This year, I re-learned the resilience that is within me. I’ve wanted to write this blog since about march, but it took me until now to feel sure that I could do so.
I’m writing this because in January I took my broken heart and tear-streaked face and I went searching the internet for someone who was honest and raw and in my situation. I needed to find someone who said “I’ve been there. I ugly-cried for months. I didn’t succumb to the bitterness. I survived. I found myself again. You will too.” I searched and searched; there was lots of anger and resentment to be found. Lots of bitterness. Lots of blaming. But not a lot of honest broken narrative about surviving heartbreak without resentment, which is what I needed.
I am writing this because I want you to know that on the other side of your dark season, there will be light again. I want you to know that even when it feels hopeless, there is still hope. I’m not fully out of this dark season yet myself, but I see the sunshine at the end of the tunnel. I’m having whole days where I feel light hearted and I don’t cry at all. My laugh and my smile have returned. I will survive. And you will to.
I was young. I fell in love with a man, and he fell in love with me. We got married. I gave my whole heart to him, and devoted myself to becoming a good wife. I think I succeeded, for the most part. He did his best to be a good husband. We had adventures together. We were happy. I thought that we would be together for the rest of our lives.
Fast forward about five years. It’s January. The man I love informs me one day me that he is no longer happy, and that he’s turned out to be a different person that he thought he would. His goals in life are different than he thought they would be. He has chosen a career path that is the opposite of what I want in life. He doesn’t want to trap me into a life that will make me miserable. He needs some time apart, to clear his mind. He moves out. Two months later- he’s decided to divorce me.
The ugly reality:
I’d like to say that I’ve handled this last six months in an absolutely mature, kind, loving way, but that would just be a lie. The truth is that at times I’ve been very angry and I’ve allowed that anger control of my behavior. I’ve said hurtful and harsh words that I had to later apologize for. I’ve had a grown up temper-tantrum, both with others and with God. I’ve played the “this is so unfair” card more than once. I’ve become so focused on my own pain and loss that I forgot to care for those around me. I’ve cursed. I’ve pleaded, I’ve yelled, both at God and at my ex, and I’ve cried for more hours than I’d care to count.
I basically cried during every moment that I was alone for the first three months of our separation. I read a quote somewhere that said “nothing in nature blooms all year; don’t expect yourself to do so either.” In February, March, and April, I did not bloom. I did not try to bloom. I did not try to grow. I just tried to stay alive. I functioned enough to keep my job and get through each day, and outside of that I just allowed myself to grieve the loss of my marriage. My apartment was disgusting. My dirty laundry was heaped up. My bills were all overdue. Sometimes I ate nothing for days. Other times I ate absolute junk. I did not exercise. I did not sleep. The only thing I did with regularity was to just cry. It was a real mess. At some point along the way, I began to tell myself “this is just a season. It’s ok to be a mess for right now.” And somewhere in that mess I began to find the smallest slivers of hope and healing.
Below is a picture I took during that season. It’s not flattering, but it’s honest. If you are a mess too, it’s ok. It’s just a season, and you aren’t alone.
As mentioned above- give yourself permission to be a mess for a season. Give yourself permission to cry over the hurt you feel. Accept it. Express it. Work through it even though it hurts. Try to just survive each hour and each day. Any additional self care that you can manage during this season is wonderful, but forgive yourself if you don’t do much other than exist for a while. Existing through heartbreak and grief is really hard to do.
Apologize when you act out. Maybe my anger was justified, but my hurtful words were not. Yours aren’t either. It is really hard to humble yourself to someone who has just hurt you, but do it anyway if you’ve intentionally said or done things to cause them pain. No amount of pride is worth guilt or regret that will come back to bite you later in life. Healing works best with a clear conscience.
Be completely real about your heartbreak with at least one or two safe people. There are no words to express how grateful I am for the hours that a few of my friends spent with me on the phone and in person while I sobbed about my situation. Sometimes when you feel really low, having a listening ear makes a huge difference. Having a few people who know exactly where you are at emotionally is really important.
Choose the high road. Healing and bitterness cannot co-exist. Do I still feel angry sometimes? Yes. But I choose to forgive every time my anger comes up. Sometimes I need to cry first. Sometimes I need to think some angry thoughts first. But then I choose forgiveness. This will be a life- long process, but I believe that it’s worth it. Heartbreak is an emotional wound. I believe that bitterness is like infection; it creeps into the wound and causes more damage. It slows healing and leaves a bigger scar. Forgiveness is like an antiseptic; it might hurt at first, but it cleans away all the bad stuff so that clean healing can quickly take place. Choose forgiveness. Don’t focus on blame placing, revenge, or retaliation. Just forgive.
Find healthy distractions. It’s important to allow yourself time to just sit in the sadness and grieve, but it’s equally important to recognize when grief turns to depression and it’s time to take a break from those feelings until you can process them in a more healthy way again. Personally, I find audiobooks very helpful. They distract me when I’m doing monotonous tasks that would otherwise leave my mind free to wander in unhealthy directions (ie dishes, laundry etc.). For you it might be sports, yoga, going out to a new restaurant, spending time with friends, or any number of other things. Try a few things and find a healthy distraction. Add it to your tool belt. Use it when needed.
Figure out ways to manage self-harm impulses. Maybe this tip is something that does not apply to you, but I wanted to include it in case it does. When I was younger, I used self harm as an outlet for emotional distress. As an adult, I don’t want to repeat that pattern, but I still have the urge to do so during extreme emotional distress. A few ways that I combat these urges:
-get a physical modification: ie: chop your hair or get a piercing
-work out to the point of physical exhaustion and discomfort.
-journal your urges. Literally write “I want to *insert self-harm behavior here-* because *insert reason here*” and then burn or shred your paper. (Please be careful with fire safety.)
-please don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling to manage your self-harm urges. Call anyone. Call me. You aren’t alone and you are loved.
Rediscover your passions. You might not really enjoy it at first, but as you heal the joy will come back. I’ve recently moved out of the city and I’m rediscovering my love for gardening. Whatever it is that you have enjoyed before, you will eventually enjoy it again. Keep doing it. Rediscover your love for it.
Spend time with those that love you. In the face of rejection and heartbreak, love is a powerful antidote. Don’t shut out those that want to be there for you. Create new memories with them. Get away for a weekend with a friend or family member if you can. Invite a friend out for lunch. Don’t isolate yourself too much. Let others speak life into you. If you have a relationship with God, be sure to spend time with Him too. He is the source of love and comfort.
This is the blog I wanted to find in January. I hope that some of what I’ve shared here can help you if you are struggling to get through a dark season of life. I encourage you to keep surviving. To keep choosing forgiveness and healing. It won’t hurt this much forever. You aren’t alone. I’ve been there. Sometimes I’m still there. But I’m surviving, and you will too. We will find joy again. Mine has started retuning already. ❤️