Mending a Broken Heart

“Hold on. Hold on to yourself. This is gonna hurt like hell.” – Sarah Mclachlan

The world kept turning and he just stood there in disbelief. He hasn’t moved much since. He’s facing heartbreak and worse and he keeps saying, “I don’t even know where to start.” He hasn’t gotten past the shock and dismay and denial. He’s a veteran of therapy and so he knows there are four more stages to go: anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These are commonly referred to as the 5 Stages of Grief. He’s suffering. Grieving involves sharing pain with others. It doesn’t hurt them. On the contrary, they get to feel good about being there for us.

He hands me a song lyric to add to my walls:

“But in the end we all end up alone
Losing her the only one who’s ever known
Who I am Who I’m not and Who I wanna be”
- The Fray “You Found Me”

He knows I relate everything to music and so is not surprised when I fire back:

Well it sucks to be honest
And it hurts to be real…
I’m a good man
with a good heart
Had a tough time, got a rough start
But it finally learned to let it go
- John Mayer “Shadow Days”

He doesn’t know how to let go of a damned thing. Burying the pain was what he learned to do growing up. He’s come to see what that’s cost him. Today he knows that taking the weight of the world off his shoulders means accepting the unacceptable and forgiving the unforgivable. Not for her sake but for his own. Forgiveness can be selfish. It doesn’t have to be just a nice thing we do for the people who hurt us. It can be something we do cuz we’re sick and tired of caring and carrying the pain.

He’s feeling betrayed and abandoned and it’s all too familiar. People like us get stuck in the outrage of, “what, again?” We scream at God and demand to know WTF? Is there no justice? Can it never just be good and stay good? Rhetorical questions suck. They’re passive curses and F me statements. Maybe Thoreau was right. Maybe most men do lead, “lives of quiet desperation.” I figure maybe if we get loud we can get better. I ask him if he’s told God he’s pissed at him. He shudders and says no. Good – as long as you don’t tell Him He won’t know. Nice to laugh. Laughter is release and Vonnegut said it comes from the same place as tears.

He asks me how to forgive. I suggest that he write out everything – every thought, every feeling, every memory, every false hope and every fantasy that it’s all gonna turn out to be a bad dream. It’s harder to forgive people when they’re not sorry or when they’re just gone. Harder still is to forgive ourselves. We’re more comfortable blaming ourselves and so that’s what we tend to do.
Letting go is a process not an event. When people tell me they “let it go” what they usually mean is, “I’m pretending that doesn’t bother me anymore.”

I give him the good news that everything he did in his 4th and 5th steps in AA works here too. Recovering Alcoholics and Addicts really do have the best strategies for changing lives. The 12 steps are the basis for nearly every self help group out there and ideally they would be a big part of all counseling and therapy. In the 4th step the person identifies resentments held (past pain and anger). We identify our part in things and we take Responsibility for our actions. We identify what it cost us and others at the time it happened and ideally we identify the cost we continue to pay.

In the 5th step we admit the truth of these things to ourselves, to a Higher Power and to a trusted person. These actions afford us release and a new perspective. They provide opportunities for change and to do things differently. It ensures that we learn from past mistakes because otherwise we just keep muddling through Life with our eyes, hearts, and minds closed.

Write it out. Talk it out. Get effing loud about it. Scream. Cry. If you’re gonna mend a broken heart you better empty it of pain and anger first.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.