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7 Lessons from a Broken Heart

Photo by Rosie Hardy
Editor’s Note

Even though this story contains life lessons from a broken heart (a painful break up), its lessons are applicable to many other life situations. I highly recommend reading this, even if you are not going through a broken heart.

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. ~Charles R. Swindoll

Nine months ago, as I carted my meager belongings into my parents house–a move that was supposed to be temporary–my world came crashing down. It was an apocalypse I was anything but prepared for.

After envisioning a walk down the aisle, my relationship of six years came to a screeching, and quite unexpected, halt. My heart was broken. I lost several freelance jobs I had come to count on, and my already shaky income became non-existent. Worst of all, I endured a blow to my self esteem that left me curled up on the couch unable to do anything more than sleep and sob.

I had known for a few months that things didn’t feel right, it was a quiet rumbling of unease that started off small and seemed to be buzzing in my ear up until the moment the Universe decided it was time for my wake up call. At the time, I would have been far more comfortable with just buckling down and holding on to what I already had.

Clearly, there was a plan I hadn’t yet been privy to.

The recovery process was long—and at times, so irritatingly slow. Friendships that I had fallen back on suddenly dissipated into nothingness, and I received job rejections that shook my fragile sense of self more and more each time. When I thought that I was slowly pulling myself out of the abyss, I fell a little deeper.

But right around the time I began to accept that there was perfection in the imperfection, that I was already surrounded by things I was deeply grateful for, and that all the things I lost weren’t “mine” to begin with, I sensed a lightening of my soul and the situations going on around me.

Now, months later, I embrace a strength in myself that I never had before. Hindsight may be 20/20, but since emerging from the muck, I am now able to see these “impossible situations” as great opportunities.

Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:

1. The end of one relationship makes room for the start of another

While undergoing these drastic life changes, I learned the art of purging—letting go of the people and things that were no longer serving me in a positive way.

Being at my worst allowed me to see the people I had in my life that were only interested in me at my best. Releasing them from my experience allowed new friendships and relationships to emerge.

2. Starting from the bottom opens up a world of possibilities

In some strange way it was liberating to let go of so much at once and get down to the bare bones of who I was and who I wanted to be.

Starting from rock bottom opened up a world of possibilities that might not have been available to me had I kept some things and gotten rid of others. I was suddenly free to re-create myself and my life in a way that my mind had previously not been able to imagine.

3. Everyone is working through their junk

When I was smack dab in the middle of the roughest part of my breakup, I felt completely and utterly alone. I felt as if this experience had isolated me from the rest of the living, breathing world.

Yet, once I started talking about it—sharing my lowest point with people I was close and not so close to—I realized that everyone could relate on some level. People started sharing their own personal heartbreak with me and I began to understand the human condition on a deeper level.

We all have junk. It’s just far easier to air it out then try to hide it.

4. Life will always return to some sort of equilibrium

It was easy for me, in the midst of my crisis, to believe that I would never feel complete or whole again, that the wounds I now had would always be exposed. I know now that life has a way of healing us that we don’t always expect.

The healing process wasn’t linear—there were days when everything seemed ok, good even, then others when the pain made me want to check out for the day. But eventually, things evened out and there were far more hopeful days than disaster days.

I have since created a new normal, one that allows me to leave the past where it belongs—in the past.

5. Releasing expectation leaves less room for disappointment

Part of the reason why I was so shell shocked and devastated by the way things fell apart was because I was deeply entrenched in what I hoped and expected would happen. I had a picture of my future etched in my mind and I wasn’t open to any other outcome.

Along the way I realized that my inability to let go of this picture kept me closed off to other possibilities—even those that would have made me happier than the ones I was hoping for.

I’ve since learned how to let go and allow life to just happen, which has ushered in a deep sense of joy that I haven’t experienced before. And, of course, awe, surprise, and gratitude are far more fulfilling emotions than disappointment has ever been.

6. Having nothing to lose is liberating

While I was holding on tight-fisted to a relationship I didn’t know how to be without, I closed myself off to new experiences with different people. It wasn’t about dating, it was about being free to show up as just myself—without thinking about calling my significant other or leaving early to be with him.

Having nothing to lose made me fearless with the people I met—more open, more willing to connect in different ways. I could show up with an identity that revolved around me and only me. And that was fantastically liberating.

7. Listen lightly to the opinions of others

When I was in the middle of my darkest hour, I found dozens of people who wanted to offer an opinion or advice. And while I recognized this as an act of love and desire to help, taking everyone’s expert advice and boisterous opinions to heart muddled my own judgment.

