On Heartbreak and Loss

Loss is a fact of life.
We try to fight it, try to do everything to avoid it but, at best, these are only delaying tactics.
Loss is inevitable, inescapable and unstoppable, so we might as well make peace with it.

How does one make peace with a cruel and merciless enemy that cannot be defeated?
It’s a three-step process, with understanding loss as the first step, learning to live with it as the second and learning to be happy despite of it as the third.

Understanding loss

Any loss, whether a loss of a person, a relationship, or an ideal, is accompanied by the pain of separation that we call heartbreak.
Heartbreak is a metaphor we use to describe the gaping hole in our psyche when its integrity is violated. It is like a flesh wound, but on the energetic level, and no less painful for that.

Just like with flesh wounds, there are different degrees of heartbreak, ranging from mild disappointment to total devastation. Just like flesh wounds, heartbreak takes time to heal.

Every single person who came before us has lived with loss and heartbreak. They left behind a piece of their wisdom on the subject: time heals all wounds.

We come to recognize this wisdom ourselves, when sufficient time has passed, though it is no more than an annoying platitude when we are in the throes of heartbreak.

When we are suffering, we don’t want to hear that it will pass – we know it will. We just want to stop suffering right there and then. That is what we want, but not what we need.

Loss forever changes life as we knew it, but the way we react to it determines the quality of our life thereafter.

Living with loss

Our first instinct when we experience loss is usually to fill the hole in the heart with something or someone else. When a loved one passes away, we focus on work; when a pet dies, we get another pet; when a relationship breaks down, we jump into another relationship. We do anything to avoid or dull the pain of separation.

This is analogous to stuffing a flesh wound with a foreign object, in order to stop the bleeding. It might stop the bleeding, but it is also likely to cause infection, or be rejected by the body, or result in a hideous lump of scar tissue around the object.

It is very much the same with heartbreak. Stuffing the hole in the heart with foreign objects prevents the pain from running its course and the wound from closing over. This results in all sorts of dysfunctional, self-distracting behaviour – at home, at work or with the new partner. The pain has to have an outlet and it will find creative, often totally unexpected ways to express itself.

Just like with flesh wounds, the best thing to do for heartbreak is to bind it up lightly and let the time do the healing. This means not fighting the pain but allowing it to run its course and letting yourself experience it as fully as we can possibly manage.

When the wound heals, it will still leave a scar, but the less we interfere with it, the neater the scar will be.

Being happy despite of the loss

Acceptance is the key.
Not only the acceptance of the loss itself, but of the fact that it may take a long time to heal.
It will heal when it will heal, and it won’t do so any sooner for anything we do – quite the opposite.
Any attempts to block, numb or dull the pain will only prolong our suffering.

Focusing on the positive things in life is another key.
It’s not an easy task because everything else seems insignificant in comparison with the loss. Appreciation of other things will not come easy, particularly early on, and the mind will struggle with it.

We will fall off the wagon. We will experience periods of despair and defeat. There is no way around it. The work is to doggedly keep shifting our attention back to the positive things in life, again and again.

Gradually, these periods of down time will become fewer, further apart and less intense. Happiness will return.
We may even begin to get glimpses of happiness deep underneath the suffering and pain.

We mustn’t try to rush things. We mustn’t believe our mind when it tells us that we’re wasting our time grieving and that we should be somewhere else in life, other than where we are.

We are exactly where we’re supposed to be and we are doing what we are supposed to do. We are learning a lesson, and the point is not to get through it quickly, but to learn it fully.

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