Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel & think much as you do,
care about many of the things you care about...'
- Kurt Vonnegut
All too often when the misery of a broken heart consumes us we feel alone, as though no one else can truly understand our pain; or our shame overrides our desire for true connection. This isolation expands our misery exponentially in the midst of heart-break.
I remember feeling this dreadful isolation fueled by shame during the first year of my first marriage to my college sweetheart. My oldest sister died two weeks after our wedding. We were in graduate school in Ohio where we had lived together for only four months. I went back to NYC for the funeral. This was the first death I'd experienced in my immediate family and I returned to Ohio, a newly wed, far away from my family, and overcome with grief.
I cried often. My husband attempted to console me, but death and grief was unfamiliar territory for both us. I was inconsolable. My misery was clearly hard for him - he simply wanted me to be happy, what any loving partner wants for their mate.
He sought refuge in an affair with a student in his graduate program. One night, after staying out quite late, he told me about the affair and that it was over. As heart wrenching as the impact of my sister's death was, his affair shattered my heart.
In addition to feeling angry and betrayed, I was filled with isolating shame. I was ashamed to tell anyone about this, because then they would know the truth about me, that I wasn't lovable - that there was something wrong with me, that I wasn't deserving of love.
Then, after ten days of hiding from having a real conversation with anyone, on a phone call, I broke down into a puddle of tears and told my best friend about the affair. Though she had never had this exact experience, she was there for me. This courageous act of sharing what was most personal - being vulnerable - broke through my false protective wall of isolation. I was not longer alone.
"What is most personal is most universal."
- Carl R. Rogers
Now, forty-six years later, having journeyed through a broken heart many times - and guided thousands of clients through the misery of heart-break, I know that when we have the courage to share what is most personal to us, we open the door to connection; and discover that while others may not have experienced our exact circumstance, when we speak from our heart we invite true connection, and the healing begins.
Remember: It is important to share what is most personal with someone who truly has the capacity to listen and not throw gasoline on the fire of your misery. Here are some guidelines:
Consciously choose who to share your experience with -- a trusted family member, friend, loved one, therapist, coach, or clergy
Start by describing what is -- the circumstance
Share the impact this is having on you (physically, mentally-your thoughts, emotionally-your feelings, spiritually-your disconnection; lack of faith)
Ask for what you need from the listener (to be heard, to give advice only if asked, a shoulder to cry on...)
PS My husband and I were together for seven more years, and he is one of my cheerleaders today!
I'd love to hear from you, leave comments, questions, suggestions in the Comment Section below.
‘Til next time.