Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Relationships Week: 12 Ways to Mend a Broken Heart

broken heart.jpg

Bess Myerson once wrote that “to fall in love is awfully simple, but to fall out of love is simply awful,” especially if you are the one who wanted the relationship to last. But to stop loving isn’t an option. Author Henri Nouwen writes, “When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful.” But how do we get beyond the pain? Here are 12 techniques I’ve gathered from experts and from conversations with friends on how they patched up their heart and tried, ever so gradually, to move on.


1. Go through it, not around it.

I realize the most difficult task for a person with a broken heart is to stand still and feel the crack. But that is exactly what she must do. Because no shortcut is without its share of obstructions. Here’s a simple fact: You have to grieve in order to move on. During the 18 months of my severe depression, my therapist repeated almost every visit: “Go through it. Not around it.” Because if I went around some of the issues that were tearing me apart inside, then I would bump into them somewhere down the line, just like being caught in the center of a traffic circle. By going through the intense pain, I eventually surfaced as a stronger person ready to tackle problems head on. Soon the pain lost its stronghold over me.


2. Stand on your own.

One of the most liberating thoughts I repeat to myself when I’m immersed in grief and sadness is this: I don’t need anyone or anything to make me happy. That job is all my own, with a little help from God. When I’m experiencing the intense pangs of grief, it is so difficult to trust that I can be whole without that person in my life. But I have learned over and over again that I can. I really can. It is my job to fill the emptiness, and I can do it … creatively, and with the help of my higher power.

3. Detach.

Attempting to fill the void yourself–without rushing to a new relationship or trying desperately to win your lover back–is essentially what detaching is all about. The Buddha taught that attachment that leads to suffering. So the most direct path to happiness and peace is detachment. In his book, “Eastern Wisdom for Western Minds,” Victor M. Parachin tells a wonderful story about an old gardener who sought advice from a monk. Writes Parachin:


“Great Monk, let me ask you: How can I attain liberation?” The Great Monk replied: “Who tied you up?” This old gardener answered: “Nobody tied me up.” The Great Monk said: “Then why do you seek liberation?”

4. List your strengths.

As I wrote in my “12 Ways to Keep Going” post, a technique that helps me when I feel raw and defeated to try anymore is to list my strengths. I say to myself, “Self, you have been sober for 20 years!! Weaklings can’t pull off that! And here you are, alive, after those 18 months of intense suicidal thoughts. Plus you haven’t smoked a cigarette since that funeral back in December of last year!” I say all of that while listening to the “Rocky” soundtrack, and by the last line, I’m ready to tackle my next challenge: move on from this sadness and try to be a productive individual in this world. If you can’t list your strengths, start a self-esteem file. Click here to learn how you build one.


5. Allow some fantasizing.

Grief wouldn’t be the natural process that it should be without some yearning for the person you just lost. Dr. Christine Whelan, who writes the “Pure Sex, Pure Column” on, explains the logic of allowing a bit of fantasy. She writes:

If you are trying to banish a sexual fantasy from your head, telling yourself “I’m not going to fantasize about her” or “I won’t think about what it would be like to be intimate with him” might make it worse: In a famous psychological study from the 1980s, a group of subjects were told to think about anything but whatever they did, they were not supposed to think about a white bear. Guess what they all thought about?


6. Help someone else.

When I’m in pain, the only guaranteed antidote to my suffering is to box up all of my feelings, sort them, and then try to find a use for them. That’s why writing Beyond Blue contributes a big chunk to my recovery, why moderating Group Beyond Blue has me excited to wake up every day. When you turn your attention to another person–especially someone who is struggling with the same kind of pain–you forget about yourself for a split moment. And let’s face it, that, on some days, feels like a miracle.

7. Laugh. And cry.

Laughter heals on many levels as I explain in my “9 Ways Humor Heals” post, and so does crying. You think it’s just a coincidence that you always feel better after a good cry? Nope, there are many physiological reasons that contribute to the healing power of tears. Some of them have been documented by biochemist William Frey who has spent 15 years as head of a research team studying tears. Among their findings is that emotional tears (as compared to tears of irritation, like when you cut an onion) contain toxic biochemical byproducts, so that weeping removes these toxic substances and relieves emotional stress. So go grab a box of Kleenex and cry your afternoon away.