Part of the reason why all of this happened in the first place was because I had stopped listening to my own intuition and following what my feelings were telling me. In order to reconnect, I had to learn to trust myself again—and listen only lightly to those around me.

Parting Words

Yet, the one piece of advice that will forever serve as my compass came from my mom: “Does that decision make you feel lighter or heavier? If it makes you feel lighter, you know you’ve chosen what’s best for you.”

A year ago I would have said that my deepest fears were exactly what has occurred in the past nine months: being broken up with, losing my work, and letting go of friendships I couldn’t imagine myself without. It has all happened—and I’m still here, living, breathing, and enjoying life in profound ways.

Oddly enough, having each of my fears realized was a relief—one I didn’t know I needed. It has allowed me to live in each moment exactly as it is, without the gnawing fear that some disaster is waiting for me around the corner. After all, I’ve already experienced it.

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About the author

Kayla Albert is freelance writer intent on living life deliberately. You can follow her at Confessions of a Perfectionist. If there's a writing project you'd like for her to tackle, visit her website at kaylaalbert.com

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16 thoughts on 7 Lessons from a Broken Heart

  1. These are such great insights, Kayla. Thanks for sharing the valuable lessons learned from your valley experience.

    I went through a similar situation and can really relate to the point you made about letting go of expectations. It took me SO long to ‘get’ it. Releasing expectations not only frees us from disappointment, but it also liberates us to live in wonder of each moment. It allows us to detach from the drama and remind ourselves that we are the observers.

    Your insights were so encouraging to me today. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. What a great post. Loss and heartache, whether due to relationships or some other aspect of life, have a way of bringing some of the best life lessons we could ever ask for. Most people will agree that some of the best times of their lives wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t endured some of the worst times. Loss, as you stated, opens the door for something new…something greater. It feels like hell at the time, but on the other side is the magic that makes life worth living.

    I recently wrote a post title, The Perfect Jumping Off Place. It touches on moving forward in times of disappointment and really tapping in to the perfection of those times. You may want to check it out here:
    http://blog.self-improvement-saga.com/2012/01/inspirational-thoughts-the-perfect-jumping-off-place-your-reality/

  3. Jd

    Nice articles! Thanks!
    It reminded of me a few months back and how I managed to get over everything!

  4. Silfide

    Hi Kayla,
    I went through a very bad break up a few years ago, and when I started to recover from it I reached roughly the same conclusions and life lessons you have shared with us here. Funnily enough, though, I recently went through a different break up, and felt exactly the same way as I did the first time around. I guess only time heals the wounds, and no words will speed up the process. The lessons only make sense once you have resurfaced from the bottom, again.

  5. I admire your courage Kayla. Not many people can come out from that kind of mess like you. I guess the most important thing in life is learning from our mistakes in the past and moving forward.

    As long as we want change and development, overcoming challenges is easy, we just have to make up our minds and do it.

  6. I haven’t had a broken heart in a long time. But I relate this to many who lose their job, are under-employed, or hate what they do. Most have relied upon conventional opinions of others. Send out your resume to as many as possible and get another job your unsatisfied with. Why not simply go to work for yourself? If you have to work on your ‘junk’ why not include some personal development and reach for something higher? Now is the time for opportunity. The world is full of possibilities.

    Thanks Kyla

  7. Dear Kayla,

    Your insights from this break-up experience is applicable to many other situations, as how Tina puts it. Aside from your insights, I enjoyed reading your style of writing, I almost feel as if I am in your shoes, I can relate to this.

    1. The end of one relationship makes room for the start of another
    -It is like when a door closes, another opens.. But often it is difficult to realise this at the moment when we’re going through adversities. However, like you said, now reflecting on that period, you now live in a way you probably would not have if not for that incident. In my perception, living in a world where people generally expect instant gratification or answers to pop out of no where, doesn’t help such situations. I like to relate this point of yours to Steve Job’s lesson on ‘connecting the dots’. It is only when we look back at our past experiences that we can connect the dots, and see how some events happened or did not for a reason.

    2. Starting from the bottom opens up a world of possibilities
    -This reminds me of Germany and Japan, in the sense that they started from scratch after being bombarded, and today, they are the world’s technologically advanced countries. From zero to hero.

