How to heal a broken heart from death
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Heartbreak is a universal experience that comes with intense emotional anguish and distress.
While many people associate a broken heart with the end of a romantic relationship, therapist Jenna Palumbo, LCPC, emphasizes that “grief is complicated.” The death of a loved one, job loss, changing careers, losing a close friend — all of these can leave you brokenhearted and feeling like your world will never be the same.
There’s no way around it: healing a broken heart takes time. But there are things you can do to support yourself through the healing process and protect your emotional wellbeing.
It’s essential to look after your own needs after heartbreak, even if you don’t always feel like it.
Give yourself permission to grieve
Grief is not the same for everyone, says Palumbo, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to give yourself permission to feel all of your sadness, anger, loneliness, or guilt.
“Sometimes by doing that, you unconsciously give those around you permission to feel their own grief, too, and you won’t feel like you’re alone in it anymore.” You just might find that a friend’s gone through similar pain and has some pointers for you.
Take care of yourself
When you’re in the midst of heartbreak, it’s easy to forget to take care of your personal needs. But grieving isn’t just an emotional experience, it also depletes you physically. Indeed, research has shown that physical and emotional pain travel along the same pathways in the brain.
Deep breathing, meditation, and exercise can be great ways to preserve your energy. But don’t beat yourself up over it, either. Simply making an effort to eat and stay hydrated can go a long way. Take it slow, one day at a time.
Lead the way in letting people know what you need
Everyone copes with loss in their own way, says Kristen Carpenter, PhD, a psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
She advises being clear about whether you prefer to grieve privately, with the support of close friends or with a wide circle of people accessible through social networks.
Getting your needs out there will save you from trying to think of something in the moment, says Carpenter, and will allow someone who wants to be supportive to help you and make your life easier by checking something off your list.
Write down what you need (aka the ‘notecard method’)
How it works:
- Sit down and make a list of what you need, including needs for tangible and emotional support. This could involve mowing the grass, grocery shopping, or simply talking on the phone.
- Get a stack of notecards and write down one item on each card.
- When people ask how they can help, hand them a note card or have them choose something they feel they can do. This relieves the pressure to articulate your needs on the spot when someone asks.
Research has found that spending just 2 hours a week outdoors can improve your mental and physical health. If you can get out to some beautiful scenery, great. But even regular walks around the neighborhood can help.
Read self-help books and listen to podcasts
Knowing that others have gone through similar experiences and come out on the other side can may help you feel less alone.
Reading a book (we’ve got some recommendations later in this article) or listening to a podcast about your particular loss can also provide you with validation and be a supportive way for you to process your emotions.
Try a feel-good activity
Set aside time every day for doing something that feels positive, whether that’s journaling, meeting up with a close friend, or watching a show that makes you laugh.
Scheduling in moments that bring you joy is vital for healing a broken heart.
Seek professional help
It’s important to talk about your feelings with others and not numb yourself out. This is easier said than done, and it’s totally normal to need some extra help.
If you find that your grief is too much to bear on your own, a mental health professional can help you work through painful emotions. Even just two or three sessions can help you develop some new coping tools.
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After giving yourself some space to grieve and tending to your needs, start looking toward creating new routines and habits that can help you continue to process your loss.
Don’t try to suppress the pain
“Don’t waste energy on feeling ashamed or guilty about your feelings,” says Carpenter. Instead, “invest that energy in making concrete efforts to feel better and to heal.”
Consider giving yourself 10 to 15 minutes each day to acknowledge and feel your sadness. By giving it some dedicated attention, you may find it popping up less and less throughout your day.
Self-compassion involves treating yourself with love and respect while not judging yourself.
Think of how you would treat a close friend or family member going through a hard time. What would you say to them? What would you offer them? How would you show them you care? Take your answers and apply them to yourself.
Create space in your schedule
When you are going through a difficult time, it can be easy to distract yourself with activities. While this can be helpful, make sure you’re still leaving yourself some space to process your feelings and have some down time.
Foster new traditions
If you’ve ended a relationship or lost a loved one, you may feel like you’ve lost a lifetime of traditions and rituals. Holidays can be particularly hard.
Allow friends and family to help you create new traditions and memories. Don’t hesitate to reach out for some extra support during major holidays.
Write it down
Once you’ve had some time to sit with your feelings, journaling can help you better organize them and give you a chance to unload any emotions that might be hard to share with others.
Here’s a guide to get you started.
