“I don’t think this is going to work”, he said.
In that moment, a giant fist punched through my belly, taking all of my oxygen with it. I felt dead and dying all at once.
I felt my physical body shrinking as I fell down, down, down through universes. Swirling, tumbling, rolling into tighter pain and desperation. My mind raced and my heart pounded. I was a million questions and a billion terrified answers. My heart was surely breaking.
The next week was a blur. I cried and cried and blew my nose until it was red and raw and sore to touch. I spend 25 hours a day talking with my girlfriends. I moved into a week-to-week apartment in San Francisco. I gave my notice for my New York apartment and scheduled the movers. I turned 34. I launched a poetry book to gave donations to charity. I had a photo shoot for the launch of the Live Free Retreat. All in that one week – the week of my most devastating heartbreak yet.
In the weeks and months that have passed, I’ve had several friends and clients ask me how I pulled through so well. How did I manage to remain open-hearted? How did I survive 2 consecutive launches? How did I continue to support my clients when I was a wreck? How did I bear attending 3 weddings in the first few months after? How did I pull off a cross-country move and several trips? Instead of completely crumbling…how did I hustle through heartbreak?
We’ve all experienced heartbreak in our lives: losing someone close to us through death, breakup or divorce; losing a job or one we were sure we’d get; receiving terrible news about our health or someone else’s; having someone tell you something that’s painful to hear… And if you’re here, reading this, you somehow survived it. I’ve survived heartbreak before, when I went through my own divorce and when my grandparents passed away. But somehow, this time I thrived. If you’re struggling through heartbreak of any kind, I hope what I have to share is helpful in some way, like heartbalm for the sore spots.
How to hustle through heartbreak:
1. Permission to be a hot mess.
The first thing I did was let myself unravel completely. It helped that I didn’t feel I had a choice, but nonetheless, I knew that trying to hold it all together wasn’t going to allow space for healing. You can numb-out and dive into go-mode, but eventually you will have to deal with the emotions. When you avoid your emotions, they don’t disappear, they get packed away to be dealt with later. Like all piles of unfinished business, some of your energy goes into the low-grade anxiety of managing those unresolved feelings. Do not “suck it up”, “buckle down” or “get over it”. Just admit you’re a hot mess, love. We understand.
2. Give yourself credit.
I gave myself big pats on the back and lots of loving self-talk while I was in the pain. I was being the kind of woman I admired: willing to feel my feelings and still keep going. The more I saw myself in this light, the better I felt and the more I was able to stay present in the moment. Yes, you’re a hot mess…and, you are so much stronger and more resilient than you likely give yourself credit for. You’ve survived tough stuff before, and you’re totally going to survive this, too. You are tender and fierce enough to remain open-hearted and present, and to take care of business. You’ve got this, but not alone…
3. Let it all hang out to your friends.
I spent countless hours on girlfriend’s couches, spent weekends away with friends, cried for hours and hours and hours on the phone, engaged in ‘text therapy’ with my girlfriends for entire afternoons, got rides from friends to other friends’ houses, and called on my therapist and coach for support. If I were to write a list of all their names here, it would have at least 40 people on it. And you know what? I was embarrassed. I felt like a broken record, a burden, a crybaby. And I also had the great realization that this is what friends are for, and when it’s my turn to help a friend in need, I’ll be there. Allowing them to hold me in my pain creates more love and intimacy in our friendship, and opens the space for them to feel safe to do the same when their heart’s broken. Enlist a core group of sisters to hold a vision for your desires and to hold your hand through the painful parts.
4. Tell your close people what’s up.
In addition to a few girlfriends, within 24 hours, I notified my graphic designer (we were working on the poetry book together), my assistant, my Business Manager, my mom, my dad and my clients of what was going on. Do not disappear off the face of the earth. Your colleagues, staff, clients, parents, siblings – and all your other friends and loved ones – need to know where you are. So often we go radio silent, leaving people to wonder, where did she go? Don’t do that to people, and don’t isolate yourself. Tell them what’s up right away: that your heart is breaking and you’re not sure you can take it but you’re sure as hell going to try. Tell them how they can help and how you’re dealing with it, when they can expect to hear from you again, and how they can be in touch. Be real; loop them in; let them love you.
5. Cook and clean.
After losing my Grandpa a few years ago, I learned that one of the best things I can do (which is also, ironically, one of the things I least want to do), is go grocery shopping, cook, and clean my house. When your fridge is stocked with healthy, nourishing foods, your house smells great and feels clean and cozy, and you have everything you need at your fingertips, you can settle in. Cry while you cook, cry while you clean, then wrap yourself in a blanket for some soup and sales copy. You can do this…
6. Get help and stay the course.
There have been times when I’ve cancelled everything on my calendar in the midst of heartbreak, but sometimes follow-through is the medicine we need. When I was thrust into this – my most epic heartbreak yet – I had a poetry book to compile and launch in a handful of days (in time for my birthday), and a big launch immediately after that. I could’ve cleared the decks and pushed everything off, but I decided to just. keep. moving. I asked for more help, delegated more tasks, and kept the timelines in place. The key here is answering the question, “What do I want?” and remaining committed to that, even in the face of despair and even when it’s much, much easier to crumble into stories of how terrible your life will always surely be. Deciding to keep going just might save you, too.
7. Hold babies.
I held so many babies in the weeks after my heartbreak, I can’t even count them all. Why? Babies look at you when you’re hurt and melt your icy heart. They giggle and spit-up all over you, and it helps you remember that you’re alive, and being alive is good, and there’s so much life ahead of you. This list would be incomplete without my high recommendation that you go play with babies. There’s so much life in those little bodies, and even if you don’t feel like it right now, there’s so much life left in you.
8. Work, Cry, Repeat.
I realized that being a completely unraveled, purposeless heap of snotty tissues, wasn’t going to help me heal and move forward. Conversely, being a completely numb, robotic machine of checklists, wasn’t going to do the trick either. There were edges of this range – from tender to fierce – that felt healthy, productive, honest. So I navigated it my way. I cried for an hour or so, ate soup, then said outloud to myself “Okay, honey, deep breath…you’ve got this”, and got to work. I wasn’t a purposeless heap or a robotic machine. I was a fully feeling human woman on a mission. I’d spend an hour crying with a friend, then an hour writing a blog post. Like that. There’s a way – your way – to navigate a broken-heart while still showing up in the world. It’ll take a lot of help, a lot of soup, and a lot of presence. But honey, you’ve got this…
––> In the comments below, share any tips you have for thriving through heartbreak.