Pain that comes from heartbreak comes with so much emptiness and intensity, and we have the choice to let it damage us or make us stronger, but either way, the pain demands to be felt. It’s like our hearts are enduring a very difficult workout. Nothing about it is easy. Workouts never are. They are painful but we push through and exercise to become healthier, stronger human beings. But as with any exercise, this pain has the potential to damage us if we don’t use proper form and technique.
In her mend story, Carilyn P. described her heartbreak pain, writing: “‘Sister Miriam, everything hurts: my brain, my body, my heart—my whole being!’ She paused, then said, ‘That’s because you loved with your whole being.’”
When we love someone with everything we have, everything we have hurts. It means everything we have is going through the mending exercise with us. Not only will our hearts get stronger, but also our bodies and our brains, unless we choose to be damaged instead. Either way, the pain demands to be felt.
People approach the pain in very different ways. Some may try to distract themselves so they don’t focus on it, some may pretend it doesn’t exist, and some may face it head-on. Many people will try to keep busy with obligations and commitments to get their mind off of the breakup, which is only helpful to an extent. While it is certainly good to try new things, get out there, and start living again, the purpose of this shouldn't be to overload your schedule with obligations in order to not face the pain. The fact of the matter is that even if you distract yourself or lie to yourself about it, at the end of the day, literally, when you are in bed with nothing to distract you from being alone in silence with your thoughts, it will slap you in the face to give you a hard wake up call, because it demands to be felt. Constantly distracting or deceiving yourself is merely prolonging the pain, because the truth will always reveal itself loud and clear when you're alone and in silence.
Be honest about the pain that you feel. It will not go away until it has been properly felt because it is there to make you stronger and if you don’t let it, then it will damage you. The pain must be felt in order for you to move on. So, how do you feel it in a healthy way?
Basking in your pain can be done either in a productive way or a non-productive way. It's productive if you focus on reflection, purging, or growth. When you're hurting, you're allowed to feel sad and let yourself cry, but you're discouraged from essentially forcing yourself to hurt and cry. This means that you're going to wake up in the morning crying some days and that's extremely healthy. Get it out, because that pain demands to be felt. However, much of the pain we feel is self-inflicted, for example:
1. Having hypothetical conversations with your ex or others about how it should have gone and what you should have said or done.
2. Thinking about what went wrong and why and how come you were not enough.
3. Stalking an ex’s social media and getting sad.
4. Reviewing old photos and text messages reminiscing on the good times and bad times you wish you could redo.
5. Holding onto things they gave us, which unfortunately includes the really good memories.
You see, these are all things we can avoid. These are all unnecessary pains that damage us rather than make us stronger. We have the power to not ruminate over these things. A general guideline is that rumination is wallowing that goes too far. Wallowing is good, healthy, productive, even. But rumination is the opposite. It is merely a way for us to prolong the pain by thinking too long and too hard about our heartbreak.
Wallowing is productive. Wallowing is allowing yourself to feel the pain that demands to be felt in a healthy way that makes you stronger. It is crying when you need to cry, seeking comfort in ice cream or friends or movies or all of the above. But when you continue to find reasons to cry, when you specifically pursue thought processes you know are damaging, is when you're letting it go too far. That would be rumination.
“Suffering is the fire that refines the gold that is your character.” - Matthew Kelly
Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between productive pain and non-productive pain but we hope this helps you to understand how to make the pain less damaging and more transformative. Mending is a very hard process but you will come out of it stronger. As Elle mentioned in this article about what she learned from 9 breakups, set boundaries on your wallowing time, such as a specific day or time frame. Allow your emotions to let you grow. This can’t be done if you are denying they exist or distracting yourself with a million obligations to hide the pain. The pain must be felt.