run into someone loving you know on the street, or you get that call or email at just the right time, or someone shows up at work with your favorite juice or coffee. Etc.
I know what you’re going through, (or what you went through) so when I tell you this, know that it comes from the deepest part of my heart and compassion: You need to be courageous now, and even though you might think that’s impossible, I’m here to tell you it’s not. It’s not a linear road to feeling better. It’s rocky then smooth, then rocky, then smooth and so on. But, if you really follow these steps, things will begin to improve, and eventually you WILL get out on the other side so much better. Stronger, for sure, but better. Happier. Wiser. Certain. Give yourself time. Don’t rush, take it day-by-day. This, I promise you, is a process and there are people and opportunities waiting to help move you forward and up. You are loved.
Here’s to moving onward.
Note: For a free audio training on how to survive a heartbreak, click here