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You can die of a broken heart – for real!
Put the beating engine inside your chest under too much stress and you can cause it to shatter.
The unbearable pain of heartache and the shock of a loved one dying is enough to release such a huge surge of adrenalin that your heart can no longer cope.
When a loved one dies you may very well feel like all you want to do is join them on the journey into the afterlife. Maybe Broken Heart Syndrome is Nature’s way of fulfilling that desire.
Here’s how to better cope with loss and heartache.
But there is life after loss. And as hard as it may now sound or feel, there are ways to find happiness again.
When life as you know it is wrenched out from underneath you, the loss and heartache can feel akin to a loved one departing. Finding out that I was suffering from ALS was the biggest blow of my life.
My world was shattered. I did not want to carry on living, but with the help of friends and family, I clawed my way back out of the darkness and into the light; and now I lead a happy life.
It’s a different life to what I previously had, and there are enormous challenges at every step of the way, but I have found some sort of inner peace.
Here’s how I learned to cope with loss.
How to better cope with loss
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Let yourself focus purely on yourself, let that inner pain and sadness come out. At times like this, you can legitimately take a step back from having to think about those around you.
You are taking the time to figure out how to deal with this unprecedented situation and the heartache you are going through.
I explain it in more detail below, but heartache and loss can catapult a person through a cycle of grieving, denial, acceptance and finally moving on to rejoin life.
Self care is very important and having a good self care plan with ideas for self care will help you take control of your life again.
The physical symptoms of loss
Grief is a natural response to loss. At times it can feel overwhelming, and you may feel like you can’t breathe – like your chest is being crushed from the pain. Sometimes people think they are sick, when in fact it’s nothing physical, but rather the body processing the grief.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- a hollow feeling in your stomach
- tightness in your chest or throat
- oversensitivity to noise
- difficulty breathing
- feeling very tired and weak
- a lack of energy
- dry mouth
- an increase or decrease in appetite
- finding it hard to sleep or fear of sleeping
- aches and pains
- intense sadness
- loneliness, that no one else can understand
Speaking to others helps
Sharing your feelings with others will help you recover and build a new way of living. You may want medical intervention, for example, to treat depression or find a therapist to deal with the grief.
Speak to a doctor, as they are best placed to guide you on to where to go for help.
The cycle of loss and recovery
When someone suffers a shock they are likely to disbelieve what is going on at first. Your mind just doesn’t want to accept the bad news. This typically then turns to anger.
The anger can be directed at anyone and anything – anger at the illness for taking the person, anger at the loved one for dying, anger at those still living.
Loss does not make sense and so people’s minds reel out nonsense stories to try to help them cope.
Depression usually follows anger. You may feel like you are in a deep, black hole, with no way (or desire) to get out. Once acceptance of the new situation happens, you are most likely to be able to start moving forwards again.
Accepting that someone has died, or that your life will never be the same again, does not mean you no longer care about the loved one or that you are a completely different person. It just means you are willing to try to give living another go.
And finally, once you have regained a little confidence you can feel comfortable at reintegrating into life and being with others again.
How long this cycle takes depends on the individual and their circumstances. It is also important to remember that you might go back and forth; it is not a completely linear process.
Some people may need more help than others to move on from one stage to another, but eventually, most make it the end.
Moving on does not mean forgetting
Accepting that your life has changed will be one of the biggest factors in helping you cope with the loss. Understanding that moving on does not mean forgetting helps too.
It helps you let go without fear of never thinking of your loved one or previous life again.
Graveyards are important places because they give those left behind somewhere to go to grieve and pour out their sadness.
Your loss may be different, but creating a memorial to your loss can be a way to help you cope.
Ideas for self care
Self care is extremely important during testing times like these. Once you have the strength, get the basics right – eat well (the highs and lows of a high sugar and caffeine or alcohol diet will further send your emotions crashing), get fresh air and exercise to reset your hormone levels and sleep sufficiently.
Listen to your body.
My blogs What is Self Care, Self Care in a Busy World and Holistic Healing with Self Care are a brilliant place to start if you know little about self care. The blogs are packed full of ideas for self care and will help you on the road to recovery.
Please do feel comfortable getting in touch if you want to talk any of it through too. I have been through the mill myself and can relate to how you are feeling.
Myths and facts about dealing with loss
MYTH: Ignore the sadness and pain and they will go away faster.
FACT: This is nonsense. Pretending something awful hasn’t happened will only mean the pain and memories continue to bubble up to the surface again and again, and probably at the most unexpected times. You cannot get over grief if you ignore it.
MYTH: Crying and grieving is a sign of weakness.
FACT: You are grieving because what you have lost meant a great deal to you. Acting like it is not important is an insult to the memory. Everyone grieves differently, and crying is definitely not a must, but doing so is not a sign of weakness either. We all have our unique ways of dealing with pain.
MYTH: Staying strong in the face of loss helps those around you.
FACT: If you are not given space and time to grieve you will suffer in the long run. You won’t be of help to those around you if that happens. People care and are willing to help you go through the pain and be there for you; let them.
MYTH: Grieving should not last longer than a year.
FACT: In past times, people wore black to show they were grieving. Strict code accompanied this process, but times have changed. Whether you wear black, pink or white for a year won’t change how you feel inside. Listen to your heart. You will know when you are ready to move on.
Ask for help when dealing with heartache
The pain of loss can cause you to withdraw from those around you. Getting showered and dressed might feel like climbing Everest, and meeting people becomes just too much to deal with. However, it is important to seek help.
Sharing your loss can make the burden easier to bear. It is worth remembering the following:
Let friends and family give you a helping hand
Turn to those who know you well and you trust. They have your best interest at heart and will be willing to do what is needed to make you feel better.
Remember that grief can be uncomfortable for some
People may want to help, but don’t know how to deal with your pain. They may be confused or worried about saying the wrong thing, especially if they have not experienced the same themselves. Things might work better if you tell them straight what it is you need or want – whether it is a shoulder to cry on, a cup of tea or dealing with doctors, funeral arrangements, and so on.
Religion and faith can be important aspects for some
If you believe in a higher purpose, reaching out in your prayers can give you comfort. Meditating, although not purely related to religious beliefs, can be very beneficial during such times too.
Join a support group
Sometimes being with strangers is so much easier than being with those who know you. There are far fewer expectations and you can come and go as you please. Grief Support USA is a good place to start.
Coping with loss has no roadmap. You can try what has succeeded for others but it might not be right for you. I hope my experiences are of use and if something else worked, please share and get in touch.
You are strong. Just remember to be kind to let your body heal and then you will be ready to move on.