This past week I was asked a question: “My heart feels broken. How can I heal it?”
It’s a difficult and multi-faceted question that I had to think about quite a bit. For purposes of this article, the concept of a broken heart shall be taken in a broad sense, one not necessarily having to do with primary love as in partner or spousal relationships.
An example of something that might seem heartbreaking, or cause your heart to weep, might be when someone in your life is truly lost, feels depressed and uncertain, or doesn’t feel hope. That kind of situation can break little pieces from your heart quietly and consistently.
Healing from something that happens to another is challenging because you really have little or no power to change the situation. You suffer with that individual but they may never really understand that, because they’re in their own terrible pain. That can bring a sense of isolation to you, but don’t let that take over.
The healing of your whole heart, or the pieces that feel damaged, can only happen through the connection and love between yourself and that person. It will likely be you who will have to continue to reach out, to check in. Calling, texting, any way that’s comfortable. The personal connection is the key and the most powerful.
Another example might be the loss of a job, or a home you love, and at times those two losses are part of a decision-based move. When we relocate for career reasons, we move on, yes. We also sometimes leave things and people we love.
Perhaps we might feel relief because we never really liked that job or home very much, or felt comfortable in that area. A loss can be both positive and negative. That’s kind of confusing, so we need to separate those experiences from the times you’re ‘moving on’ from something to feel better or safer.
If there is change in life that is of your doing, like changing jobs because it’s a better job, it can lead to more financial stability, increase your self-confidence or bring more happiness. Still, it may cause an ache in your heart because change is difficult for most and there is always going to be some loss, even if you chose it, planned it and did it.
So how do those losses heal? One way is to be honest with yourself that you planned it because you thought it was best. You felt you needed a change, a different space with different challenges and gifts, which is absolutely okay. Embrace your own needs and motivations. Losses will lessen and hearts will be healed. Your strength will be elevated and your power will, hopefully, emerge.
Sometimes a heartbreaking situation is far away geographically; you may not even know anyone involved, such as political or violence-based activities. When you see or hear such news, often about multiple shootings or violent behavior, you can feel immense sorrow, confusion or even anger.
Why would your heart break or ache over something that has nothing to do with you? Because you have empathy for others, or you innately understand that there will be loss of life or of spirit, and your heart reacts. It feels hurt, maybe broken, and often shaky because you can’t do anything to help immediately. That may cause you to feel some guilt or frustration.
Don’t despair, though. There are things you can do, even from far away. You can find a pertinent charity and choose to give money if you have it, or you could learn as much as you can to familiarize yourself with the work of those who hate the violence as much as you do. Then, perhaps, you could join a group working for change. Doing even a little of that work can make a difference – to you and to the cause that upset your heart.
For the past year and several months, many heartbreaking things have occurred, and each individual experienced some of those things in their own way. The healing from those experiences also varied; for instance, every time you heard that COVID infections were growing, perhaps you felt sad and cried when you saw news clips of the actual situation. Emoting helps us to heal quite a bit.
Like touching base with those we care about, allowing our emotions to reach our heart, can cause emotions to surface, a healing thing. We can even have our heart ache in a positive way. If you see or hear someone describe a beautiful situation, we often tear up. An example of that might be a feel-good story of a hero, going out of their way to rescue a child or someone in a violent happening. Some things are so wonderful that perhaps your heart will flutter, or you will feel tears of joy. That too affects your heart, only in a positive manner. Embrace those times, allow that emotion to come up, and then out.
Our inner healing will always be one of the most important things we do, employing our personal skill set to the best of our ability in any given situation. Healing of the heart is often a process that can change, have ups and downs, but will always be worth the effort. If you’re the kind of person who has a vulnerable heart, a heart that aches for others, and can feel damaged at times, you’re a fortunate individual. Remember how human you are, and how strong. It’s your strength that will win, every time. And your heart will heal, perhaps in a reframe you didn’t anticipate, but that you can embrace.
Dr. Catherine Roland, LPC, is a therapist in private practice, specializing in our LGBTQ+ community for 25 years. She is a member of the Board of Directors of both CrescentCare-NO/AIDS Task Force and SAGE – New Orleans.