Woman looking at a heart shaped light

How to heal a bruised or broken heart

In order to find love, we have to expose ourselves to potential hurt. We have to open our hearts and be vulnerable. The problem is it doesn’t always work out. We might decide the relationship isn’t right, or the person we’re falling for might want out, leaving us with a bruised or broken heart. How do we come back from this?

The first thing to consider is a practical one. Do we stay in touch with our ex?

The answer will differ depending on the relationship. Sometimes we’re able to stay friends. But if our heart is hurting and our mind is obsessing about what could have been, it’s best to give ourselves some time and space by not being in touch.

I have had to cut ties in the past when relationships have ended and I’ve struggled to let go. I’ve removed people from my Facebook feed – not necessarily unfriending them, just making sure I can’t see their posts – and I’ve deleted numbers from my phone (sometimes writing them down elsewhere just in case).

Creating space like this facilitates and accelerates the healing process. It’s a question of suffering some short-term pain for long-term gain, as opposed to going for instant gratification. If we feel the urge to contact an ex and give in to that urge, we get an immediate hit, of affirmation, of endorphins, but if the relationship isn’t to be, this exacerbates the hurt and extends the time we need to heal.

That said, we are human beings, not robots, and I have struggled to hold my own boundaries in the past. I’ve broken off contact with a man, knowing it was important to create some distance, and then got back in touch with him, only to have to go through the breaking up process again. It’s exhausting, self-defeating, and it takes up a huge amount of space in our heads, making it difficult to be available to anyone else.

But if you do go back after breaking off contact, don’t beat yourself up. You’re already hurting. Why make it worse by condemning yourself? Love yourself through the process. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend.

To help you through the break up, you might want to do something symbolic to let go of the person or relationship – to give him, her or it to God.

I have a little box I call my God box. If there’s somebody or something I need to let go of and entrust to God, I write it down on a piece of paper, fold it up and put it in the box. When I do this, I’m making a commitment to hand over responsibility, to surrender control and to trust that God has a plan.

Over the years, I’ve written down the names of ex-boyfriends and put them in the box, along with questions I’m unsure about or things that are worrying me. Will I get back together with him? Will I have children or not? Will my injury heal? What shall I do about this problem I have?

Then two, four or six months later, I open the box and unravel the paper. Often my feelings for the ex have subsided and I’ve moved on, my injury has healed or my problem has been solved. And if nothing has changed or no answers have come, I simply return the piece of paper to the box and wait some more.

There are other ways we can let go of someone symbolically. I like the idea of burying a piece of paper with a person’s name on it in the earth – giving it to nature, handing it over to something greater and more permanent than myself. Or we can float pieces of paper down a river or drop them in the sea (preferably using biodegradable materials). We could also write a letter to an ex that we’ll never send, in which we share our sadness, anger or pain. We can read this letter to a friend, dispose of it or keep it safe so that we can return to it in the future and realise how much we’ve healed.

These small rituals are a way of honouring our feelings. It’s too easy to run from our feelings, to push them away by overeating, drinking, being excessively busy, or using some other avoidance tactic, but if the hurt stays stuck inside, it’ll come out in other ways, affecting our behaviour and sabotaging our relationships. So embrace these growing pains – they are an essential step on your journey to love.

If after reading the above you’re still tempted to sidestep the healing process or keep a flame burning for an ex, remember something that I’ve learned the hard way: when you find someone you want to be with for the rest of your life, you’ll wish you had more time. You’ll wish you hadn’t spent months or years thinking about or being with someone who wasn’t right for you.

So be brave today and you’ll reap the rewards tomorrow.

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