“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.” — Rumi
Whether you saw it it coming or didn’t, the feeling is the same: You’re devastated. You gasp at your vulnerability and wonder, “Why did this happen?” Whether it’s pain accumulated from childhood or an intimate relationship dissolving, there’s a tendency to shut down afterwards.
Life dishes up so many hardships: heartbreak, illness, injury, death, abandonment. Though we may share similar experiences, every hurt is personal. No matter how many times well-meaning people say, “We understand,” they don’t. You may even resent them for trying.
You cannot hold on to feelings of sadness and disappointment because doing so means to inhibit life flowing through you. It is akin to building a dam from piles of rocks in a flowing river. Eventually, the force of the water will erode the rocks or find its way through it.
I held on to my feelings of sadness last winter. My mom passed away, my marriage was nothing as planned and I was just sad, the saddest I have ever felt. I stopped working out and I became anti-social. I went to work and that was about it. I missed my kids sporting events, I gained a ton of weight and I was just sad. I woke up one day and knew I had to snap out of it. I knew deep down I was worth so much more than how I was living. My point is, we all hit a rut in life, but we have to get out of that rut.
I asked myself, who am I without pain? To some, a crazy questions, but really, some of my life greatest lessons and growth have come from pain. It sucks during the process. It is difficult to release pain following a traumatic experience. There’s a sense of numbness, and emptiness in places you never knew existed. It’s natural to protect yourself by vowing never to be hurt again. However, in my different process of pain in my life, I have met amazing people along the way. I have learned to heal, to focus on my journey and to set goals that are self satisfying to me.
What to Do After You’ve Been Emotionally Hurt
I count myself among the heartbroken. I have nursed the dying, lost my brother, my mom and my best friend, I have suffered heartbreak. I have suffered not feeling worthy of another, I have cried alone on the street, in my classroom, alone when I go to bed at night, sometimes with friends and family, sometimes with clients. I tried to dodge heartache but, like everyone, it eventually found me. It’s one of life’s cruel certainties. It also just sucks! Yet, I am thankful for the process as for me personally, I am who I am today due to heartbreak. It has led me to write, to coach and as an educator help countless students. I am just thankful, I am strong enough to endure and see beyond.
How to Support Your Healing Process
- Honor Your Pain
Avoidance of pain increases it. To heal, you must pass through the doorway of grief. That door way is a hard one and can be extremely heavy. Emotional wounds are beyond “sadness”; they’re felt in the depths of your being. Honor your pain; don’t run from it. Unplug, put time aside to reflect, and give yourself permission to grieve. If well-meaning people push you to “Get over it,” ignore them. Surround yourself with friends who understand that. It’s a process, take some time for the process to work.
- Reach Out
Being alone is part of healing, but long periods of isolation are unhealthy. Deep pain always brings out personal demons, such as blaming yourself, embracing victim-hood, or bitterness. Reach out to friends, seek comfort in prayer, meditation, working out or journal writing—whatever brings you peace of mind. Instead of longing for a miracle, create one.
- Take a Break
It’s important to take a break from your pain, and engage in healthy compartmentalization. Everyone finds relief in different ways. Some find creative activities such as writing, reading, music, art, or movies. Others find it in movement such as dance, hiking, long walks, etc. Choose a task that allows you to escape by stepping into another reality, even if it’s only for a few moments. It is the holiday season, so I have to admit, my escape is the Hallmark movies. HA. I know they are all the same, but I love the sappiness of love and holidays.
- Learn from It
I’ve heard it said that the road to wisdom is paved with suffering. Reflecting, exploring, and pondering, without self-attack or blame, opens you up to greater understanding and compassion for yourself and others. Believe and know you did all you know how to do. Did you handle things the best you could? Learn from that, and grow. An attitude of learning will help you unearth value in the experience. You may also discover a curious new freedom: Recovering from an emotional trauma or heartbreak makes you stronger, wiser, and more resilient, if you allow it to. Forgive those that have hurt you. Embrace the positive of the person who passed away and look at the gifts they brought to your life. My mom taught me unconditional love and truly she turned horrible situations into the best situation she could. She never gave up and that is such a gift she has passed on to me.
- Move On
Some people allow suffering to define them, shape them and, ultimately, rob of them of living. Will you allow emotional pain hold you back or will you decide to use it to propel you in a new direction?
I discovered the emotional pain settles and what is left is a most beautiful and expansive energy of love that has always been there. After all, pain is not who you are, but something you experienced and you have the power to revoke anytime you choose. You have to be the one ready to heal and move forward on this journey, after all this is your journey. Own it and make it your best!
Becky Shaffer–Adolescent/Adult Life Coach–Author–Educator