valentine's day

How To Heal a Broken Heart

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Sometimes, loving means losing.

If you aren’t waking up in partnered bliss (or something close to it) this morning, here are some words to perhaps comfort you. Whether you’re single and alone by choice, chance or due to a recent death of a beloved partner, you may find yourself catching your breath a few times today—and maybe shedding a tear or two for memories or dashed hopes.

For me, the sadness of missing a certain someone hurts more than the fear of being alone without a Valentine. I don’t want a placeholder as much as I miss the heart, mind and spirit of a beloved person I held dear.

Having loved and lost more than once in my life, here is my best advice to heal a broken heart.

1)   Grieve it

Whether it happened on purpose, by accident or because a life ended, it’s an ending. It’s a loss and losses aren’t easy for us humans. Some are more welcome than others, especially if we made the choice to end the relationship. But if you find yourself not exactly leaping for joy and dancing in the streets, I recommend you spend significant time grieving the loss you’ve experienced. Many people, if not most, often jump to the next thing: the next person, the next job, the next topic of conversation. They push down or avoid the feelings about the loss or absence or the way things ended. It’s hard, painful stuff and many people find it easier to numb out and “move on” by compartmentalizing and avoiding the grieving process. But I don’t recommend this. It catches up to you, eventually. I recommend you do and do it good. Go through the pictures. Thumb through the hand-written notes. Remind yourself of what you valued and treasured about that person. And hold it alongside the truth of what hurt or didn’t feel right and good for you. A healthy grieving process will earn you years of authentic healing and solace in the long-term. You’ll be able to make real peace with what happened, whatever it was.

2)   Consider your part

If the ending or loss happened despite your best efforts, it’s really easy to blame or shame the other person. This feels good in the short-term but rarely does anything to really help us build character. Having done this myself in relationships and jobs, I know how tempting it is to nurture the victim part of us that wants to feel wronged or hurt, abandoned or rejected. We want the other side to hurt too, dammit! This is natural because we are human, but it won’t help you truly forgive and forget. It also increases the chances that we will perpetuate our contribution, whatever it was, in the next situation. Sometimes, we do this to preserve our sense of self, and we can miss seeing something that would be good to know about ourselves. If you consider and fully contemplate whatever your part was, you’re one step closer to being part of the solution and prevention of it repeating itself again in your life. Or you might get insight you never had before and you can see the other person in a totally different light. Which is a good thing-for you and other people in your life.

3) Say what you need to say

A lot of people are really bad listeners. Don’t talk to those people. They are often too self-absorbed and caught up in their own lives to pay attention to what you’re saying. Chances are, they haven’t fully grieved losses in their own lives and they won’t bear witness to your process in a way that really helps you. Find people who don’t say cliche things like, “he/she is resting in peace” or “sorry it didn’t work out” or “it wasn’t meant to be.” You have a broken heart! It hurts! Platitudes don’t honor the deeply-rooted and real feelings you’re experiencing. Talk to a professional and/or compassionate friends who make you feel heard and supported in your process, however long it takes. If it is safe or welcomed, express anything that remains for you to the other person. Or write a letter or email and delete it. Over and over again. Until it’s all out. When you can safely process all the feelings you have about the complexity of the loss and its impact on your past, present and future, you increase your chances of healing sooner and more completely.

4)   Practice forgiveness

Whatever happened, happened for a good reason. Sometimes it takes us months or years to fully understand and appreciate this, but having experienced tremendous heartbreak numerous times, I can tell you that with every fiber of my being. If the person left or died suddenly, forgive the abrupt ending. Is it harder or easier for you to forgive someone who has passed on? Or how about someone who is still alive but out of contact? Don’t try to see the meaning right away, it may not be apparent. But you can practice forgiving yourself and the other party for whatever shortcomings or shortsightedness led to the loss. People do and say things coming from their given capacity at the time, and it is unfortunate and frustrating when the needs, interests and abilities of each partner don’t match up. Consider what you did and didn’t do or say that worked or didn’t work. Give yourself a break, because you probably did what you could—or wanted to do—at the time.

5) Practice platonic love

I’m assuming you have at least one if not MANY people in your life. And I bet you love them all a lot. Spend the day calling them or emailing them or texting heart emojis. Tell your kids, tell your parents, siblings and friends about your gratitude for them. Hug them. Make Valentine’s Day cards for your plants who selflessly receive your carbon dioxide and give out oxygen day in and day out. Send love to strangers on the street or in countries far away. Within minutes of doing this, you’ll realize that time spent mourning the loss of one person, however significant that person was, is time you can also invest in other relationships in your life. You could probably spend the day making cards for everyone you’ve ever loved in your life and not finish before it’s time to go to bed.

If you do all these things, I hope you find and feel more peace than you did when you began reading this article. Perhaps it revealed something new for you and can help you reach a different stage of your healing process.

For more information, read up on Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her theory about the stages of grief. You can find where you are in your process and remember how many people share your feelings around the world. Know that time, will indeed, heal your heart if you help it along just a bit.

5 Ways to Savor Your Singlehood

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We have a big holiday coming up next weekend!

February 15th is Singles Awareness Day. It's a day where people who are single get to speak up and say, "hey, it's OKAY to be single."

More than merely okay, I think singlehood should be savored. The more I listen to people or see their posts on Facebook lamenting their single status, I’ve come to realize I’m a little bit weird. I’ve never felt the need to be partnered. Yes, I've suffered greatly from the loss of past loves in my life but it was more about my attachment to that person than feeling like a loser because now I wouldn't have a significant other.

