“Mom, why are you taking a picture of your arm?”, my daughter asked. I was sitting on the couch capturing a photo of the huge bruise on my arm. My arm was black and blue from an unexpected surgery I had gone through the week before. ” It will help me as I recover emotionally to remember that I have gone through this surgery,” I tried to explain. I knew, that soon the bruises would fade, but the emotional pain and heartache I (and my family) had gone through would last much longer.
The need to record the physical evidence was powerful. Overcoming heartache and emotional pain is hard work. By capturing the physical evidence I felt like I was giving myself a link back to the traumatic event. And thus giving myself a reminder in the days ahead to allow for time and space to heal.
We all have hidden heartache and emotional pain. We rarely carry physical proof on the outside to testify to the trauma our hearts have endured. Break-ups, divorce, death of loved ones, miscarriages, infertility, court battles, crushing disappointments, abandonment, medical struggles, abuse, loss of dreams, betrayal… the list goes on and on. And though we often cannot see the pain physically, it is real.
What to we do with this pain?
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We have all witnessed in ourselves and others the ugliness and destruction that happens when we ignore the pain, run from the pain or try to drown the pain. It makes everything worse and it destroys way more than it ever helps. So what are we to do?
Overcoming Heartache and Emotional Pain
Acknowledge your Heartache and Pain
The first step is to recognize that we are in distress. Connecting to your heartache and emotional pain is not going to be done in one moment. It takes time for a new reality to sink in fully. However, you can make the first move by just acknowledging that something has happened. This might be speaking aloud what happened, requesting time off some of your regular duties or asking for help from others.
Sometimes it may feel that if we acknowledge our pain we will be stuck in those initial traumatic days or months. I pictured my pain as a overstuffed closet I was afraid to open for fear I would be buried beneath it forever. But you are not going to stay here forever. So don’t run past stage this acting like nothing happened.
Acknowledging your heartache will not prevent you from moving on with your life. In fact, it will allow you to truly be stepping forward without all the weight of trying to hide your heartache and emotional pain.
Recognize Your Coping Methods
We all have coping methods to overcoming heartache and emotional pain. As I mentioned before, often times our coping methods are unhealthy. Know the signs of your personal tendencies toward poor coping behaviors. Then you can recognize more quickly if you may need help from others. Unhealthy methods in their simpliest form is a tendency to act out or to withdrawl into oneself. We typically lean toward one or the other.
Outward Behaviors may include:
- Feeling angry all the time
- Trying to control others
- Avoiding being emotional close with anyone
- Choosing high risk behaviors (gambling, hooking up with strangers, etc…)
Inward behaviors may include:
- Feeling depressed or suicidal
- Finding relationships where you “rescue” others
- Isolating ourselves and doing less
- Self-destructive behaviors (self-cutting, eating disorders, drug or alcohol abuse)
Give your Pain a Voice
Overcoming heartache and emotional pain is a struggle. How you feel is important and shouldn’t just be ignored. Give your pain a voice by talking with a few trusted friends. Find a support group of others struggling with your similar situations. Or perhaps you would benefit from going to a counselor.
Journaling about your thoughts is very therapeutic too. Writing is powerful as it creates a record of your journey. You can then look back and see how far you have progressed!
Reading has always been very helpful to me. It is comforting to know you are not alone. You are challenged to reframe what you are thinking. A great book is Loving What Is by Bryon Katie. She walks you through the steps of examining what you are thinking and saying to yourself, and if it truly is serving you well.
Do be aware that sometimes we can get stuck here. We just want to talk about our pain. To everyone! We can believe that is all we have the power to do. But that is a lie. Read more about getting stuck in crisis mode here.
As we talk we are acknowledging our pain and processing our heartache. So this is a necessary step, but it is meant to propel us forward.
Give Your Pain Expression
There are so many beautiful examples of people expressing or commemorating a loss or an event they survived. It might be a special necklace, a tree that you plant or a decal on your car.
What could you do that would celebrate or express what you have been through? Is there a way you can make what was a challenging circumstance into a victory of survival or a celebration of life?
My Mom and Dad purchased a beautiful necklace for me this year. It has been such a hard year for me physically. My Mom had one of the theme words for my life stamped into the necklace to encourage me. The necklace is a elegant reminder that I have come far, and that I will get through this current challenge.
Give your Pain Purpose
Once you begin to feel like you can breathe, share your story. Who would benefit from learning how you overcome or lived through your struggles.
When I was a fairly new single mom, I decided that I wanted to help other single women facing an unplanned pregnancy. It had been such a life changing traumatic event going through an unplanned pregnancy on my own.
Not only did I have to face becoming a new parent alone, but the year of my pregnancy had been full of heartache as I began to let go of some unhealthy relationship patterns I had developed. Ugh! My recovery work felt like I was hacking my way out of a jungle to get back to the right path.
Fortunately, I had a few women who walked with me through those hard days. I wanted to do that for someone else. So I signed up at our local crisis pregnancy center to volunteer. It was very satisfying to give back and to be able to offer some wise counsel to comfort those in the midst of turmoil.
Who would benefit from hearing your story? It may be something formal such as through a agency or it may be just informal as God brings those people into your life.
Overcoming heartache and emotional pain is tough. However, don’t allow yourself to be derailed by the pain of life. Heartache will change you and become part of who you are, like thread woven into a beautiful tapestry, but don’t allow it to crush your spirit.
A Special Note on Overcoming Heartache and Emotional Pain
***Before I end I have to tell those of you who have been victims of abuse something that can be tough to hear. I have sat across many victims of abuse and seen them struggle with the idea that they were the one that had to do the hard work of recovery. It seems like the abuser should have to suffer since they were ones who did something wrong. However, if you want to get better you will have to take responsibility for your own healing. Its not fair that you have to do all the work of recovery and in fact it sucks, but don’t put your life on hold waiting for “justice” to be served against your abuser. Yes, you were the victim, but you are not going to always be a victim. You are going to be a SURVIVOR!