If you live long enough, you will get your heart broken. Friendships end, relationships fail, and loved ones pass away. The ancient Safaitic-speaking Arabs used to write inscriptions on rocks commemorating the dead. They would include special prayers for those who remained on the earth, because they would have to cope with the loss of their loved ones.
Heartbreak is a kind of trauma. A trauma is an emotional pain too great to process in the moment. Trauma leads to the formation of a backlog of negative emotions that live inside us until they are processed. In order for this processing to take place, both time and resources are needed. Some people heal from the trauma of a breakup relatively quickly, while others carry it with them to their grave.
Given how common breakups are, they are an experience that many people can relate to. Even if you have never been through a breakup, you can probably imagine how difficult it is. The chances are that you, or someone you know, is going through a breakup—or even worse, a divorce, right now. Having an understanding of this process can help us, first and foremost, to process our own trauma, and others, as we help them to do the same.
I went through a painful breakup toward the end of last year. I was in a relationship with a girl I loved, who I thought was going to be my wife, but in the end things did not work out. It ended up taking me several months to get back on my feet.
That said, I don’t claim to be an expert on relationship breakups. What I will hold out to you are a few things that helped me process my own.
1. Time will pass. As I said, healing requires two ingredients, time and resources. We cannot speed up time. What we can do is take advantage of the resources we have at our disposal. Don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with your friends and family. Another resource is physical activity. Motion creates emotion, as motivational speaker Tony Robbins love to say. In my experience, the fastest way to change an emotional state is via exercise.
Use this time to grow. As I mentioned in another article, a big key to overcoming some loss or failure is growth. When we feel that an experience made us better or stronger, no matter how painful it was, it becomes a lot easier to let go and move forward. We feel emboldened to starting fresh knowing that we are better equipped to meet the challenges of the future.
It sounds cliché, but we need to have the mindset after a breakup of getting better, not bitter. This is called growth mindset. Growth mindset interprets every experience as an opportunity to be better and do better, rather than through the lens of victimization or resentment.
I know it is difficult to see the silver lining when the emotion is fresh. Take your time, but remember that we ultimately get to determine the stories we tell ourselves, or, in other words, how we interpret our experience.
Using a breakup to grow can be difficult, because it means conducting an honest assessment of the mistakes we made, or the things we could have done differently. It’s okay to have messed up, or been imperfect, in the past. It’s what makes us human. Another beautiful human trait that we don’t want to lose in the process is learning from those mistakes and evolving into a stronger, better person.
2. Our identity speaks volumes. How you see yourself is far more important than how anyone else sees you, including someone you were once in a close relationship with. Oftentimes, people get discouraged after a breakup, and their self-esteem suffers, because they come to believe they are not worthy of love and affection. They may even question their ability to attract someone in the future of the same or greater caliber.
When our identity is strong, we see the world for the abundant place that it is. We recognize that while we can never get back the love we lost with one person, there are many more people out there with whom to form a loving connection. Being in a good relationship isn’t about “getting lucky,” and finding someone out of your league who agrees to be with you against all odds. It’s about being the kind of person who could create a happy relationship with many people of the same caliber, but choosing to commit to one person anyway. People with a strong view of their own value have a lot easier time processing breakups because they know something beautiful awaits.
Pastor John shared his struggles with identity and depression after being rebuffed by woman, an article I encourage you to check out. A breakup can be the beginning of a life spiraling out of control, or it can be an opportunity to become a better, stronger human being. You decide!
3. Remember God. As human beings, we have a need to be connected to the ones we love. The pain of separation is among the greatest pain any human being can experience.
In Hebrews 13:5, God promises, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” God promises to meet our most fundamental emotional need. Unlike people, God’s opinion never changes. He doesn’t wake up one day and decide to leave us. Nor is he mortal, meaning he is the only one who can make good on this promise.
At first, you may seem bewildered by your experience. You may even be questioning God. Hopefully, eventually you will come to realize that God is not like people. He doesn’t promise us that we won’t experience the pain and heartache of living among flawed people in a flawed world. He does promise us that he will be an unwavering support. Every time we see the contrast between God’s character and how people we are, it should be an occasion to love God and draw near to him even more.
One of the names for the Holy Spirit is ” the comforter ” (John 14:16-26). Don’t be inconsolable–let God do his job.
[God] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Remember, the best is yet to come. Famous world class athlete and former navy seal David Goggins once said, the goal of healing is to grind our scars into a fine powder so they no longer control our lives.
I leave you with a short inspirational clip from none other than Mike Tyson, so short, in fact, that it needs no introduction. I’ve transcribed the video below in case you are not able to watch the video.
Life is about losing. As we get older, we lose our hair, we lose our teeth, we lose our mothers, our fathers, our sisters. . . But it’s the ones who overcome that lost in life. . . [who] can shun away adversity and [are] always willing to fight at every particular moment in life. [They] are the ones [who] are able to transcend and spread the word to other people who are in the same particular genre as they are.
Through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.Revelation 22:2
For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.