8. Make a good and bad list.

You need to know which activities will make you feel good, and which ones will make you want to toilet paper your ex-lover’s home (or apartment). You won’t really know which activity belongs on which list until you start trying things, but I suspect that things like checking out his wall on Facebook and seeing that he has just posted a photo of his gorgeous new girlfriend is not going to make you feel good, so put that on the “don’t attempt” list, along with e-mails and phone calls to his buddies fishing for information about him. On the “feels peachy” list might be found such ventures as: deleting all of his e-mails and voicemails, pawning off the jewelry he gave you (using the cash for a much-needed massage?), laughing over coffee with a new friend who doesn’t know him from Adam (to ensure his name won’t come up).


9. Work it out.

Working out your grief quite literally–by running, swimming, walking, or kick-boxing–is going to give you immediate relief. On a physiological level–because exercise increases the activity of serotonin and/or norepinehrine and stimulates brain chemicals that foster growth of nerve cells–but also on an emotional level, because you are taking charge and becoming the master of your mind and body. Plus you can visualize the fellow who is responsible for your pain and you can kick him in the face. Now doesn’t that feel good?

10. Create a new world.

This is especially important if your world has collided with his, meaning that mutual friends who have seen him in the last week feel the need to tell you about it. Create your own safe world–full of new friends who wouldn’t recognize him in a crowd and don’t know how to spell his name–where he is not allowed to drop by for a figurative or literal surprise visit. Take this opportunity to try something new–scuba diving lessons, an art class, a book club, a blog–so to program your mind and body to expect a fresh beginning … without him.


11. Find hope.

There’s a powerful quote in the movie “The Tale of Despereaux” that I’ve been thinking about ever since I heard it: “There is one emotion that is stronger than fear, and that is forgiveness.” I suppose that’s why, at my father’s deathbed, the moment of reconciliation between us made me less scared to lose him. But forgiveness requires hope: believing that a better place exists, that the aching emptiness experienced in your every activity won’t be with you forever, that one day you’ll be excited to make coffee in the morning or go to a movie with friends. Hope is believing that the sadness can evaporate, that if you try like hell to move on with your life, your smile won’t always be forced. Therefore in order to forgive and to move past fear, you need to find hope.


12. Love deeply. Again and again.

Once our hearts are bruised and burned from a relationship that ended, we have two options: we can close off pieces of our heart so that one day no one will be able to get inside. Or we can love again. Deeply, just as intensely as we did before. Henri Nouwen urges to love again because the heart only expands with the love we are able to pour forth. He writes:

The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper. When your love is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you. The pain of rejection, absence, and death can become fruitful. Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear.


Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

  • dave

    please take your comments on how to mend a broken heart , and stick it

  • http://Me me

    To the broken heart bitterness never helps just hinders.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, I needed this.

  • Green

    Thanks so much for writing this. I really needed to see it, especially now.. I hope you know it’s helped me so much in the short amount of time it took to read.
    To dave.. I’m sorry you feel that way.. I was once angry and bitter too. It does get better.
    Thanks again for the article.

  • Susan

    Thank you God for sending those to us to help love and heal us. They are truly your angels on assignment.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for writing this. Dave, smiles to you all day .

  • mary

    Good start with any relationship where someone has been rejected by another. I’m going through this with a sibling and will try these. Thank you for such a list.

  • http://Thanks! Steve

    I am reading a lot of books and blogs on self improvement after suffering a broken heart. I so enjoy your posts and they really help me evaluate myself and to work on things that will help me heal. Thanks again!

  • eileen

    I’m six months into my divorce. It’s all true: there is no way around the pain but through it. Last August, I never thought I’d have days where I didn’t cry and want to die but now I do. It takes time and lots of tears. (Oh, and I’ve done it while remaining sober which is an absolute miracle.) As always, thank you for your words, Therese.

  • Diann

    Hello,My divorce was just final a few months ago, after 17 yrs of marriage, that was suposed to last a lifetime. I have not worked in 10 yrs because of heath issues, not working was my ex’s idea. I am still greiving, I love him very much, oh so sad… I am inspired about this, I know God will open new doors for me, I rededicated my life to God over a year ago, I am a member of a wonderful church and I have a new family in the church, they have all helped strengthened me. I think I might get your book sounds like a great inspiration. Thank You for caring about others, God Bless us all, there are no heartbreaks in HEAVEN, God says….

