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Heartbreaks Do Hurt: How To Heal From A Painful Heartbreak

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Heartbreaks really hurt. It’s for real literally, not a mere metaphor.

Every time you choose to connect with someone deeply, you’re exposing the most vulnerable part of yourself to another person. It’s like taking your heart out and connect it with another person’s. When this bonding is broken, the connected parts will torn apart. When your heart’s tearing apart, of course it hurts. There’s no difference than any physical pain.

Heartbreaks are so intense that it feels the same as physical pain.

When we experience a heartbreak, we feel sad, disappointed, angry, stressful and fearful because we feel like being rejected. The mixed feelings even cause physical pain with our heart.

Scientists conducted an aforementioned fMRI study of heartbroken individuals,[1]

When the subjects looked at and discussed their rejecter, they trembled, cried, sighed, and got angry, and in their brains these emotions triggered activity in the same area associated with physical pain.

Another study showed that subjects who touched a hot probe and those who looked at a photo of an ex-partner had the same experience of rejection. The physical pain and social rejection are rooted in exactly the same brain regions.

But like any kind of physical injuries, a heartbreak will heal; it just takes time (including a period of emotion ups and downs).

The six stages we go through during a heartbreak:

Stage 1: Denial.
When things are happening too fast, it’s hard to believe it really is happening. We’re not good at handling sudden rejections, and so we want to choose to believe that the bad things never happened. We want to lie to ourselves so as to feel better.

Stage 2: Anger.
When lying to ourselves doesn’t work any more, we start to feel mad about what happened. Why it has to happened on me? Why s/he has to leave me like that? Why life is so unfair? We blame others. We blame the world. We hate the fact that we’re the one losing something.

Stage 3: Blaming yourself.
And then, we start to blame ourselves. Did I do something wrong so this happened to me? I should have done better. I could have done more than that. It’s all my fault. Instead of blaming others, we start to hate ourselves for being ourselves and having messed things up.

Stage 4: Bargaining.
Until this stage, we still can’t really accept what happened. We’re willing to do anything just to revert the result. We want to go back in time to change our past. We want a better ending. If there’s anything we can do to get him/her back, we’ll do it no matter what it takes.

Stage 5: Depressed.
Now we’ve come to a stage where we feel so hopeless and tired after going through so many negative emotions. We don’t want to do anything. We simply want to hide ourselves somewhere to cry, and rest. We are too sad to do anything. Our hearts are crying. Our hearts still ache.

Stage 6: Initial acceptance.
Finally, after all the emotion ups and downs and all the difficult time, we’ve started to accept the truth. We’ve begun to manage to keep ourselves calm. Bit by bit, we realize that we’re not crying that much any more. We’re still sad, but we don’t look back to the past so often.

Reaching stage 6 of heartbreak is a great breakthrough because you’ve totally embraced your emotions, accepting yourself as a vulnerable person. Yet this just the beginning of getting back on track of your life.

After going through the six stages of heartbreak, you’re ready to work on the real healing.

To mend a broken heart, firstly, understand the primal nature of of the wound.

Whether it’s a breakup or a loved one passed away, we’re losing a part of our life that means a lot to us. Here’re two different approaches for different reasons of heartbreaks.

If it’s because a relationship ends:
Are you feeling sad reminiscing all the sweet memories you had with him/her, missing all the moments which are like dreams to you now?

Do you feel like you guys are meant to be together that you simply want to hold on to the relationship?

Or are you afraid that you won’t be able to find a partner who’s as sweet as him/her, or who understands you as much as he/she did?

Maybe it’s not really the person you’re missing; maybe it’s the memories and the feeling of being with someone that you’re missing. Maybe it’s also your ego messing with you, having to face the rejection.

If it’s because of a loved one passes away:
Is it the regret you have that makes you so uneasy? You wish you could have treated him/her better? Or you wish you could have spent more time with him/her?

Or is it that you don’t think you can live without him/her because after all, you guys had been together for so long? Is that you think it’s really hard to get used to living without him/her?

Maybe you do miss the person, but you’re more afraid of living on your own. Imagine yourself living the future without him/her is just painful. You also hold a lot of grudges against yourself.

No matter why you’re experiencing a heartbreak, it all comes down to your fear — the fear of past failure and the fear of future uncertainty.

To kick away the evil fear, try this way.

We can’t change what happened in the past, but we can learn from it and make ourselves a better future.

Now, take out a piece of paper and grab a pen, write down everything you’re sad about this heartbreak:

  • I regret not spending more time with her.
  • He used to cheer me up when I was sad, now I have no one.
  • I never changed my feelings for him but he changed his.
  • I was lost, it wasn’t the real me when I started to become so needy.
  • ……

When you finish writing these, look at each of them and ask yourself these questions:

  • I understand this is part of my life and there’s a lesson in it, what’s that?
    This question makes you think about something that you can take away from the experience, so you can fully accept what happened and take only the lesson with you.
  • How can I apply the lesson learned to my daily life?
    This question guides you to make changes in your life, so you can be more positive about the situation.
  • What can I do now to prevent this from happening again?
    This question forces you to learn from the experience and think again what you can do when coming across similar situations.
  • What (or who) do I have now that will make me feel better?
    This questions helps you to get out of your cave and look at all those people who love and care about you; so you have the motivation to move on.

While writing down your thoughts helps relieve the burden in your heart, asking yourself the above questions reminds you the importance of focusing on the present moment. As you’re answering the questions, you’ll understand yourself a lot more and will soon realize your future becomes more certain, and your life is not that out of control.

Your mind feels calmer, but there’re a few more simple actions to take.

Call your friends and invite them for dinner or just any kind of activities. You need their support and you need a lot of laughters!

Take up some new hobbies or just take back up your old hobbies, just anything you enjoy doing!

Take a break and go traveling (or a staycation in somewhere you’ve never been to) alone. You need some alone time to quiet your mind.

Make some new friends. If you’re too shy to join your friends’ house parties, take some interest classes and meet people with like-minded. Meeting new people can stimulate your brain and make you happier.

Yes time heals, but only if you take actions to take good care of yourself.

As time goes by, bit by bit, you’ll realize that you no longer miss him/her that much any more. You’ll be able to smile when you see the thing that used to remind you of him/her. You’ll be able to see the bright side of things again.

And you’re getting back on track with your life, having good time with your friends and family, enjoying your work and hobbies.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] AsapSCIENCE: The Science of Heartbreak

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