Too many people spend significant amounts of time chasing idealized notions of happiness, peace and fulfillment by looking for love in the all the wrong places. And if they aren’t looking for true love, they are likely settling for sex with a rebound to feel "ok." Don’t get me wrong, I think a healthy sexual identity is part of a healthy life, but all too often people use sex to numb out, hide from true intimacy and the pain of whatever they are running from.

A friend said to me the other day, “it’s easy enough to find someone to f*%^. It’s much more difficult to commit to a partnership and find a soulmate.”

True words, indeed. I'd rather be alone than in a rebound, baby.

But our society glamorizes and reinforces this at every turn in marketing and media so it really takes some strength and conviction to stand apart from the crowd and claim your singlehood.

We shouldn't need another person's attention or presence to feel cool or normal or valid.  We shouldn’t want a partner just so we’re not alone or people don’t think we are weird or broken in some way. In fact, some of the best times of my life have been the gaps between relationships. I know it can be hard to resist feelings of inadequacy or insecurity, so I thought I'd share some ways to help you savor your singlehood, too.

1) Go on a dating diet.

Research shows that diets don't work to help you lose weight. You end up gaining back whatever you lost and then some. Dating diets, however, can help you, especially if you find yourself in a trend with relationships. Feeling frustrated with your string of exes? A dating diet helps you step back and say, "whoa, now" and assess whatever the heck wasn't working. It does require you to actually not date. And abstain from sex, because that's a relationship, I don't care how casual it is. You're still seeking something from someone and distracting yourself with the attention and presence of that person. Your unresolved stuff that caused the trend with previous partners will still be there. A dating diet can help your mind and body detox from recurring patterns. Having a hard time with the thought of this? Consider you're addicted to needing something from other people, just like people are addicted to coffee or bread or cheese. What is that telling you?

2) Do whatever you want, whenever you want.

You can walk down the street and randomly decide you're going to the movies. Now. Or fill your weeknights and/or weekend with plans of things you love doing. Treat yourself to brunch. Get a new wardrobe. Travel to Italy. Masturbate. Make new friends. Wash the dishes, or not. Decide the pile of laundry can and should get bigger. Sit on the couch and don’t lift a finger for 12 hours, watching movies or knitting or reading whatever you like. When you're single, you get to have "you time" 24/7 and don't have to worry if you're walking that fine line between healthy independence and blatant selfishness. If you’re doing this in a relationship, you probably shouldn’t be in one.

3) Practice being comfortable and content with your own company.

Being alone means different things to different people. Some people really struggle with it, others find it completely comfortable. When your friends aren’t around and there’s nothing to do, are you comfortable and content with your own company? Do you need someone around or pursuing you to feel at peace? Try this for a week. Then two weeks. Then two months. Try not surrounding yourself with people every waking minute. Spend significant amounts of time alone with just yourself. Pay attention to your thoughts. Be really present with how it feels to be alone. Don't complain about it on Facebook, just be with it. Get in touch with what makes you happy. You will be able to see with stark clarity who you were drawn to and why things ended the way they did. It can help you get really clear on how you want to feel around all people, including an intimate partner. You can spend this time paying closer attention to communication habits and interpersonal interactions with every person in your life. Make art. Cook for yourself. Train for a triathlon. Become your own best friend so you never feel lonely or alone with or without the presence of another person.

4) Clearly see the misery disguised as "happy" all around you.

Don’t be deceived by appearances. Coupled people aren’t necessarily happy. As a health coach and general careful observer, I’ve learned how often people lead double lives. What you see in those instagram pictures may be the farthest thing from the actual truth. I know at least one "heterosexual" couple smiling for the camera though one of them is OBVIOUSLY and UNDOUBTEDLY gay. The tension between them was so obvious, you could cut it with a damn knife. You can pick up a lot listening to couples bicker in grocery stores or sitting silent at restaurants or you'll see subtle, resentful remarks made in a Facebook comment. I’m not saying everyone is miserable, but every time you scroll through Facebook or your phone thinking about everyone else who is so-called “happily” partnered, think again. Most people are drawn together and act out unresolved pain from childhood and adolescence. This doesn't always happen but many people are unhappy in their relationships, often enduring unfaithful partners or avoiding deep truths just to fit in with the crowd. They may not have summoned the courage to leave or really invest in improving the relationship they are in.  This isn't to shame anyone, but if you find yourself making a comparison, know that many people probably envy you and your freedom!

5) Say novenas for the bullets you've dodged.

There is nothing like some good perspective, and a sighting of your ex’s rebound selection, to make you thank your lucky stars that you dodged a bullet. Time, space and some good healthy grieving will help you answer important questions like, “what, exactly, the heck was I thinking?” Reflect on the good times, sure, but bring into high contrast the memories of that person as he or she truly was. Remember the way that person made you feel. Were you loved? Cherished? Prioritized? Or were you treated like an accessory or afterthought over and over and over again? Think of the many people who came before you and say some prayers for the person who followed you in line, because they walked right into the mess that had your gut telling you to run away.

 

If you want to savor your singlehood, stop complaining about being single or feeling badly about it in any way. Choose to embrace the time and space you have to live your life completely free and unfettered. Practice being really good to your friends and  yourself and develop into the partner you want to be when you find the right person. Your partnered friends in miserable relationships want to live vicariously through you, so LIVE IT UP!