Find a support system
Regularly attending or engaging in in-person or online support groups can provide a safe environment to help you cope. It’s also healing to share your feelings and challenges with those in similar situations.
Connect with yourself
Going through a big loss or change can leave you feeling a little unsure of yourself and who you are. You can do this by connecting to your body through exercise, spending time in nature, or connecting with your spiritual and philosophical beliefs.
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As you navigate the process of healing a broken heart, it’s helpful to have realistic expectations about the process. From pop songs to rom-coms, society can give a warped view of what heartbreak actually entails.
Here are a few things to keep in the back of your mind.
Your experience is valid
The death of a loved one is the more overt form of grief, Palumbo explains, but covert grief can look like the loss of a friendship or relationship. Or maybe you’re starting a new phase of your life by changing careers or becoming an empty nester.
Whatever it is, it’s important to validate your grief. This simply means recognizing the impact it’s had on your life.
It’s not a competition
It’s natural to compare your situation to that of others, but heartbreak and grieving aren’t a competition.
Just because it’s the loss of a friendship and not the death of a friend doesn’t mean the process isn’t the same, says Palumbo. “You’re relearning how to live in a world without an important relationship you once had.”
There’s no expiration date
Grief is not the same for everyone and it has no timetable. Avoid statements like “I should be moving on by now,” and give yourself all of the time you need to heal.
You can’t avoid it
As hard as it might feel, you have to move through it. The more you put off dealing with painful emotions, the longer it will take for you to start feeling better.
Expect the unexpected
As your grief evolves, so will the intensity and frequency of heartbreak. At times it will feel like soft waves that come and go. But some days, it might feel like an uncontrollable jolt of emotion. Try not to judge how your emotions manifest.
You’ll have periods of happiness
Remember that it’s okay to fully experience moments of joy as you grieve. Spend part of each day focusing on the present moment, and allow yourself to embrace the good things in life.
If you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, this might bring up some feelings of guilt. But experiencing joy and happiness is crucial to moving forward. And forcing yourself to stay in a negative state of mind won’t change the situation.
It’s okay to not be okay
A profound loss, like the death of a loved one, is going to look vastly different from a job rejection, notes therapist Victoria Fisher, LMSW. “In both cases, it’s imperative to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling and remember that it’s okay not to be okay. ”
Even if you’re doing everything you can to work through your heartbreak, you’ll probably still have off days. Take them as they come and try again tomorrow.
Don’t expect your suffering to go away sooner than when it’s ready. Try to accept your new reality and understand that your grief will take some time to heal.
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When you’re dealing with heartbreak, books can be both a distraction and a healing tool. They don’t have to be big self-help books, either. Personal accounts of how others have lived through grief can be just as powerful.
Here are some titles to get you started.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling book “Wild,” compiled questions and answers from her formerly anonymous advice column. Each in-depth response offers insightful and compassionate advice for anyone who’s experienced a wide range of losses including infidelity, a loveless marriage, or death in the family.
Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace
Acclaimed author Anne Lamott delivers profound, honest, and unexpected stories that teach us how to turn toward love even in the most hopeless situations. Just be aware that there are some religious undertones in her work.
Love You Like the Sky: Surviving the Suicide of a Beloved
Psychologist and survivor of suicide Dr. Sarah Neustadter provides a roadmap navigating the complicated emotions of grief and turning despair into beauty.
The Wisdom of a Broken Heart: How to Turn the Pain of a Breakup Into Healing, Insight, and New Love
Through her gentle, encouraging wisdom, Susan Piver offers recommendations for recovering from the trauma of a broken heart. Think of it as a prescription for dealing with the anguish and disappointment of a breakup.
On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard
Despite being nearly deaf and experiencing the debilitating loss of her father as a child, author Jennifer Pastiloff learned how to rebuild her life by listening fiercely and caring for others.
The Year of Magical Thinking
For anyone who’s experienced the sudden death of a spouse, Joan Didion offers a raw and honest portrayal of a marriage and life that explores illness, trauma, and death.
No Mud, No Lotus
With compassion and simplicity, Buddhist monk and Vietnam refugee Thich Nhat Hanh provides practices for embracing pain and finding true joy.
How to Heal a Broken Heart in 30 Days: A Day-by-Day Guide to Saying Good-bye and Getting On With Your Life
Howard Bronson and Mike Riley lead you through recovering from the end of a romantic relationship with insights and exercises meant to help you heal and build resilience.
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Through her heartfelt, honest storytelling, Brené Brown, PhD, explores how we can strengthen our connection to the world and cultivate feelings of self-acceptance and love.
