Feeling broken and lost during the holidays? My unique approach may help ease your pain.
My personal journey started in the month of October with an anniversary of the day we met on Halloween, just 9 days after he broke the news of wanting out. My poor broken heart took a beating with the seemingly endless string of holidays, anniversaries and birthdays. The first year was the most painful, so I’ve put some thought into what I know now as a life coach helping people heal from heartbreak.
1) Explore What Nurtures Your Spirit
The quickest way to connect with your spirit is to reflect back on what delighted you as a child. Our spirits, or higher self, are generally quiet in nature. Even if you enjoyed your high energy sugar-fueled 7th birthday party, it’s most likely the connection to your friends that fed your spirit, not the commotion of games and kids running around.
If you enjoyed art, like I did, why not buy one of the pre-packaged projects available at any craft store. Your mind will say it’s a silly idea, "I’m too old." Just do it anyway, you’ll be surprised how calming and soothing it will be to connect with your joys from the child who still lives within you.
Think back to who you were before the relationship and you’ll find you’ve let a few things go by the wayside that you used to enjoy doing. Getting back to those things will reconnect you to the inner self and lead you on more of your personal discovery journey.
Healing through the arts can help with your grieving process because emotions live in the body. Think of emotions as energy in motion. By letting out and expressing through colors, sounds and the physical action of moving your body—whether through dance or holding a paintbrush—we’re releasing the emotions of the loss, anger and confusion.
Look for an art therapy class or group, vision-board workshop or a Meet Up group. At the very least, buy a box of crayons and a coloring book or a sketchpad. When you’re feeling angry you may choose all the reds and oranges and then find yourself selecting yellow when you may be feeling optimistic and hopeful.
2) Stimulate Your Brain—By setting goals and learning something new, dopamine, a neurohormone, is released by the brain. Dopamine is one of the "feel good" chemicals that during heartbreak are most likely pretty depleted. Some days my goal was to just get out of bed and take a shower. By doing the action we’ve told our brain we want to achieve, we’re setting the conditions for dopamine to be released into the body.
Sign up for a class - in person is best for human interaction. Even though you may not feel like being around people, isolating is not healthy. Check out your local Community College, Adult Education Center, online calendars from local newspapers and sign up for something, anything. This isn’t the time to enroll in Grad School, think more along the lines of basket weaving and belly dance.
An easy to read explanation of the brain chemicals can be found at www.meetyourhappychemicals.com
3) Get In Touch With Your Future Self—Right now you’re about as low as can be and the string of holidays mixed in with a birthday or anniversary might make you want to crawl under the covers for days or weeks. But there is a future self who got through this heartbreak and you can access her now to help lift your spirits.
Allow a lot of wild imagination when doing this exercise; this isn’t the time to think with the mind, it’s a time to feel with your heart. Use your favorite pen, mine has purple ink and complete these sentences: When I am healed from this heartbreak I will (be, feel, do)_______. When I’m on the other side of this loss, my Christmas (Anniversary, Birthday) will look like______.
Paint a full picture. Will you be splitting your time between Italy and New York? Will you be teaching Tango in Brazil? Will you finally dye your hair fuchsia and ditch your high heels? Have you started the chocolate business you’ve been dreaming about, or enrolled in Pastry Chef School—you get the idea.
This exercise helps sends a message to the unconscious mind (where your beliefs come from) that you are going to be better and also lifts your spirits in the moment because you’re imagining and envisioning the coming days when you will be happy again. Dr. Joe Vitale is a good resource on this topic and has a "Secret Mirror Technique," and a "Remembering" process if you want to explore more.
Since you’re on a journey of self-discovery, you will likely be a different person in the coming years and your personal fulfillment and happiness may come in ways unknown to you now and may be very different. I used to entertain a LOT and after the marriage ended I desperately missed it at first but don’t miss it at all four years later. I now prefer more intimate connections with people rather than prepping for weeks for a dinner party to serve 25 people.
You can gain a lot of insight by asking your future self curious questions. Remember, the key is to get out of your mind and into your heart.
