How Do You Heal A Broken Heart?

Recently, a woman wrote to Salon columnist Cary Tennis seeking advice about a broken heart she’d been suffering for over 10 years. In 1997, the woman “set free a beautiful man to live the rest of his amazing life,” three years after meeting him on an island in Hawaii, where she works and lives. He was there temporarily and made it clear he’d be leaving eventually to pursue his career and Ph.D. elsewhere. Nevertheless, they forged ahead with a relationship, and she fell very much in love with him. She even got accidentally pregnant — a pregnancy she decided to terminate, but she feels that the experience forever “fused” her to this “amazing” man. Soon after, he left Hawaii, like he always said he would, and now, nearly 12 years later, the woman still cannot get over him. She says that since they are in the same career field and he has a father in Hawaii who “sometimes needs her help” and a brother who visits Hawaii occasionally, she cannot escape him. Why, she can even order a “poster of his partner through the National Geographic bookstore” if she wanted, so obviously, “there is nowhere to hide.”Cary Tennis responds in his characteristically curious fashion, advising her to meditate on a hill and “take everything down to zero.” I really have no idea what this “down to zero” business means, but I totally agree with his advice to “Let go of what you believe about this. Let go of thinking about it. Let go of your expectations. Let go of what you think people ought to give you as a reward for your suffering.” It reminded me of one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite TV shows, “Six Feet Under.” In one of the final episodes, the father character, coming back in ghost form, tells his son David, who has experienced a lot of loss and trauma in recent years, “You hold onto your pain like it means something. Like it’s worth something. Well let me tell you something. It’s not worth s**t. Let it go. Infinite possibilities and all he can do is whine.”

This woman needs to let go of the idea that her pain means something, that 12 years of heartache is worth some kind of reward, that an aborted pregnancy somehow fused her to a man that she hasn’t spoken to in years. It doesn’t. They may or may not have had a connection. Maybe he’s even thought of her fondly in these past years. Maybe he hasn’t. But none of it matters — because he’s involved with someone else and has done nothing in 12 years to reach out to this women and renew a relationship. He’s not interested … and it isn’t because he’s dead, it’s because whatever connection she thinks they had wasn’t enough to pull him back to her. She has infinite possibilities, and all she can do is whine about the guy who got away. It makes me wonder how much of her life she’s put on hold to mourn this relationship, hoping it might be enough to bring him back.

So, what advice would you give this woman? How have you gotten over a broken heart in the past? How did you let go of your pain?

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