Some of you will never have to experience the pain of a break up induced broken heart. This is not to say you won’t experience pain in life; it will just be of a different nature. There are others of you that know all too well how difficult a broken heart can be and how long it can take to heal. Growing up, I had my share of broken hearts, and believe me, some were worse than others. Some heartaches last a few weeks; whereas, some only last a few days; whereas, some last for years. Generally, after being on the receiving end of a break up, grief comes in stages.
The Kübler-Ross model lists the stages of grief as follows:
- Denial — When we first lose a relationship, there is a time of shock. “How can this be happening?!?”
- Anger — After some crying, often comes rage. This is the stage where we break things, burn pictures, write demeaning things on Facebook (which I don’t ever recommend no matter how hurt you are feeling), and internally debate whether or not to slash tires (again, not recommended).
- Bargaining — After the dust of the rage settles, it is not uncommon to go through a bargaining phase. This can manifest itself by you trying to work things out with your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. It can manifest itself by you crying and begging God to restore your relationship. This may be the time you go through your relationship repeatedly in your mind, looking for how you could’ve done things differently.
- Depression — Then, after the exhaustion of the bargaining phase passes, there is emptiness – for a while. It’s amazing how emptiness leaves an ache in your chest. It feels like something was ripped from your heart.
- Acceptance — Eventually, the ache does begin to heal, though the process is slowed if it is re-aggravated. Healing begins when you reach acceptance.
So, let us discuss how to heal from a broken heart.
Just as physical wounds need to be protected from outside forces while they heal (e.g., bandage), so do emotional wounds. One of the worst things you can do for a gash is continually expose it to the elements.
When we are in the process of healing from an emotional wound, exposing it to certain situations will not only keep it from healing, it will make the pain worse. Trying to remain friends with your ex is one way of reopening a wound. If you are able to become friends again naturally, that’s great – though it’s very rare, so you should not expect it. If two people become fast friends after breaking up, you can bet at least one of them is in a constant emotional battle. From my experience and formal training, I believe it is not possible to be good friends with a recent ex (and sometimes even an ex from long ago).
Engaging in badmouthing sessions is another sure-fire way to keep reopening the wound. At the time, sitting with your friends, laughing and making fun of your ex may seem empowering, but it’s just the opposite. Choosing to talk about him or her keeps you in the pain. It’s when you choose to move on, pursue other objectives, and stop using your past relationship as part of your self-identification that your heart has the chance to heal. You will know you are over someone when you no longer see the need or have the energy to put him or her down. Grudges are exhausting and they don’t hurt the offender – they hurt you. Holding grudges against an ex is a sure sign that you are wallowing in unforgiveness. When we continue to marinate in our anger, we turn good friends, and good opportunities, away.
When we get a cut, scrap, or gaping wound, we often seek aid. For smaller cuts, we use band-aids with Neosporin. Neosporin has antibacterial medication that helps to heal the cut faster and the band aid keeps the elements from getting into the cut. For medium and large sized wounds we seek the help of doctors and often need larger bandages, casts, stronger medication, and/or surgery to aid in the healing process.
For emotional wounds needing such care, we need the emotional salve that comes from God’s word. The words of the Bible are truth. Dwelling on the truth has healing power. Seek the Great Physician. He does not only heal us of our physical ailments, He heals broken hearts too. I have experienced His emotional healing many times. Sometimes it is during those times of healing when you realize no relationship is as meaningful and fulfilling as a relationship with your Heavenly Father. No boyfriend or girlfriend can ever compare.
But also remember that God can administer His grace to you through other people. Just like doctors heal physical wounds, counselors and pastors skilled in counseling can help to heal deeper emotional wounds (and they can also be useful in preventative care too – going for an annual relationship/marital checkup is a good idea!).
Are you going through a difficult breakup? Has it been a while since you’re break up, but you are still struggling with the pain? If so, I would encourage you to start by seeking the Great Physician. If you are being tempted to rip open your wound again, determine within yourself to make wise decisions with your heart. Don’t put yourself in situations that keep the wound open. If you need to, seek the counsel of a wise adult or professional. Don’t deny the pain, but don’t choose to wallow in it. It may not seem like it right now, but you will heal and come out stronger if you allow your heart the time and space to heal.
How have you dealt with past break ups? How are you dealing with one you’re currently going through?