4) Volunteer—This was invaluable to me and was one of the main reasons I even survived how utterly broken I was from the end of my marriage. If you have the resources, go on a volunteer vacation during the holidays. There is nothing better than to be of service to others to give us perspective on our own situations. In my book, "Wine, Sex and Suicide – My Near Death Divorce," I wrote about my volunteer vacation to Romania where I volunteered at an orphanage for Christmas. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
There are plenty of travel companies specializing in volunteer vacations and if travel isn’t possible, create your own local mini volunteer vacation—each day doing something for a different charitable group or even practicing random acts of kindness for strangers.
5) Practice Outrageous Self Care—Enroll in a campaign of kindness and compassion toward yourself. Every single day do at least 3-5 things that are loving, tender, kind and supportive of yourself while you go through the grieving process of losing a love you likely thought would last forever.
Self care can be as simple as starting your day with a gratitude practice; write down in a designated gratitude journal 5 things you are grateful for. Some days I was just grateful that I had all my limbs—watch this inspiring video of Amy Purdy's TedX Talk to see what I mean.
Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning and with each sip, think affirming and loving thoughts such as, "I’m doing the best I can to get through this," "I start my day with my best interest in mind," "I trust I have the strength I need today."
Write down a list of self-care practices and keep them visible and commit to doing at least 3 each and every day. Some ideas may be to get a massage, go for a gentle walk, take a bath, light some candles, go to bed early, make soup with a friend, watch a silly movie, say 'no' without feeling guilty, buy your favorite flowers, enjoy a nap, take a social media break—anything that feels compassionate toward yourself.
6) Cut Out Sex and Drugs—Keep the Rock and Roll. Heartbreak is a time we seek comfort and sometimes seeking comfort leads to overdoing it to numb the pain, like I did before I learned all the tools and techniques I help clients with today.
Do your best to refrain from jumping into bed with anyone. If you do, don’t judge yourself, just be mindful of your behavior and create an intention to stop. Engage in any of the other items suggested here. In my book, I detail my battle between the desire to be healed and whole, and my actions of numbing the pain with alcohol and sex. What kept me from complete self-loathing was hearing my therapist tell me over and over not to judge myself but to be aware of my actions. If you were betrayed by infidelity and feel sexually rejected, the likelihood may be high to seek pleasure to feel desired by some guy at last call. Take a pole dancing class; explore your own body or work on transmuting the sexual energy to something else like learning a new skill.
Do your best not to overdrink, smoke, eat, work, gamble, shop; you know what your "drug of choice" is. Cut back on sugar and start researching healthier choices for when you actually even feel like eating. Make soup. Even a simple soup. My brain was so frazzled, I couldn’t even follow a recipe and for months the only thing I could cook from memory was Chicken Paprikash; I ate a lot of it.
Keep the rock and roll or whatever music you love. Move your body to the music by dancing or kicking and punching. The idea is to get energy moving through your body to release the emotions. Blast the music in each and every room occasionally; it shifts the energy. Use music to soothe and heal your spirit. Soft meditative, reflective music creates the environment to journal and process your emotions and have a good cry. Allow the tears to flow; tears of grief have a different chemistry than tears of joy and it’s healthier to cry than to deny your feelings. You may be scared to cry because you’re afraid you won’t be able to stop, but even all the uncontrollable "ugly crying" I experienced eventually ceased.
7) Ask For Support—Selectively. The landscape of your life may have changed drastically, maybe even overnight. Everyone is affected by the news of your split and they have their own way of dealing with it, or not—like the girlfriend who calls you on Thanksgiving to say she’s reached out to your ex because she felt badly for him. Or the mother-in-law who says she can’t be a support to you and prohibits you from talking about your feelings. And the "couple" friends who don’t invite you to the annual holiday party you attended for the past 5 years because they don’t know how to deal with your separation.
It may be helpful to go outside of your normal close circle to the friends you don’t see or talk to as often. They are less likely to have their own personal agenda regarding your break-up and may prove to be the most valuable source for support.
Additionally, seek professional help. A therapist, coach, minister or even a support group, not a bitch and blame group, will be of great value. An in-person or online group will be a good investment in yourself on your path of healing and self-discovery.
8) Clear the Clutter—There is a Universal Vacuum Law that states nature abhors a vacuum. There will always be something (physical or non-physical) that fills the empty space created. And it may sound odd to suggest cleaning out a closet or kitchen cabinets as a means of healing your broken heart but hear me out.