The hard truth of going through loss is that it can change your life forever. There will be moments when you feel overcome with heartache. But there will be others when you see a glimmer of light.
For some grief, as Fisher notes, “it’s a matter of surviving for a while until you gradually build a new, different life with an open space for the grief when it arises.”
Cindy Lamothe is a freelance journalist based in Guatemala. She writes often about the intersections between health, wellness, and the science of human behavior. She’s written for The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, Quartz, The Washington Post, and many more. Find her at cindylamothe.com.
Death and Loss of a Loved One — Hope for the Broken-Hearted
DEATH and LOSS of a LOVED ONE
Death is an inevitable fact of life, but we are rarely prepared for it when it happens. We are not taught how to deal with death as we grow up. As a general rule, we are taught to deal with losses in life with these typical responses...
We're told, "Don't cry." (Translation: Don't feel badly.)
When we lose a pet we might be told, "Don't cry, we'll get you new one." (Translation: replace the loss)
We might be told to, "Be strong" or maybe, "Be strong, you don't want to upset_____."
We might be told things like..."If you're going to cry, go to your room." (Translation: Grieve alone)
We might be told..."You'll feel better, just give it time" or we've all heard, "Time heals all wounds." The fact is, it's what you do with that "time" that determines how well you heal.
We are often told "Keep busy, don't think about it."
All these things only help us avoid grief and the healing process. We are taught these things from our parents and they were taught them from their parents.
If we bury our feelings, if we don't deal with the sadness and grief we feel when someone we love dies, it will resurface in other ways. It might affect our health or it might resurface by compounding itself with each new loss we experience. None of us want to feel heartache and sadness, but it is part of being human and we must learn to work through it so that we can function properly.
"Losses threaten our security, our sense of stability and our well-being. Although a gradual loss is still painful, you can prepare for it to some degree. But a sudden, unexpected death may disrupt your ability to activate the emotional resources you need to cope with the loss." From Surviving the Storms of Life by H. Norman Wright
The loss of a loved one is life's most stressful event and can cause a major emotional crisis. After the death of someone you love, you experience bereavement, which literally means "to be deprived by death. "
It takes time to fully absorb the impact of a major loss. You never stop missing your loved one, but the pain eases after time and allows you to go on with your life. We do not "get over" or "move on" from the loss of a loved one, but we can move forward from the pain.
It is not easy to cope after a loved one dies. You will mourn and grieve. Mourning is the natural process you go through to accept a major loss. Mourning may include religious traditions honoring the dead or gathering with friends and family to share your loss.
Grieving is the outward expression of your loss. Your grief likely will be expressed physically, emotionally, and mentally. .
The death of a loved one is always difficult. Your reactions are influenced by the circumstances of a death, particularly when it is sudden or accidental. Your reactions are also influenced by your relationship with the person who died. Your grief will be unique, just as your relationship with your loved one was unique. Do not let anyone tell you how you should feel or how you should grieve.
A child's death arouses an overwhelming sense of injustice - for lost potential, unfulfilled dreams and senseless suffering. Parents may feel responsible for the child's death, no matter how irrational that may seem. Parents may also feel that they have lost a vital part of their own identity. It never seems natural to be preceded in death by a child.
A spouse's death is very traumatic. In addition to the severe emotional shock, the death may cause a potential financial crisis if the spouse was the family's main income source. The death may cause multiple losses, if the surviving spouse is required to parent alone, adjust to single life, return to work, or is forced to relocate.
An elderly person may be especially vulnerable when they lose a spouse because it means losing a lifetime of shared experiences. Perhaps they have not lived alone since they were very young. If an elderly person has lost many friends to death in the recent past, the sense of loneliness and grief will be compounded.
Losing a loved one due to suicide can be among the most difficult losses to bear. Survivors often face a tremendous sense of guilt, anger and shame. The bereaved may even feel responsible for the death. Seeking counseling during the first weeks after a suicide is usually very helpful.
life hacks from a psychologist when parting with a loved one or death of a loved one
What to do, what to remember, and how to survive grief due to a breakup with a partner, the loss of a friend or the death of a loved one.
There is probably no person who has never experienced a broken heart. We usually associate this concept with the end of a romantic relationship, but grief is not an easy thing. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a career change, the loss of a close friend can break our hearts. All this leaves us confused and feeling that the world will never be the same again.
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There is no magic patch for a broken heart - it will take time to heal. But there are practices that help support yourself and protect your emotional well-being. Here are some recommendations from psychotherapists and healthline.com.
