I have assessed and treated a lot of broken hearts in my career. There are many causes of a broken heart, and the main ones being the loss of a loved one, or the loss of your own own health (and the anticipated loss of the future).
When a person breaks a limb, such as an arm or leg they immediately receive medical attention. The motivation is to get the broken pieces to heal back together so it can be functional again. The broken limb is promptly given a very snug-fitting, long-lasting hug in the form of a cast. Sometimes a brace. There are instructions to wear this cast for about six weeks. For some, that’s the longest six weeks of their lives. Everything changes. The way they do things changes. How they look changes. They are looked at as being somewhat disabled…broken.
When someone’s heart is broken, if they are lucky, they are given a nice warm hug. The hug doesn’t last for weeks, however, but many doses are recommended over the coming weeks and months. There is no specific doctor’s orders given on how many hugs, how long, what to expect, etc. There will be lots of tears, sadness and possibly self-isolation. I believe this is the equivalent to the cast for the broken limb. It’s a way of protecting and immobilizing the broken parts so it can heal.
Much like a broken arm or leg, the heart takes time to heal. Although the outward signs of brokenness are not there (you can’t see the hole left in the heart, or the crack in it), there is a real, bonafide injury. I consider the spirit, soul and “heart” of a person as one and the same. When we’ve had an emotional trauma or injury to our spirit, it takes a very special form of healing. It’s something that can’t be rushed, and there is no specific time frame on when it will be healed.
A broken heart will never be the same. Neither will a broken arm or leg. For some, the heart will have permanent scarring, emptiness, or pain. For others, the pain will eventually subside, and the emptiness will eventually be filled. But we know this is not something that can be rushed. And it’s different for everybody.
If you or someone you know is healing from a broken heart, make sure you take your time. Don’t force it or use pressure. A broken arm can’t heal any faster if you try to use it. The broken leg may become more damaged if you try to walk on it before it’s strong enough. The broken heart will only get worse if you ignore it and try to push it.
When the time is right, you will start to try things that won’t emotionally or spiritually hurt you. For example, you may be encouraged to “get out” more, but you may feel it’s too soon to be around others. Answering questions such as “How are you?” may be too much for you to handle. When you feel you are strong enough, and you are ready to start getting back into “real life,’ you may want to try rehabilitating your heart first. Baby-steps towards repairing the soul can help. Do things that make your heart feel good. The soul knows what it needs. Listen to that. The practice of self-compassion is so important on this path to healing a broken heart.
Bottom line is, don’t rush and don’t push. Any broken bone or heart takes time to heal. Give yourself that time and honour your body’s natural process of healing.
Angela G. Gentile MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “Living Well With and After Cancer” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com