When You're Heartbroken & Everyone Else Is Happy
There have been studies that show a peak in breakups around the holidays. It seems counterintuitive, I would think the holidays bring people together. But maybe they lead to increased stress or maybe they make people consider whether or not they’re really happy.
Either way, I know there are broken hearts out there around this time. You may have one of them. Maybe you’ve made a recent split with a partner, have lost a loved one, or are feeling lonely. Maybe the holidays have reminded you of someone you love dearly who is no longer a part of your life for whatever reason.
There are simple things to say about heartbreak and grief. Sometimes simple things slip by quietly without allowing us the time to linger in contemplation of their depth. Often times the simplest things are the most profound. One of the simple things I focus on when my heart hurts is allowing myself to feel. Not busying yourself up, not being stuck in your head, but really feeling everything that’s arising. Cry all the tears you need to cry. Punch your mattress and scream into a pillow into you land in a coughing fit. Allow your feelings to come to surface. Allow yourself to feel them all.
Healing is the process of giving ourselves permission to feel all of the feelings.
The loss of a loved one, whether through death or separation, elicits every type of emotion, not just sorrow. We feel joy from good memories, deep sadness when we realize those moments won’t happen again in just that way, and we feel anger for unresolved wounds and the inability to understand why things have happened the way they have.
Often times we hide from the feelings that make us uncomfortable. We busy ourselves up and push the feelings down. We think we can run from them, but we’re only pushing them deeper into ourselves. The emotions we don’t deal with become a part of us, they turn us into darker versions of ourselves, they dim our light and don’t allow us to feel as deeply.
It can become even more challenging to allow ourselves to feel when everyone around us is happy. There's something about the holidays that make us feel like we have to be happy. This can cause us to put on a front which leaves us feeling even more awful and alone. When we're in pain not only is it important to give ourselves permission to feel everything, but we have to be able to be where we're at in the face of the buzz of happiness around us. The truth is that more people are in pain then are letting on.
I’m so sorry if you’re in pain right now. I know how much it hurts to lose someone. I have sobbed until the tissue box was emptied. I have manipulated myself into taking responsibility for things that were not mine in order to feel better. I have pushed heavy things deep into my being where I thought they might disappear. And I have carried the weight of unfelt emotions for years.
At some point I became brave enough to face it all.
My heart had cracked open, and I felt love in a way I hadn’t before. And then when I lost that person I decided to be with my experience throughout the entire process, no matter what it felt like. And I felt all the feelings, all the ways my body responded. I watched my mind go crazy until I surrendered to it all. And in that space I experienced nothingness, and not in the blissed out yogi sense. I experienced a depression* in which nothing seemed to matter. There’s no way for me to know if I got through it because it took its course and moved on or if I was steadfast in my surrendering. Maybe it was both. I know I came out the other side a new person with a a richer understanding of what it means to be human and a deeper compassion for life itself.
I believe we have to develop a deep willingness to bear the burden of pain in order to live a life of joy. Every time I’ve suffered deeply I’ve grown tremendously. We live in a culture where we’re so focused on feeling good. We get dopamine rushes every time we go on any social media outlet and have found ourselves positively affirmed. We seek whatever we can do avoid the pain. Often times we even use meditation, yoga, and mindfulness as a tool to feel good. We somehow convince ourselves that we should feel good all the time because we do “all the right things.” And I’m all about feeling good. But I don’t want to feel good all the time because I know I’m not growing. I know I’m hiding if my emotions are flat.
The more I look at my own human experience I see immense fluctuation in emotion.
If we’re affected by life our emotions change, that’s what it means to be an emotional being. We are shaped not only by our experiences, but by our reactions to them, by the way we process them, by the stories we tell ourselves about them. So be careful how you choose to deal with your pain. Be careful not to shove it deep down into your body where it will turn into disease. Be careful not to silence it for so long that your triggers create emotional explosions of anger. Be careful not to tell yourself stories to feel better and stories to make yourself feel worse.
Sit patiently with your emotions. Observe them. Let them be what they are and notice that they are not you. They are a part of you. They don’t define you. But they need to be felt by you. They need your permission to be endured and then released. You don’t have to carry the weight of all your pain You get to let it go once it’s taken its course. That’s healing.
Note: I’m not here to make claims about depression. This is simply my own experience.