Heartbreak eventually finds us all. It’s a part of life that no one can escape. Each of us deals with these complicated feelings in a number of different ways — and sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to help us find our footing again.
I reached out to some incredible men and women who have worked their way through heartbreak and come out on the other side, to see just what they did to get through it. Their ideas and advice are nothing short of life-changing.
Give things to charity
When Adonica Brereton from the blog Positive Expert found herself nursing a broken heart, she found herself facing the realization that the things cluttering her home, were exactly the things she was trying to forget.
But rather than throw everything away, she chose to do something else: donate it all to charity. As she let each item go, she let go of some of her heartache, too. “I’m a firm believer in the idea that if something does not serve my greater good, maybe it was meant to bring joy to someone else,” she said. “Holding into those items was a constant reminder of the unwise choice that I made to be involved with this person, and as I released the items, I forgave myself for being unwise. I let my heart be open to the person who will be my soulmate.”
“Each of us is potentially the wisest and most insightful expert on ourselves,” affirms Heidi Krantz, a certified dating and life coach. “When we tune into our inner wisdom…we know exactly what we need to help ourselves heal. When this wise woman created a positive experience out of her pain, she had tapped into that endless well inside of herself to guide her. There is always a new opportunity ready for us to uncover, during our most painful times.”
Explore the healing power of music
Even after a lifetime spent loving someone, a broken heart may still arise when the relationship ends. I spoke with Scott “The Piano Guy” Houston, the Emmy Award-winning host of The Piano Guy and Music Makers. He told me the story of a man who approached him for help in using music to ease a broken heart, after the passing of his lifelong love.
“When he became a widower, he was just bumbling around the empty house, lonely and despondent, not knowing what to do,” Houston says. “When he was dusting the grand piano in the living room for the millionth time, the light bulb went off. He said he decided to learn to play for his wife…every night, [to] not feel so lonely without her.”
With Houston’s help, the man learned to play songs that his wife loved to listen to, helping him feel closer to her until they’re together again. After the passing of his own mother, even Houston found an emotional release in playing songs that his mother had loved to sing. “It really opens a door to feeling human, that nothing else…can compare to,” he says. “In hindsight, it was terribly cathartic and helped me immensely to work through all that.”
Casimir Spencer, an LA-based public affairs consultant and publicist, had just broken off a serious relationship, when she remembered the closeness she had once shared with her great-grandmother. Spencer then began volunteering as a companion to elderly people who were homebound and had no one else in their lives. “Hearing the brave stories of the lives of the older women I volunteered for, really helped lift me out of a dark valley. There were days I didn’t want to go, or was in too much turmoil to get out of bed, but I always thought about those people and how they needed me.”
With that, Spencer broke through her depression, restructuring her outlook — and her life. “I look back on those dark days and can’t believe how long it’s been and how much I survived. The key is to never give up. Keep waking up in the morning. I refuse to waste one more day waiting to be happy.”
“When we are involved in a difficult life transition, we tend to focus inward,” Coach Heidi says. “Going beyond ourselves is a highly effective way to find meaning and put our issues into perspective. That change in focus shifts our energy into a more positive place: from a ‘victim mentality’ to more of a ‘possibility mentality’.”
Rescue someone else
In addition to volunteering, Spencer also found an incredible new friend when she adopted her dog, Reven. “His love and support was really irreplaceable,” she says. “He showed me what unconditional love really is. No matter how I looked, how I felt, or what I did, he loved me. His sweet, gentle nature became a part of my daily healing regimen, and helped set me up for the greatest comeback of my life…We rescued each other.”
After a divorce, writer Ton Bil found incredible comfort in the company of his cat, Suzie. “Suzie would often just enjoy life with closed eyes, sitting still. Not striving towards this or that, nor trying to avoid something, or resisting reality…You are connecting with another living being. This is the essence of love and life.”
Coach Heidi offered up some wisdom on why pets provide comfort, saying, “The unconditional love that we receive is a beautiful, constant reminder of our inherent value.” She also adds that while this can be a valuable part of the healing process, it shouldn’t take the place of going out to experience new things, and meeting new people.