    3. Everyone is working through their junk
    -Sometimes when I go through a very low period, I think that no one has it worse than me, which makes me go lower. Only when my rationale mind gets hold of me, and when I talk to others or read their blogs- that I realise, in one way or another, everyone has their pile of problems. The good thing is, through the sharing of experiences (sharing is indeed caring) like yours, serves as a great reminder when we do go through such event again in future. I think that makes us tougher as we go along, knowing all this, for instance, I will deal my disappointments and frustrations in a manner I’d probably would never had.

    5. Releasing expectation leaves less room for disappointment
    This is a point that I feel uncertain about at times in my life. On the one hand, most people talk about the power of ‘visualising’ where you want to be in order for it to materialise. From your story in fact, you had a clear picture of where you were heading to, and yet things did not turn out as expected. I, on the other hand, wish I know what to ‘visualise’, sometimes, I am afraid that I am just ‘living with the flow’, not expecting anything to avoid disappointments. I used to set expectations for myself, but now, I just live with what come may, (small goals here and there), but nothing so concrete, and that scares me, as I am not sure if I am doing the right thing. Am I releasing too much of any expectation at all?

    This year is hopefully a year for me to discover what I truly want, and where I truly want to be in life. In some ways, I feel as if I can relate to your point 6.

    Thanks Kayla, Tina and team, keep up the great job, I am learning more about myself as I follow this blog.

  8. Thanks for sharing Kayla, your insights are valuable and applicable to so many difficult and unwanted shifts that come our way. Using that hindsight is so important. I was dumped by someone I thought was the love of my life a number of years ago. Once I was lucid enough to look back I realized that continuing with that relationship would have been a disaster. By moving on and being willing to learn I eventually found someone who is more amazing than I could ever have hope for.

  9. Sambit Misra

    Does anything really breaks our heart ? I think we only over hype it. Yes, we come across difficult times and unwanted experiences. But we are not crystal gazers. We will get to face the unexpected, some happy and some sad, and may be some which just pass by without touching us. There will be storms and gales, some of the branches will be broken, one or two roots may get severed. But, inevitably the sunny times will follow to allow us grow fresh leaves, new branches and more roots. Anything that is broken and taken away by times have served their purpose and would have been a burden like the over staying guests if they were to continue. Let’s thank them for giving us the times we enjoyed so much, let’s thank them for teaching us to let go, and let’s move on. We tend to confine ourselves in the given comfortable conditions. We can expand our world by coming out of it. If that needs breaking a few walls, why bother. But let’s be thankful to the walls and roofs for giving us the support and cover when they lasted. Enjoyed the posting. Thanks for it.

  10. BR

    This is a great post. I went through an unbelievably hard break up and I can completely understand everything you’re saying. It’s been a year now and while I still hurt inside for the pain she caused me, I am much better and I can finally see the good that came from the break up. None of this good could’ve happened. I get a frog in my throat when I admit to myself that it was good that we broke up, but the frog comes because it’s the truth and the truth hurts.

    But wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post. You said it all perfectly.

  11. Kevin Jones

    Wow, this was a great contribution, Kayla, thank you for sharing. Your insight is exactly what I needed. I’ve always tried to stay away from such articles because of the pain factor and I didn’t want my mind to start running with the “What If’s” and “Why’s”. But I took a chance, read it and now I can see the rigid walls that kept me from experiencing a much wider view, are finally starting to crumble. I plan make use of this information in other aspects of my life, not just relationships. Thank you. And I look forward to reading any future contributions you may offer.

  12. Tana

    Beautiful article! I went through the same thing 3 months back :D and I have rediscovered myself ever since. It’s refreshing! :)

  13. 6. Having nothing to lose is liberating

    While I was holding on tight-fisted to a relationship I didn’t know how to be without, I closed myself off to new experiences with different people. It wasn’t about dating, it was about being free to show up as just myself—without thinking about calling my significant other or leaving early to be with him.

    Having nothing to lose made me fearless with the people I met—more open, more willing to connect in different ways. I could show up with an identity that revolved around me and only me. And that was fantastically liberating.

  14. Stephanie

    I love this entry and coincidentally it was posted on the day that my ex-boyfriend broke up with me. Fate. I am so glad that I have been able to read this and realize all of the important lessons that you wrote about. Thanks again!

  15. There are some really great ideas in this post: the point about equilibrium speaks to me the most. When we’re down and out, we all tend to forget that everything is a series of ups and downs. While the downs are no fun, they don’t usually last forever.

    This post made me smile, thanks.

  16. Fantastic post. Most of the things you experienced are happening with me now, and I feel like I’m drowning. Reading this gave me hope, so thank you!

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