Have you ever felt lighter after cleaning out your closet or the bookshelves—purging what isn’t useful and admiring the space you’ve created? That elevated feeling is due to the Vacuum Law of Nature. You have mixed up the environment and removed "things" which all have energy. Since energy can never be created or destroyed, you have created a vacuum; a space where something existed and now does not.
This space will be filled by either more stuff or new experiences and feelings. Experiences and our emotions are created from energy as well. So, by cleaning out your car, the garage, the office, you are creating space for new things to come into your life, whether that is physical or intangible.
You don’t have to believe this, just be willing to give it a try it and see how you feel. Change things up—move the furniture—if you’ve set up a Christmas tree in the same place for the past ten years, put it in a different spot, if you usually get red poinsettias, get white ones. Let "donate and shred" be your mantra. Bring to mind the emotional well being you would like to experience as you clear out the clutter.
9) Use A Filter—Fish in an aquarium need one, your car needs one and your brain needs one. What you allow into your mind during this time of heartbreak influences your healing process. Stop watching the news immediately. The tragedies of the world will be waiting for you right where you left them. Right now it’s critical that you filter what comes in to your awareness.
I don’t follow any religion but I started listening to a Christian radio station for the uplifting messaging in the lyrics. I discovered MorningCoach, a daily coach cast for encouragement and a dose of positivity to start my day. I also signed up for the Notes from the Universe, created by my mentor, Mike Dooley, which are fun personalized emails delivered daily.
Don’t listen to the usual holiday music you did with your ex—find a different station on Pandora or ITunes radio; or take a break from holiday music all together. I couldn’t watch reruns of the TV show "Cheers," because it was our routine to watch an old episode before bed. Some movies may trigger more intense feelings of loss, so think before you watch, "Does this choice serve my emotional well being?" I give you permission to indulge in a marathon of Lifetime movies; they’re pretty harmless, unless your true story break-up was adapted for the screen.
And then there’s Facebook. That’s a tough one because there are so many mutual "friends" and even if you’ve defriended your ex, you’ll still see their little pixelated image as they comment on posts and undoubtedly you may have the urge to cyber stalk them like I did, scanning over his page for clues as to what the hell happened. Just put an end to it, it’s not healthy. A simple post letting people know you’re taking a Facebook break is all that’s needed.
Be mindful of what you see and hear, this applies to people, too. You might have to filter out a few of the ones who aren’t serving and supporting your desire to grieve appropriately and recover with grace. Put those people through your filter, "Are their words and actions making me feel better or worse?"
Consider going on a media fast altogether; even just for one week, no TV or Internet. Read a book, paint a room, bake some bread; do something different.
10) Meditation and Movement—If your mind is racing with the same continuous looping thoughts of fear, worry and dread—and you’re not sleeping well, meditation has been proven to help with calming anxiety and quieting the mind. You can search on YouTube or iTunes or click here for my free 30 minute Forest Path guided visual meditation as a thank you for joining my mailing list.
There are several sources for Brain Entrainment music. My favorite is Mind Amend for isochronic tones and binaural beats which can help with anxiety, depression, insomnia and concentration.
Isochronic and binaural beats are imperceptible sounds designed to align your brainwaves to the desired result. Beta brainwaves are when our brains are actively thinking. The alpha brainwaves are slower and represent a meditative state of mind. Theta is a deeper state of relaxation and dreaming and Delta represents a dreamless sleep state.
If you’re having bad dreams when you do actually sleep, give these a try.
You know the mental and emotional benefits of physical movement, so this is a reminder to do it. Even a slow walk is beneficial for the body, mind and spirit. And if you can’t muster the energy to move your body, then get a massage or take a bubble bath—both help with circulation of the lymphatic system and have a calming effect.
Intentional, purposeful healing from heartbreak involves the four aspects of being human; mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Going through a devastating break-up can compromise these four components and throws us off balance and even feeling broken. It’s advisable to consider how you are nurturing yourself each day and do your best to choose the thoughts, experiences and people that serve your good intentions to get through your heartbreak.
One of the most painful feelings for me was of being alone. I encourage you to seek support and know you are not alone. Check out my website and Facebook page, when you’re not on the media fast. And please read my book, "Wine, Sex and Suicide – My Near Death Divorce." It’s a vulnerable depiction of what being broken looked like for me, but I know someone will feel they are not alone in their pain after reading my story.