  • Joan

    Thanks for your wonderful healing advice/messages. I also suffer from SAD and depression during these dark months,and have also had my heart broken several times (one more recently), but somehow I’ve been able to pick myself up and go on. I’m fortunate in that I’m an artist and writer so never have a lack of things to do, except when I get depressed I’m unable to work! But I try to move through the thickness and wait. I do alot of waiting, and I’m learning patience (I just want it to hurry up!!).
    Thanks again.

  • Justaman

    Once again, I read your post and it’s a winner. I’ve tried nearly all those steps, finding they really help.
    That was such a long time ago, I had to discover them myself, slowly. Over a long time.
    When you’ve been with the love of your life for more than eleven years, then, suddenly it’s over.
    Irreconcilably. It’s quite devastating. There seems to be no relief to the pain ripping you apart.
    I’d like to add one more step that’s been of great help to me. Writing.
    Writing is cathartic. Putting it down on paper releases some of the pain. Often, a considerable amount.
    Save it if you want. Share it if that helps. Or, after writing it all down, read it once more, then, safely, of
    course; strike a match to it, and lay it in a vessel before you, for containment, and watch it as it becomes
    reduced to ashes, symbolically freeing you from the pain and burden of your loss, so you can carry on,
    refreshed and renewed.

  • Lynne

    I have been devestated since my boyfriend broke up our relationship abruptly. I would have married this man. Thank you so much for your words. I too have been sober almost 18 years. My friends do not want to hear his name anymore, and I have been praying to let this go.
    It is very hard to go through it….but “what you feel, you can heal”.
    I especially liked to hear that the hole in my heart is just room for more love.

  • Readingfaerie

    I was married for 32+ years and have been divorced for 8. I still cry sometimes. I can’t stand romantic movies or music. I dread holidays — they are for couples.
    I am too old for new love. Men don’t look at old women.

  • Missy Kurtz

    My sister sent me the 12 ways to mend a broken heart..I read it this morning and cried some more. Hy Husband my Love of the last 6 years, has decided that the computer and his lady friends on line are now the focus of his life. This is a second marriage for us both, and in the beginning we talked about what went wrong with the first marriages and what we would not let happen to ours. It seems his was just words of the moment. He says he loves me, but does not know what he wants. Saying if and probably we will be together at this time next year. What started this all was his text messaging last summer to 6 other women, and he is still doing it. I feel as if my heart has been ripped out. He ask me do you love me, and I look at him like he is crazy..why ask such a thing after what you have done and said, to me. Have to start taking one day at a time.

  • Your Name

    For Readingfeary, I know what you´re going trough.
    You need to find a lover ( I don´t mean a man) A passion, like painting, writing, volunteering, support groups for lonely women,and most of all, what is menainful for you.
    Those kind of passions and lovers, are always with you, till your last day.
    You must hace apassion, right? Then give it a try….
    You might be surprised
    Good luck!

  • a saying

    “Love is like war, easy to start, hard to finish, and almost impossible to forget”
    just a saying I like….

  • Jay

    It hurts and hurts a lot when it happens.. But the good news ultimately is It was anyway not meant to be.. and only might have caused more pain…..So let it go and move forward bravely……….

  • lisanaj2

    Move forward bravely…..Wow! GREAT advice. Tough to do, but as time goes by the easier it gets. Boy, can I relate to some of the messages here. I just had a guy that I was in a relationship with and when he left me it almost destroyed me, decide after he did his “thing” he wanted to come back. I have no idea where it came from but I asked him if he was out of his mind, thought I was stupid, and told him to move on. Because I had.
    By the way, men DO look at older women. The love of my life is 16 years younger than me. If someone is capable of doing some of the damage that is in this post, it might not seem so, but you can go forward. And should, BRAVELY!
    Thank you so much for this forum!

  • Learning

    My ex girlfriend and I broke up last year, and I was the one who wanted to end it. She was in such a bad place in here life where we began to lose touch. I loved her so much, but things were falling apart. To make matters worse, she was my first love. I wanted to marry this woman. I adored her and her daughter. Sometimes I beat myself up because I know I was good man to her but I should have been a better man to her. The kind of man she needed to her. But I can’t go back. I’m trying my best to move, but I miss her so much and I love her still.