Explore the root of your hurt
After Bil healed from his divorce, he went on to become a life and relationship coach, writing a book on what he learned from the experience. He found that often, the hurt we feel after a failed relationship isn’t just about the relationship itself. “In my case, I wanted my wife to supply me with a lifelong security and feeling of being embraced, one that I had missed out on, once. Most of us come out of our youth with some feeling of incompleteness. Our heart is not whole, and a partner is chosen to mend it… yet no partner can. The crisis of a breakup can open the door to deeper layers of trauma, and if we allow it to be a blessing in disguise, then a lot more healing can take place.”
He suggests that instead of looking at yourself in conjunction with the pain of the loss, you could take the opportunity to explore what you need in a relationship, what fears you might be holding onto, and how you can love yourself just as you are. Acknowledging these latent emotions can be an invaluable tool in building the confidence and courage to move on.
Sometimes it’s family conflict that breaks a heart, as Patricia Bubash has intimately experienced. A professional counselor with a degree from the University of Missouri, St. Louis, Bubash says that it’s a continued animosity between her two oldest daughters that remains a perpetual source of heartbreak. “My lifelong career only makes this situation more difficult to accept…Shouldn’t a counselor know how to solve problems, especially in her own backyard?”
Bubash has found that while she might struggle to mend fences in her own family, she could begin to fill the hole in her broken heart by reaching out to provide invaluable counsel to others in need. While her dream of having her own grounded family network with close ties may not be a reality, Bubash has found solace working with the children of families going through divorce. “It’s given me an awareness of how wasteful, non-productive, and harmful…the hurt one chooses to inflict on another, really are. Helping others helps me take the focus off that hole in my heart, and maybe it brings some comfort to someone else.”
Find your “hygge”
“This Danish word, (pronounced ‘hue-gah’), will become a girl’s best friend when we feel the aches and pains that love can bring,” says Liz LeClair, a graphic designer and account coordinator with Nancy Marshall Communications in Maine. “It’s about acknowledging the simple things in our everyday lives, and making them extraordinary and special. It’s a feeling and overall mood of complete comfort and coziness. It’s a genuine appreciation for the smallest details that leave you feeling warm-hearted and serene. It is the best way to relieve your mind of sadness and heartache.”
So, what exactly is hygge? It’s the feeling of coming inside after spending an afternoon hiking through the snow, and settling down in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate. It’s going off the grid and getting back to nature. It’s a weekend in the woods. It’s serenity and peace. If you need a moment away from the pain of grief and heartache, ask yourself what you can do to find your hygge.
Nancy Weil, certified grief counselor, author, and founder of The Laugh Academy, affirms, “Use the power of nature to heal. Walk outside and breathe the fresh air. Use essential oils or flower essences to help lift your spirits, sleep deeply, or give you energy for your day. Sit by the water to calm and soothe your soul.”
Sometimes, you gotta go big, in order to free yourself from the deep darkness that a broken heart can cause. Shawn Schweier of Alter Shift is a life coach who did just that. When his relationship ended, he jetted off to Bali, Indonesia. “I remember sitting at the airport, seeing all of the thousands of people, and having an experience of realizing just how many people there actually are in the world. Combine that with the large skies and endless earth that you see on takeoff, and I realized that there’s a limitless amount of possibility and potential ahead in my life.”
But you don’t have to go far to make a huge difference in your life. Schweier suggests picking a place just a stone’s throw past your comfort zone — a place that’s going to have sights, sounds, and experiences that will help you push past any negative stimuli. “Memories of car trips, romantic dinners, or nights out dancing with my ex were soon replaced by treks by scooter and adventures to waterfalls,” he says. “Soon, I couldn’t even remember the person I was trying to forget.”
Healing a broken heart
There’s no one tried-and-true way to cure a broken heart, to move past the pain, and get on with our lives. Those differences in us all are what make the world a wonderful place. And according to Coach Heidi, it is those differences that we come to appreciate when we try new things in the face of heartbreak. With a determination to thrive, she says, “We begin to connect again with what truly matters and with our core strength within, to become the best and most authentic version of ourselves.”
When it comes to healing that broken heart, there’s one thing every method has in common: connecting with ourselves and deciding what we want. Heartbreak can be an opportunity for growth, and as publicist Spencer told me, “I learned that I will no longer compromise my dignity and self esteem for love, because real love doesn’t require that. I changed: mind, body and soul.”