The Heartbroken, Heartbreaking Heart Break and What You Can Do

heartbreak heart broken heartbreakingI was recently asked to respond to some questions about heart break and the people who are heartbroken or who’ve had a heartbreaking experience  for an upcoming article in a major publication. I won’t know if they’ll use any of this for quite a while, but I welcome your input to really make this the best possible.

Below are the questions they posed to me and my “off the top of head” responses.

What other questions would be good to ask regarding break-ups and heart break? What might I be missing or overseeing? How else do you think I can help the heartbroken? What else do you think I can do to prevent future heartbreaking experiences?


1. What is the biggest challenge with people trying to overcome heartbreak?

Getting through the pain is the biggest challenge. Plain and simple. It sometimes feels like it’s going to last forever. Or that you’re forever scarred. Sometimes minutes seem like weeks and days seem like years. And then there’s also all the racing thoughts: Trying to figure it all out. “Why did this happen?” and “What did I do wrong?” are common, but the Mac-Daddy is “Why does this always happen to me?”The biggest challenge is staying out of the blame game and not feeling like a victim.

In other words, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to move on without resentment, guilt or shame. How to get back on your life-path and go forward with hope and optimism.

2. What is the best thing to do when you have had your heart broken?

Give yourself time…as much as you need. Talk about it with your friends if you need to and write about it if that helps. But more than anything else give it time.

Yes, time does heal all wounds, especially if you give yourself guilt-free, shame-free and resentment-free time.

Yes, it’s good to review and see what happened. See what you can learn for your future. See what you can glean from it to make your future relationships even better.

It’s also good to look at this as something that happened, not something that someone “did to you.”

Stay out of the victim role. Sometimes these things just happen and they don’t make any sense. They just happen.

3. Should you see your “ex”?


It all depends on a number of dynamics. If seeing your ex only makes you feel worse, then no. If the two of you fight or argue (maybe just like the “old days”), then no again.

But if the two of you can have a good conversation, or better yet, a healing conversation, then sure, go ahead and see each other. Can the two of you celebrate the wonderful times you spent together? Can you tell each other what you appreciate about each other? Can you, in a loving way, also share with each other what didn’t work, or what was unacceptable?

Perhaps you can even kindle a friendship from this. Give this all the time it needs and don’t try to rush it.

Remember that this may be a very vulnerable time and you may not be seeing things clearly if there is still a lot of emotion going on.

4. How should people who have separated but have children together behave around one another? What if one partner is mean to the other?

This is a very important element, perhaps even the most important. The children did not do anything to cause this, as this is between the two of you. So at least agree on one rule: Do NOT put the children in the middle nor use them as pawns.

At the very least, speak of each other in a neutral way. Try, however, to be complimentary of each other. And if you think you can hide feelings of anger or resentment from your kids, you’re mistaken. They’ll pick up on it, although they most likely will not say anything about it.

Allow the children to talk about their feelings, but also give them their space. Be respectful of them.

If one parent is mean, just make sure you don’t respond in the same way. Also, even though that would be a great opportunity to speak negatively about your ex, don’t do it. Again, at the very least, stay neutral.

If the kids want to talk about the other parent’s anger or meanness, allow them the safe space to do so.

If this is an ongoing dynamic, then bringing a professional counselor into the mix would be highly recommended.

5. How should you talk about your partner in front of your children?

Again, at least be neutral, and try your very best to be positive and complimentary.

6. What should people do as they recover from a broken heart?

This is a time for recovery and recovery takes many different paths for different people. Some depression is normal, although you don’t want to “feed” the depression. Sunshine, fresh air and gently moving the body are all good natural antidotes for this type of situational depression. Use your support system and surround yourself with compassionate and understanding people. Realize, however, that some people don’t know what to do or what to say, so sometimes they do or say things that can be counterproductive.

Music, dance and artwork are all forms of self-expression that can be very helpful in the healing process.

Joining a support group or a therapy group can also be beneficial.

But remember that recovery takes time and there is no hurry to “get back out there.”

It’s wise to thoroughly review what happened, when you’re ready, and see what you can learn…see what you can carry forward to improve your life and your future relationships.

7. What should people NOT do as they recover from a broken heart?

The worse things you can do:

• Immediately start dating again. You’ll most likely carry all the hurt, anger and whatever else you’re feeling right into the next relationship. Also, you’re thinking and “picking mechanism” is not going to be grounded and clear during this time, so you’re most likely to get into something that could be highly dysfunctional.

• Get into the blame game. It’s easy to take the other person’s inventory and look at everything they did wrong or bad, even if they did do inappropriate things. But what’s the point? The more time and energy you spend focused on that, the longer it’ll take you to move on.

• Get into the victim mentality. How about this: It’s no one’s fault. It just happened…period. Even though it might not make sense and even though there may be many unanswered questions, this is the time to heal and begin to move forward. Instead of getting into “Why does this always happen to me?” or “I can’t believe he-she did this to me,” or how about “live and let live,” as the people in AA say, just pay attention to what you need right now.

This also includes getting into lengthy discussions with your friends about how bad he or she was. It’s time to release and mend your own heart. Staying focused on the pain will only keep you focused on the pain.

8. When is the best time to start dating again after your heart has been broken?

There is no defined timetable as this depends a lot on each person and each unique relationship situation. Better to go slow than fast, as a rule. Socializing with your friends is great, probably sooner than later, but dating needs to have no rush. Many people dive into another relationship as a way to avoid the pain from the former one and usually only make things worse for themselves. When you do start to date again, go slow. Ask a lot of questions and remember what you learned from you past relationship. Perhaps your last relationship opened some insights to yourself; things you didn’t know about yourself previously. Play those new insights forward and create new boundaries for yourself. Be cautious, but also keep shuffling your feet forward.

Funny how we say “fall” in love when the word fall typically means something not so good. Maybe this next time you’ll gracefully tip-toe into love or walk into love.

(This is also where I’d want to put in a shameless plug for Marry YourSelf First, but they aren’t allowing any free PR!)

9. What advice do you have for people who are having trouble opening their hearts up again after a breakup?

Sometimes this happens and it is quite common and normal. This is where it may be good to seek out a professional counselor to help free you up. The mind sometimes plays tricks on us, causing us to think there is still some threat, when actually there is not. Go slow, use your support system thoroughly, including your counselor, and ask a lot of questions and evaluate. It’s okay to go slow…go as slow as you need. Take care of you!

10. How should you approach dating after going through a breakup?

Go slow and be thorough. Remember what you’ve learned. Think from your head, not your heart, meaning you need to make sure that you’re clear about your deal-makers and deal-breakers and that you stick to your boundaries and limits. If you’re not sure about all this, then it’s time to get clear. Use your support system to help, or maybe even a counselor if you can’t figure this out for yourself.

11. What is the best advice you can give to someone going through a breakup?

Decide that it’s done if it’s truly done and begin to heal, recover and move on. Too many people go back and forth unnecessarily, causing more pain. If you haven’t done everything possible, then perhaps you’ll want to get a counselor involved, but at some point you have to decide to either repair the relationship, or move on.
Limbo-land will drain the life out of you.

Surround yourself with truly loving, supportive and compassionate people. Don’t allow the negative people to bombard you with conversation about how bad he or she was.

And Marry YourSelf First Every Day!




About Ken Donaldson

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