  • Verearchela

    Reading this has helped. I love hard and i am now learning that i am in love with the idea of being in love. So i naturally attach fast, and deep. Letting go felt like failure and defeat, but i have learned that i have to keep people in the lane they belong love what i can about them. Some people are meant to be in our lives for a short time ,others a long time, and then there are those who will stay forever.

  • Barbara

    I’ve been married for 29 and my husband came home from work last month and announced he filed for divorce that day. This was completely out of the blue! How do I move beyond this? All I want to do is grieve, because I also do not want to get over this because I do not want to give up on this marriage.

  • Your Name


  • My Broken Heart

    This is a great list, especially regarding being independent and detaching.

  • Taylor

    I still hold in my heart that fantastical thought that there is one person out there just for me, however, I know better. It would be highly unjust if there was just one. So I survive the heartaches and the breakups because I know there are others out there with whom my heart can be whole again. It sometimes takes an extra long time and I get teary when I hear “our song” on the radio, but eventually, it’s all good. I think these steps are amazing! Great post!

  • Podryw Uwodzenie

    When you are young and you are in love, I know it`s great. And now you have good memoirs.
    Now i think broken heart is really good. Why? Because you have then incredible high emotion, and you can do that what normally you can`t do. The gratest books, arts, paints, music was created in this state. You can read some biographics.

  • Laura Lowe

    This is a great list. At 16 my first love broke my heart and the hurt stayed with me for most of my life. I am a Counselor who realized that I needed Counseling to better help my clients. A by product of that Counseling was discovering I could open my heart to love after all these year. Finally free of what had held me back I reconnected with a classmate and we began dating a few months ago. We are both 65. I am very happy in this relationship.

  • meledia hanna

    Thank you for this article. It is very informative. Great advice.

  • Love & Life

    Hey, this is great advice. I’ve already started the exercise part. Thanks for this posting.

  • http://yahoo Aut4umn

    Dear Learning…thank you for sharing. I was with a man many years ago who was 7 years younger than me. I was his first. He was wonderful to myself and my young son. We planned on getting married; were together for a little over a year….then BING…he called me over the phone and broke it off. His parents weren’t aware of my being previously divorced. I asked him to tell his parents because I didn’t want to hid anything from them. They loved me until they found this out. Our relationship just started to go downhill from there.
    It wouldn’t be so bad but now …. but after all these years, he pops into my dreams and I still feel a loss of our relationship.

  • Norah

    Yes, this is a great article, and plenty of well meaning steps. But it seems as though I am SOS when it comes to this certain guy. Even though I have found out that he is bisexual, I think I am in love. I get anxious when I have to go to his place of employment for a doctors appt., and I happen to run into him. I can’t stop thinking about him. I have a “cons” list that is longer than the “pros” list, but yet I can’t shake him from my mind. I have written letters to him, and burned them and said, “I give this to God.” What is the matter with me? Am I just spinning my wheels, and I crying over something that I can’t have, but I want. The fog is still lifting!!!

  • Sandra

    A man I’ve loved for years, who asked me to marry him,told me daily how important I was to him, just left my life with no explanation at all. No phone call, no reason, just gone. For a while the grief and feelings of abandonment and emptiness and just the unknowing were overwhelming. A friend asked, “What will you do if he comes back?” I didn’t mean it, but I answered, “I don’t want him.” It wasn’t true. Not the first time I said it, nor the next many times. And, then it was.

  • Tina

    He wrote a message on our computer that he loved me, but was not in love with me. We have been together for last 6yrs. We have a have a son 4 1/2 together, and he just figured out that he is not in Love with me…..”But he loves me” This article made me wake-up,I was floored that he was not a man and tell me how he was feeling, In the pass he told me that I was gaining some weight that I needed to lose it….. I am very Grateful for you and your article..on BEYOND Blue…

  • aiza@counseling

    these tips are great. its really not easy to fix a broken heart,but i find these tips very helpful.glad that you shared this with everyone.Marriage Counseling

  • Sara

    I like the bit about loveing deeply again and again…
    @Sandra. Sorry about the no explanation. Ive been there with all the open ended questions and just a bunch of my own guesses to figure out the real reason.
    Took me about 4 month to figure out how to mend a broken heart after my last painful break up.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ema

