The word "heartbreak," evokes tension and dread. Who would consciously wish to lose a loved one, be rejected, or face the void that follows the loss of a love? The thought of this kind of loss, and the pain that accompanies it is terrifying. And the thought of facing the inevitable void that follows the loss of a love is overwhelming. Yet, with all the complicated factors that contribute to relationships is today's world, heartbreak at one time or another is indeed inevitable.
In response to the loss of a love, or anticipating a pending loss, many people shut down or tense up their hearts, trying to escape from the pain. Many people also self-medicate or anesthetize themselves with work, alcohol, drugs, compulsive internet use, or by jumping too quickly into a new relationship. These are all ways to resist, suppress or numb out the deaf feelings in their broken hearts.
Sitting with the pain and fear of a broken heart takes great courage, and often, great support. Diving into the void is a hero's journey, yet one we have few models for. We fear that leaping into the void will annihilate us, rather than taking a risk that is well worth taking if one really wants to heal and grow from such a profound and impactful loss.
There's the saying, "what does not kill you makes you stronger," and I think it really applies when a love is lost. We've all heard stories of people who've literally died of broken hearts. Like when a long-term partner leaves or dies, the remaining partner soon passes away. Yet, another far less visible response – one who visacity would actually do much good, is to embrace the depth of the loss, and to come out more whole. The image that illustrates this process for me is going through the eye of the needle by fire, and coming out the other side. It's very scary to do it. Fire can burn us or even worse, take our lives. Yet, the fire can also purify us and burn away whatever layers we need to shed to grow and evolve.
Learning how to feel safe enough inside ourselves to go through the fire, to ride the rapids of our deepest feelings is a much needed, but sadly untaught skill. And learning how to slow down, to get grounded, to breath, to create more space in our bodies and hearts so that we can really BE WITH our deepest feelings as they bubble up and ask to flow through us, is another too often untaught skill That is very important to our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health.
I guess, when we are faced with enough loss, enough heart break, we are presented with sufficient opportunities to learn how to face and embrace this kind of pain and overwhelm, so we can grow deeper from it, and even transform the pain to open Our hearts, rather than close them.
Sadly, or perhaps unfortunately, I have been given many, many opportunities to go through heartbreak in my life. And I have come to realize that by fully embracing all the feelings that come with the loss – the pain, the anger, the fear of the void and the unknown, the lost hopes and dreams, the feelings of missing the loved one, the Loss of sanctuary that a deep relationship brings, and the loss of soul deep connection in daily life – my heart breaks open and breaks through.
At times, I feel like I've been training, through no conscious choice of my own, for the emotional Olympics, building an emotional resilience I could have never imagined, until I found myself in the emotional embodying building gym again and again. Yet, having had the inner strength, having found the courage and learned many skills to go inside and ride the rapids, to feel the feelings that deep loss evokes, I have realized I now am stronger. And the pearl created inside this oyster is a much deeper compassion for myself, for my lost loved one, and for the others I encounter in my life.
I have learned to work really, really hard at putting myself in my lost loved one's shoes, and try to imagine what might be going on inside them to step away from what was once understood to be a very mutual love. And even if I can not understand it, I work very hard to embrace that this is just what my loved one has had to do. If I really love someone, I want the very best for them. And if the very best for them is to let them go, then to really love them is to let them go.
While this does not make the process of loss any easier, in time, it has bought me a sense of peace – the kind of peace that comes with a sense of personal integrity, an integrity that comes with really embodying and living from my Commitment to love.
I have learned to ask a loved one to give me the respect of having a process through which I can let go. The most painful thing for me is to just "cut something sacred off." I know this can happen with sudden death. In the blink of an eye, a loved one is gone. This happened to me when my mentor of 17 years died of a heart attack a number of years ago. But short of a sudden death, there can be some time set aside to go through a transition time, where both people consciously move through and work with their final time together in the spirit of letting go.
This transition time can be imbued with love, appreciation and respect. I find it easier to let go with love, than any other way. I find it easier to curl up and hold and be held tight before being released into the world raw and new. Sometimes this is some of what it feels like to be a baby, moving through the birth canal in the journey to be born. In this sense, losing a love and breaking open the heart is a process of being restructured, of being reborn.
What I have certainly learned is that breaking through a broken heart is much better than the alternative, which is internalizing the tension that comes with fear, pain and loss, and holding it inside. Held tension creates stress and taxes the heart. If I am physically held, it is much easier to release the tension I am holding inside. Being held – physically and emotionally – allows the deepest feelings to move through. Loving touch or embrace can provide the comfort needed to release what is most deeply held.
If our loved one has the space to hear us in our pain, to hold us in their arms, to nurture our souls as we prepare for the final separation, the sanctuary of the love and connection that has been the good in the relationship can become The birth chamber, rather than the cold dark isolation of being cut off and rejected. Not everyone is brave enough to journey through this kind of passage. A loved one leaving may feel their own pain and fear, sometimes layered with guilt and even doubts if their leaving is really the noble or right solution.
Leaving a relationship from a place of full heart power takes as much courage as facing being left. How fundamentally transformative it can be if two people hold each other close, mentally and emotionally put put themselves in the other's shoes, and literally have compassion for the two sides of this heartbreaking coin. Breaking open the broken heart with love brings a deaf connection with self, with one's truth, and sometimes, ironically, with the loved one even as the separation process occurs. It allows the soul deep thread of love to continue, even as the relationship ends.
I would so much rather live with heart breakthrough than a broken heart!
© 2008 Linda Marks