I want you to notice the question, “How do I get over a broken heart?” I didn’t ask, “Can I survive a broken heart?” The answer to that second question is, yes, you can survive a broken heart. When your heart is broken, you keep on breathing and moving, going to school, and living with your family. But knowing you can survive a broken heart doesn’t tell you how to get over a broken heart. How do you find the strength to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, keep walking down the road of life, and still have room for joy and hope?
Hearts get broken for all sorts of reasons. One of the primary reasons in adolescence is boyfriend-girlfriend stuff. You fall in love with someone and spend all of your time thinking and dreaming about that person, being with that person, loving to be around that person and — boom — it’s over. No matter who breaks it off, breaking up still hurts.
Boyfriend-girlfriend stuff, however, is not the only way to experience a broken heart. Broken hearts happen:
- When a parent leaves the family
- When people move away
- When people die
- When people you love get sick
- When the life you thought you needed to be happy gets changed
The funny thing about life is that life is always changing. Just look at you; you’re changing. Change can be a bad thing, especially when things change from bad to worse. But change can also be a good thing; things can change for the better. Understanding that things can change for the better is a way of having hope. Hope is very important in getting over a broken heart.
Life happens; change happens; and dreams and hearts get broken. When things get broken, the first thing you need to do is recognize how much you hurt. Trying to pretend you’re fine doesn’t work very well. The pain of a broken heart isn’t one you can walk off, shake off, or say doesn’t matter. The pain does matter; it hurts. In order to get over a broken heart, allow yourself to feel the pain and tell yourself it is okay to hurt.
Pain is something that gets your attention. If you stub your toe against a piece of furniture, what’s the first thing you do (after you yell, of course)? You look at your toe to make sure it isn’t broken. Your painful toe now has your attention.
A broken relationship can be like a stubbed toe. When a relationship goes wrong and you break up with the other person, pay attention to why and what went wrong.
- Was it something you did that messed things up? If so, try not to do that same thing again.
- Is it because you found out you really didn’t like that person after all? If so, what was it about the person you really didn’t like? Figure that out and make sure next time that you don’t choose someone who is the same way.
Many times, talking to other people you like and trust about the pain you’re feeling helps to get over a broken heart. Just saying out loud what you are feeling inside can sometimes make you feel better. Teens will often talk to other teens about the pain they are feeling. That’s normal.
I would ask you, though, if you’re struggling with a broken heart, to talk to a parent or other trusted adult as well. Sometimes adults have survived a similar broken heart and might be able to offer some good advice.
Keeping your pain bottled up inside doesn’t work. I know because I work with adults whose hearts were broken as teenagers, and they’ve never gotten over the pain. They stuffed the pain down deep inside, didn’t talk to anyone about it, and tried to pretend the pain didn’t exist. But the pain never really went away; it just stayed hidden. Eventually, the pain started coming out disguised as other things, like anger, alcoholism, working too much, or loving too little.
Pain isn’t something you can run from. Pain is something you need to learn to deal with. It is not possible to go through life without life hurting you sometimes. I wish I could tell you that becoming an adult means finally being powerful enough to stop things from hurting you. That’s not true. Adults get hurt all the time. Just ask a parent or grandparent and I imagine they could tell you about painful times in their lives. Being an adult means learning how to live with life’s pain, to get over it, to learn from it, and to keep on living with hope and dreams.
There isn’t a magic formula to get over a broken heart. Every person has to find his or her own way past the pain and disappointment. How do you know when you’ve gotten over a broken heart? I think when you can live moving forward without regret, and also when you can forgive yourself and others for the pain.
Forgiving others is a very adult, mature thing to do, so don’t be surprised if you have to work on forgiveness. But don’t give up. Forgiveness is really good at mending a broken heart. Forgiveness is the key to healing so that you can move on without getting stuck in the pain.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.