There are different beliefs when it comes to healing a broken bone just like there are different beliefs for healing a broken heart.
I learned this when my son broke his arm recently during skiing. An orthopedist chose a removable soft cast for him which made it much easier for my son to shower and swim. We were able to wash and blow dry it to keep it from getting funky.
Usually it takes 6 weeks of immobilization for a broken bone to heal. Yet after 4 weeks, the doctor pronounced the arm healed. This is when we learned different doctors have different beliefs about broken bones. My son’s doctor told us this, and emphasized because my son is young the bone had simply healed faster.
How do you diagnose a broken heart?
We knew my son’s arm was broken because his arm hurt, and an X-ray confirmed it.
Even if you can confirm a broken heart with an imaging study, there’s no soft or hard cast to hold the heart immobile so it can heal. The heart is a muscle in constant motion anyway.
“Broken heart” is just a figure of speech to describe something that hurts emotionally. It isn’t literal. Is it? The heart is broken because we’ve lost the love our heart knew in life.
At the end of 2016, actor Debbie Reynolds had a fatal heart attack the day after her daughter actor Carrie Fisher died. Friends and family have both said, “She wanted to be with Carrie.”
Research confirms stress can cause heart attacks. The sudden death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, and/or trauma can trigger a large stress response. When stress-induced cardiomyopathy is extreme, it can result in heart attack and death.
(That’s rare, however. And if you’re experiencing the more serious symptoms of a heart attack, which you can read here, consult a medical professional immediately.)
Assuming you have a more typical case of a broken heart, what can you do? Let’s look at how you can apply attention and care to a broken heart so you can still participate in life while you heal.
#1: Remember the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with YOU
First, remember that the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. How you turn toward yourself in this time of trouble and pain will signal how your heart healing will progress.
What I notice when I’m seeing clients in my office or online is the different ways people try to get relief from the pain of a broken heart.
We all have our ways of coping that are automatically triggered by a traumatic event. The next step however is to ask, “Is this the best method to tend to my broken heart?”
Some clients ignore the pain and try to live life as if nothing happened. Imagine if my son had done this! His broken arm would never have healed properly.
Other clients fill up their lives with being busy because it’s easier than slowing down and feeling the pain. The analogy of my son’s arm doesn’t quite work here. So instead, I’ll say that getting extremely busy does work! But then you are alone and exhausted and you’re more vulnerable parts flood you with tears, pain, and deep feelings of loneliness and loss.
These are 2 immediate and perfectly human responses. But just because they’re natural doesn’t mean they’re acceptable or even effective.
Your most important relationship is with you, and just like a broken arm, you need to modify your life so you can heal yourself.
#2: Remember it is not shameful to feel pain as a result of loss
Slow down and become aware of your inner parts and how you are currently managing your pain. Because the pain is real. It is not shameful to feel pain with loss. There is no “good” way to feel this pain but there are worse ways. Choose ways that support you through this heartache and loss.
- It’s the job of your protector parts to race around and coordinate you in a way to stop the pain
- Often times protector parts choose activities like excessive shopping, eating, drinking, or couch-potato-ing
- They will ignore the consequences of all that “fun” even if it’s getting in trouble at work or alienating your friends
- If you were to ask your parts that are protecting you in their different extreme ways of coping “Is the best way to tend to my broken heart?” they would give you an emphatic YES.
Your parts really are trying to help you even if it’s not working. These wonderful inner protectors work all the time to control inner and outer environments so we don’t feel the strong negative emotional pain from past hurts and traumas. Even, if at times, their choices only cause more pain.
The problem is, they are only parts of us so they cannot see the bigger picture. But Self can.
When you bring in your Self qualities of Calm and Compassion to your hurting parts, that’s when you can help heal yourself. Feeling connected is also important. Connect with yourself as well as others who are a healing support.
#3: LOVE is the cast you can give yourself for a broken heart
When clients come into therapy with a broken heart, I support them to see that bigger picture.
A picture that includes the parts of them that are hurt and need their attention to heal.
It’s true that when we can step back from managing and controlling the pain, the pain will step in and we do feel it.
- That’s the feeling that begins the healing because these sad vulnerable feelings (parts) are you too.
- These sad and vulnerable parts need love caring and positive attention.
- They need to be seen heard and felt so they can feel connected to the greater Self that is you. And feel your Compassion.
- This inner loving connection begins by healing the loneliness, terror, and anxiety.
You are not completely alone. You have YOU!
Love is a powerful healer. And we have it in us all the time. So, give love to yourself. Can’t do it alone? Ask for help. Friends, family, or a professional can and want to support you. Give yourself the important gift of their love.
In loving yourself you grieve with yourself and the heart becomes stronger it heals slowly.
Love is the “cast” to give to your heart while it heals. It may be taken off at times but put back on during strenuous emotional times.
“Day 37: Directions to fix something broken” by Flickr user Cali4beach is licensed under CC BY 2.0.