Therapist Daniela Tempesta's Advice on Breakups, Grief + Finding the One



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Daniela is a familiar name around here and very close to our hearts at Mend -- she was one of the first guest contributors to take a chance on our concept of a "breakup website" when we launched. She is a Stanford-trained psychotherapist and founder of The Tempesta Group in San Francisco, a practice that blends psychotherapy and coaching to help people design and live a life they love.

At the time of this interview, she had also temporarily become a bakery owner When her mother  Bonnie Tempesta  (also known as the Baroness of Biscotti for bringing biscotti to the American market) passed away suddenly, Daniela was faced with a decision: stay in her successful private practice or take over her mother's business. She decided to take over the bakery for a time before returning to her therapy practice.

HER FIRST HEARTBREAK
"The first time my heart was really broken, in the 'I want to crawl into a hole and never come out' kind of way, was my senior year of college. At the time I truly believed that I had found my soul mate. We seemed to align on everything and suddenly there was someone in my life that seemed to love all of me, the good and the bad. Even though our relationship was long distance, we still managed to see each other every two weeks. It was an intense relationship. Our lives revolved around each other. Our families spent holidays together. We often spoke of our plans of getting married in the future with friends and family. Though we had some geographical issues to work out, I felt like I was set for life. We planned to move in together for the summer before I went away to grad school and a few weeks before graduation he ended things with me really abruptly. I felt like I had been hit by a freight train. I knew things weren’t perfect in our relationship but I certainly believed that we were both committed to working through anything that came our way. His reason: 'I just miss the way it used to be in the beginning when everything was easy and we didn’t have to work at it.' It took me years to fully recover and learn to trust in relationships again."

WHAT SHE WOULD TELL HER YOUNGER SELF
"Maintain a sense of self and really know your own value outside of the relationship. I really lost myself in that relationship. While all my friends were doing fun stuff senior year of college, I spent most of my time traveling to Boston to see him or in my dorm room on the phone. If I could go back in time I would have had a lot more balance between the relationship and the rest of my life. And also, there is no reward without risk. Even though your heart’s been broken, keep putting yourself out there. I was so afraid of getting hurt again, that for years I only dated people who I knew liked me more than I liked them in order to protect myself. But if you want that  Oh my God, how did I live my whole life up till this point without you  stomach-flipping kind of  love, you HAVE to be willing to take the risk to get hurt. Once I finally figured that out, I met my husband. I don’t think the timing was a coincidence."

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HER MOST RECENT HEARTBREAK
"I recently learned that heartbreak comes in many forms, not just the ending of romantic relationships. In September of 2014, I lost my mother to breast cancer. She was my best friend, hero and the person I relied on most in the world. I can honestly say that losing her was the most painful heartache I’ve ever experienced in my life. I felt like I lost a limb and that I had to learn how to walk all over again, but this time with just one leg. I’m still learning how to walk. Grief is an unpredictable little beast. It’s much more chaotic and uprooting than anything I’ve felt before. One minute you're laughing, and the next you're laying on the floor pounding your fists and screaming like a child."

AN UNEXPECTED SHIFT
"My mom spent her entire life in the food industry. She was actually the first person to introduce biscotti to the American food scene back in 1983 when she started her first company. Most recently she had started a small, artisan biscotti company called Boncora, which is focused on high quality, locally sourced products and also a commitment to giving back to the local community. When she passed away I was faced with a difficult decision — keep the bakery open or close its doors. Keeping the bakery open meant walking away from my psychotherapy practice and stepping into a whole new world, one where the learning curve would be high and I would be a complete beginner. I mean, I literally knew nothing about the food industry. The logical decision would have been to stick with my thriving therapy practice, but my heart kept pulling me back to bakery. And I decided to listen to my heart on this one. Having the opportunity to carry on my mother’s legacy feels like the most important thing I could be doing right now. Things are finally starting to come together and the product is picking up some momentum, so I’m really excited to see where I can take the business in the next year. I’m focused on getting the product to a broader audience so everyone can enjoy what my mom did best."

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HOW SHE MENDS
"Marathons of awesome TV shows! As a therapist, I’m generally not a big fan of avoidance as a strategy for dealing with suffering, but when it comes to breakups you just need to get your mind off of it for a while. Getting sucked into the lives of fictional characters is a good way to temporarily forget about your own sorrows. After one breakup I think I must have watched 3 seasons of Sex and the City in 2 days. I soaked up all the love I could get from friends and family. The loss of a relationship can sometimes leave a big void, so I let it be filled by the love and support of all the people out there who adore me. And I practiced mindfulness and self-compassion. This is the hardest but also probably the most important. Finding stillness, accepting what is and being compassionate to yourself are essential tools for healing. I highly recommend checking out Kristen Neff's work on self compassion, a very useful resource during a difficult time. I particularly like the guided meditation Soften, Soothe, Allow."

HER BREAK UP VICES
"Cyberstalking. It's bad news bears. It’s like a rash - it itches so you want to scratch it, but when you do it just spreads and gets worse. And the worse it gets the more you want to scratch."

CAN EXES BE FRIENDS?
"Honestly, it really depends on the situation. Every once in a while it can work, but I’ve seen it cause more problems than it’s often worth."

HER PHILOSOPHY ON SOCIAL MEDIA
"I don’t stay connected to exes on social media. I think it’s best not to get ambushed by constant updates of what your exes are up to."

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HER HARDEST LESSON ON LOVE
"Love doesn’t always come in the package you expect. I had a lot of silly rules about how my “future husband” would have to be, but in the end, love is about connection, not a checklist of traits. Be open. Stretch yourself. When my now husband told me he had children from a previous marriage on our first date, I seriously contemplated playing sick and leaving the date early. I wanted no part of being a step-mom. Kids equals deal breaker, I thought. But it turned into a 6 hour first date. Two months later he gave me the keys to his place. And 3 years later we walked down the aisle: me, him and my amazing step-children. The heart wants what the heart wants."

HER FAVORITE SONG ON HEARTBREAK
"I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt."

WHAT KEEPS HER HEART OPEN
"I truly believe that we are put on this earth to love. I’ve learned through my personal experience and my work as a therapist that loving and being loved are as essential to our well being as water and oxygen. Getting your heart broken sucks, but denying yourself the chance for real love is a far greater loss."


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HER INTENTION: MANIFEST
"I really believe that we can manifest the things we truly want in our lives if we focus our attention and intention towards them."

Photographed by Ellen Huerta in Sonoma, CA.