    I left my husband, took the children and filed for divorce when I found out
    how far his on-line romances were going. There were many times I was tired,
    bored, frustrated, angry and downright lonely through our 25 years
    together, but I tried to keep it together because we had something of
    value: our family. I was never the perfect woman, wife or mother, but then
    who is perfect? So many men and women are cheating via the internet. So
    many homes and families are being broken apart. So many children are
    suffering. It makes me wonder if there is a bond strong enough to stop a
    person from destroying a life and a history built over many years. We are
    all searching for the same thing: love and acceptance for the person we
    are. I find it highly suspect that we would be able to find that from a
    stranger through the internet rather than in our own homes; from the people
    we have lived with and loved, suffered with, endured tragedies together and
    laughed and made lasting memories with. But it must be so because it is
    happening all over the world. In my situation not only my children and
    myself suffered, i met PROPHET ABAYATOR, on the internet and he
    told me what to do to make MY husband love me more than any other thing so i did
    after that my husband called me and started to delete pictures from his
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    am so happy for the work of PROPHET ABAYATOR and i will never
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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Emilly

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    who helped me. It has been hell from the day my husband left me i am a woman
    with two kids, my problem started when the father of my kids travel,i never
    knew he was leaving for two weeks.I did not set my eye on my husband, i
    try calling him but he was not picking my calls, some week later, he call me telling me
    that he has found love some where easy. At first i never took him to be serou
    But days later when he came to the house to pick his stuffs, that was when i
    notice that things were bad. i prayed everyday for him to come back but things kept
    going worst day by day.I needed to talk to someone about it, so i went to his
    friend but there was no help.So i gaveup hope in him. Months later i when i was surfing the interent
    i saw testimonies about a spell caster, i never believe on this but i needed my man
    back, so i told the spell caster my problem,at first i never trusted him so i was just doing it for doing sake,but after
    three days my husband called me telling me that he was coming home. I still did not believe,but as at the sixth day
    the father to my kids came to the house asking me to forgive him. The
    spell work!! i said to my self, from that day i was happy with my family
    thanks to PROPHET ABAYATOR he his a great man you need to try him, you can as well tell him your problem so that he can be
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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jamie Powell

    I really didn’t believe that Africa still possess mystical powers because of scam stories i read online but the real truth is Africa possess powerful magical powers and i am a testimony to this fact. I am Jamie Powell and i will explain in this article how i got help that if my friend or someone dear to me tells me i will get help, i will believe it to be a lie.
    I was in a relationship with this young lady who was 28 and everything moved on smoothly until one certain day, i didn’t really know what came over her, she just started avoiding me and right from time her parents hated me, they never wanted me to be with their daughter and so Laurel gave them point for them to hate me the more.
    During those period, i couldn’t think straight because i loved this woman so much, i really wanted to propose marriage to her but she told me her parents has cautioned her to stay away from me and that i was a bad ass. Because of this situation, i begin to have seizures at work and this affected my performance at work. Then, a co-worker of mine who knew i was going through stress because of my girlfriend’s issue told me when he needed her ex lover back who left her because he had weak erection searched everywhere for help, some people who claimed has powers to bring back ex lovers couldn’t help, all they did was to add problems to his problems and said luck came his way when he met and contacted one Dr. Esiendo at {} who brought back his wife and cured his weak erection and when he finished, i believed in my heart that if he could get help then i certainly, will get helped.
    Then, i contacted him and to my greatest surprise after three days, a girl who first told me her parents has cautioned her to stay away from me and that she doesn’t love me no longer apologise and asked for my forgiveness and said her parents wanted to see me. From my heart, i hugged and kissed her and went to see her parents and they also told me they were sorry for not letting us be and that right now, they have approve we get reunited and right there, i propose marrying Laurel and they were happy and blessed us both and gave us a go ahead.
    Today i am reunited and happy with Laurel and her family and all these were possible because of Dr. Esiendo’s help which is why i am urging everyone in need of help to get help from him before the year comes to an end, for he is the only trusted and reliable source of help anyone will desire to get help from.

  • Grace Fatima

    I want to thank for bringing my lover back to me,…when i first contacted him, i was very unsure if a love spell can bring my lover back… But after such a long time of loneliness i decided that prophet chasus should do a love spell for me to get my lover back. Well after prophet chasus casted the spell and told me what to do, within few days my lover came back feeling so sorry for living me lonely for years, the love spell was so amazing that i could not believe what was happening. my lover just came to my house and asked for reconciliation… he now shows me love more than before thanks prophet chasus

    Maria cassidy


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