How to take care of yourself
Even if your last concern is to think about your needs, taking care of yourself is important. A broken heart needs strength - and so do you.
Allow yourself to grieve
There is no one “universal” grief that everyone experiences in the same way. So the best thing you can do is give yourself permission to feel what hurts inside: sadness, anger, loneliness, or guilt.
And although we are all different, perhaps close people will be able to feel our pain, recognize something of their own in it and support us.
Take care of yourself
It is easy for a broken heart to distract us from our daily needs. But grief is not only an emotional experience, it drains you physically. Scientists have proven that physical and emotional pain use the same pathways in the brain, so feelings cannot be considered separately from the body.
Exercise, deep breathing, and meditation can help you deal with your feelings. But don't beat yourself up if you don't have the strength to do all this - just move in small steps, one day at a time. And don't forget to drink enough water.
Let others know what you need
Everyone deals with loss differently. Someone prefers to close completely, others have enough circle of friends, others live through feelings, sharing them with a large audience on social networks. Decide how it works for you and how other people can help - keep your distance, be in close contact or more distant, etc.
Write down things that can help you (“card method”)
How it works:
- Make a list of what you need, including material and emotional support. This may include talking on the phone, hugging, helping with groceries, etc.
- Take a stack of cards and write down one item on each.
- When people ask how they can help, give them one of the cards or let them choose their own. Some people are not very good at comforting, but are brilliant in planning tasks, others are always ready to be in touch. Choosing from several ready-made items will allow your loved ones to understand how to help you, and it will unload your head, already clouded with worries.
Studies have shown that just 2 hours a week in the fresh air improves our mental and physical health. It's great if you can take in the scenery while walking, but even just walking can help.
Read self-help books and listen to podcasts
Knowing that others have gone through and dealt with similar experiences can help reduce feelings of loneliness. Books and podcasts are a great way to accept and live your feelings.
Try to do something nice for yourself
Set aside time every day for something positive - watching a funny series or funny videos, meeting friends, reading a good book. Planning for moments that bring joy is vital to healing a broken heart.
Seek professional help
It is very important to talk about your feelings with others and not try to bury them in yourself. Easier said than done, so a meeting with a psychologist or psychotherapist may be helpful. Even two or three meetings may be enough.
Skills worth learning
Coping with grief is important, but it is also helpful to develop new habits and skills to help you overcome the loss.
Accepting your pain
Don't waste time feeling ashamed or guilty about your feelings, it's better to put all your energy into healing. Schedule 10-15 minutes a day to mourn well, this is normal in your situation. After a while, you may find that you want to do it less and less.
This means treating yourself with love and respect, without judgment. Think about what you would say to a loved one who is going through difficult times, how would you show him that you care? This is how you should treat yourself.
Unloading the schedule
When we are in pain, it can be very difficult to focus on business. Keep this in mind when planning your work or social workload, leaving room for "feeling breaks."
Cultivating new traditions
If you end a relationship or lose a loved one, it may turn out that a whole piece of life full of rituals and traditions has gone with him (holidays are especially difficult).
Enlist the help of friends and family to create something new to replace what has been lost—traditions and memories.
Writing in a diary or private blog can help you recognize and record feelings that you are not ready to share with other people.
Chat with a support group
This could be a social media group, forum or online support group. Regular communication in a safe environment, sharing feelings and experiences with those who have experienced similar things, can be very healing.
Getting in touch with soul and body
Experiencing loss or change can separate us from ourselves. You can return contact with the soul and body through physical exercises, walks in nature or meditation practices.
Things to remember
Our society, in movies and songs, has distorted ideas about how recovery from loss works. That is why it is so important to have realistic expectations.
Your experience is important
The death of a loved one is an obvious form of grief, but it can also be hidden, with the loss of a friendship or relationship. Even a career change or the departure of children from home can cause it.
The popular phrase “Children in Africa are starving” has never made anyone feel better. No one exclaimed, “Why am I crying, my problems are not problems at all in comparison with the problem of world hunger!”
It doesn't matter why you are in pain, what matters is that you are in pain. These feelings affect your life.
It's not a competition
It's natural to compare your experience with other people's, but grief is not a competition.
You can lose a friend to death, or you can lose a friendship, and the feelings will be very similar: you will have to learn to live in a world without important close relationships.
No expiration date in grief
Grief is not the same for everyone, it does not have a timetable like a train. Avoid those who say "it's time to move on" - you have the right to heal for as long as you need.
