Watercolor painting of a semi-anatomical heart on an abstract background
Advice

Dear Weird Friend … Do Broken Hearts Heal?

Hi friends!

It’s summer, which means it’s time for the return of Weird Advice from Your Weird Friend. I’m excited to get back to it, but there’s one thing I want to talk about first. I love writing this column because it feels like a creative collaboration with all of you, so I’m never going to put my Weird Advice behind a paywall of any kind, but if you do want to show some appreciation for this work, I ask that you do it in the form of giving to the ACLU. If you appreciate this work, and it’s within your means to give them some support, please do. 

And now… 

Question: Do broken hearts heal? 

Answer: 

Yes and no. 

Will you feel joy again? Yes. Will you move on with your life? Yes. Will you forgive the people who hurt you and come to be thankful for what you learned from them? Maybe. Will you ever be the same? No. 

My friend, there are so many ways a heart can break. Most often, we think of heartbreak in relation to romantic loss, but it also comes from death of loved ones, shattering of illusions, and letting go of dreams. Heartbreak happens when we are in love with the story we’re telling ourselves about life and then we find out the story isn’t true. It happens when we are disappointed in our friends. It happens when the world we thought we knew falls out from under us. It is gut wrenching and embarrassing and makes us hate ourselves for ever having loved at all. 

But yes, it heals. 

I wish I could tell you how to make it go faster. I have a few ideas, but nothing foolproof. You gotta be kind to yourself in whatever way makes the most sense for you. Here are some options: Get therapy. Go running. Take up yoga. Meditate. Go outside. Take comfort in your friends. Bitch about it. Journal about it. Craft about it. Write poetry about it and sing songs about it. Carry it around for as long as you feel like you must. 

One day you’ll get tired of thinking about it. Tired of gnawing on that same damn bone just thinking about what it once tasted like. No longer worth it. No more joy left in torturing yourself with the memory. You start to feel ready to put it down. 

Every now and then, you’ll think about it and feel a little twinge of shame or regret or nostalgia. 

Eventually, when you think about the heartbreak, you’ll think about the person you were when it happened and realize you’re no longer that person. You’ve grown. You’ve changed. You see things differently now. Maybe it’s not better, but at least it’s further away. Some days you will feel like you are actually healed. Some days it will be true. 

Your heart will break many times. The older we get, the more heartbreaks we experience. Some people’s hearts grow hard with old age. Every time their heart breaks, they patch it up with stone. They work their whole lives to build walls that will keep heartbreak out, but heartbreak doesn’t give a damn about walls. 

Some people’s hearts get softer with age. Because we realize life is a lot like rolling down a hill — we can fight it till we crack or let go and laugh the whole way. Or cry. Whatever. Just feel it. It’s ok. You’re ok. 

It’s good to feel things. Even things that hurt sometimes. We really love to feel good, but mental and emotional health is not necessarily feeling good all the time. Rather, we need to have access to the full range of our emotions. We need the ability to empathize with others, for example, in order to be cooperative members of our community. We can’t empathize with others in their time of loss and need if we have never felt loss and need ourselves. So when you’re feeling the pain of heartbreak, one way to cope is to let that pain be a source of connection as you remember that we all feel it. 

The other thing about healing is that it requires us to move past the hurt, which is pretty hard. Heartbreak is a state of heightened emotion, and humans are basically addicted to heightened states — when we’re angry, we get angrier; when we’re sad, we get sadder; and when we’re happy, we can work ourselves into an ecstatic frenzy. Each emotion has its purpose, but if we get stuck in a loop with one, the results tend to be bad. Allow yourself to feel the heartbreak, but don’t force yourself to relive it forever. Instead, consider what you can learn. Any time you can learn something from a situation, it’s likely to be a positive step. Learning tends to move the story forward. So, look for something to learn from the situation, and you will have made an important step toward the healing you need. 

Wishing you healing and peace~

Mary

P.S.

Don’t forget to go support the ACLU if you found this column to be helpful. If giving financially is not an option for you right now, just take a moment to read about what they’re doing — educating yourself and your community is a powerful act of resistance!

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