You can't avoid pain
No matter how hard it is, you have to go through it. The more you delay acknowledging your pain, feelings, and emotions, the further recovery is delayed.
Sometimes feelings will come over
As the experience of grief develops, the intensity of sadness will also change. Sometimes it will be soft waves coming and going, and sometimes feelings will overwhelm you, without any control. Don't judge yourself for the way your emotions show up.
You will have periods of happiness
It is perfectly normal to feel moments of joy even when you are sad. Focus on the present and allow yourself to accept the good things that are happening in life.
If you are experiencing the loss of a loved one, happiness may be accompanied by feelings of guilt. But joy is very important in order to move forward, and forcing yourself into negativity will not change the situation for the better.
It's okay to feel abnormal
Even if you do your best to heal your broken heart, sometimes there will be bad days. Take them for granted - you will continue healing tomorrow. It's normal to feel abnormal from time to time.
You'll need time
Don't expect your pain to go away before it's all gone. Try to accept the new reality and the fact that you will need time to process grief and heal.
What can you read?
Books help to distract and heal a broken heart, especially if they are personal stories about how other people experienced grief. Here are some stories that might help.
- Strayed Cheryl — Beautiful little things. Inspirational stories for those who do not know how to live on
- Lamotte Ann Small victories. How to Feel Happiness Every Day"
- Joan Didion "The Year of Magical Thinking" Joan Didion
- Nat Tit "Lotus grows from mud. How to transform suffering into happiness"
- Brown Brené "Gifts of imperfection. How to love yourself just the way you are"
Have you had your heart broken?
Sadly, the hard experience of loss can change our lives forever. But pain follows light, so it's worth keeping moving forward. Survival time will end and a new life will begin , slightly different, but no less valuable.0003
Broken Heart Syndrome: a disease "from the head" that can kill you
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Your heart can suffer after some unfortunate event, and your brain is most likely responsible for your "heartbreak", experts say.
Swiss scientists are conducting a study on the so-called "broken heart syndrome".
Psychological stress can cause acute transient left ventricular dysfunction. The syndrome is manifested by the sudden development of heart failure or chest pain, combined with ECG changes characteristic of myocardial infarction of the anterior wall of the left ventricle.
- Scientists have found out how stress causes heart disease
Most often, this syndrome develops against the background of stressful situations that cause strong, often sharply negative, emotions. Such events can be the death of a loved one or separation.
Scientists do not yet have complete clarity on how this happens. In the publication of scientists in the medical journal European Heart Journal, it is suggested that the syndrome is provoked by the brain's response to stress.
"Broken heart syndrome" was first described by the Japanese scientist Hikaru Sato in 1990 and was named "takotsubo cardiomyopathy" (from the Japanese "takotsubo" - a ceramic pot with a round base and a narrow neck).
Image copyright Getty Images
This syndrome is different from a "normal" heart attack, when blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked. Blockage of blood flow to the heart occurs when there is a blood clot in the coronary arteries.
However, the symptoms of broken heart syndrome and heart attack are similar in many ways, most notably difficulty breathing and chest pain.
- Scientists: the brain of boys and girls reacts differently to severe stress
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Often some sad event is a kind of trigger that provokes the onset of the syndrome. However, joyful events that cause strong emotions can also lead to the development of broken heart syndrome. For example, getting married or getting a new job.
Broken heart syndrome can be temporary, in which case the heart muscle will recover in a few days, weeks or months, and in some cases the development of the syndrome can be fatal.
In Britain, about 2500 patients are diagnosed with broken heart syndrome each year.
Image copyright Christian Templin, University Hospital ZurichImage caption
X-ray of the heart of a person diagnosed with takotsubo syndrome
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The exact cause of broken heart syndrome is unknown to scientists. However, it is suggested that this syndrome may be associated with an increase in the level of stress hormones - for example, adrenaline.
Elena Gadri from the University Hospital Zurich, together with her colleagues, studied the brain activity of 15 patients diagnosed with broken heart syndrome.
Imaging data showed significant differences in the activity of the brains of these patients from the picture that was observed in 39 participants in the control group, who were healthy.
Much less communication has been noted between the areas of the brain responsible for controlling emotions and the body's unconscious (automatic) reactions (such as the heartbeat).
"Emotions are formed in the brain, so it is quite possible that the disease is formed in the brain. And then the brain sends the appropriate signals to the heart," says Gadry.
Further research is needed to understand the mechanism of the syndrome.