(UPDATED 2019) Heartbreak is never easy. And, to nurse a broken heart during Valentine’s Day, or the days before or after, is one of the worst kinds of torture. Reminders of coupled bliss are everywhere – roses, chocolates, cards, fancy restaurants offering Valentine specials, and of course, the happy couples themselves, a club of which you are no longer a member.
It is times like this when packing your bags and setting off to somewhere far, far away, seems like a good idea. And, while you can’t escape heartbreak and its reminders, there are ways to ease the pain and help piece your shattered world together again:
1) Try something new – preferably something dangerous. Not the foolhardy, suicidal kind of dangerous, but dangerous enough to warrant your full attention. Think mountain climbing, rock climbing, surfing, whitewater rafting, spelunking.
No time to cry. Whitewater rafting at Cagayan de Oro. Photo by The Red Rafts
During my worst heartbreak I climbed my first mountain. Before that, the what-ifs, and the memories, good and bad, played like a broken record in my head almost every few minutes. But on that climb the record did not play for several hours. Why? That’s because I was so focused on trekking, and trying my best not to slip or fall, that I had no time to wallow in misery. A thought would flash every now and then, only to be overtaken by the next rocky, steep challenge.
The miracle in thrilling and slightly dangerous activities like this is that because lack of concentration can lead to accidents, you have no choice but to be fully present. And being fully present, as opposed to replaying the past, is part of moving on.
I have no photo of that first and memorable climb, but I do have some of my recent one, which I believe is perfect for the brokenhearted and the relatively newbie mountaineer. At Mount Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas, there are parts where a single misstep can mean a fatal fall. I remember one particular narrow strip of land where a fall on one side can mean a sprain or broken bones (if you’re lucky, unless you fall all the way down), while a fall on the other can spell death. Add to that, there was a wind so strong when I walked that strip that I felt I could have been blown off the mountain had I not clutched on some grass.
With circumstances like that, you’ll be hard-pressed to moon over your breakup.
2) Cross an item that excites you off your bucket list. Think of a place or an activity that fires you up so much that you feel going there or doing it will keep you lighted up for days or weeks, and possibly enough to shine the spotlight away from your sob story.
When I saw a whale shark for the first time, I kept grinning the whole day and had a “hangover” for several days. If I had a broken heart then, I knew it would have done wonders. Being in the company of that beautiful, gentle giant left me in awe.
One place which also gave me a hangover was Angkor Wat.
So review your bucket list and consider the items which excite you most.
3) Volunteer. Serve. Forget yourself for a while and give yourself up – broken heart and all – to a good cause. In focusing on other people’s needs and problems, you shift attention from your pain to service. If you are volunteering on your travels, there’s the bonus of exploring new places too.
Kids’ free spirits and laughter can particularly be infectious. I had a blast volunteering at an environmental awareness camp at Danjugan Island, an unspoiled beach and marine sanctuary.
Kids learning and playing at Danjugan Island‘s environmental camp
4) Go to your own special place. Is there a place you have been to (it can be as early as your childhood), where you felt strong, whole, free, content – or all of the above? In short, a place where you were able to connect to the best part of yourself, and/or where you seek refuge.
Go there now, or as soon as you can. Such places have immense healing potential. After all, you are connecting to and remembering the unbroken, and even indestructible part, of you.
If you don’t have or don’t remember your special place, you can find one. Just imagine the ideal place (visualization might help) where you can rest and take comfort. If that place were a person, he or she would be one to welcome you with open arms, offer kind words, and make you feel stronger afterwards.
5) Go on a retreat, and squarely face your aching heart. This is somewhat related to going to your own special place. A retreat can mean your own personal retreat with no program, or a structured retreat you sign up for beforehand.
When the pain is too great to bear, a diversion like an adrenaline-rushing activity helps, but sooner or later you will have to deal with those ugly emotions you have been trying to escape from. True healing only takes place when the emotion is acknowledged and released, not buried or ignored. I have read and experienced this to be true.
During that worst heartbreak I mentioned, I found that distracting myself helped me momentarily forget, but the feelings – though lesser in scale – resurfaced. This cycle repeated several times before I decided to directly look at my chopped liver of a heart and just allowed it to bleed. I cried when I needed to. I wrote in my journal. I attended a retreat, which helped me make sense of and release some of my personal issues, not just the heartbreak.
A FEW ADDITIONAL TIPS:
DON’T go to your memorable places when you were a couple. Do you really need to torture yourself? Unless you feel you need some kind of closure which you can only get from going to that place. But do you need it really? In my opinion, the best time to go to a place like that is when you only feel the slightest twinge or no pain at all when you hear about that place. If you still have strong emotional associations of that place with him or her, then it’s not a good idea.
DO go with supportive friends in your travels. Or try to ensure that you will be in the company of happy, shiny people whose presence can lift you up. You need people like this especially when you go to places “infested” with goggly-eyed couples. Of course, sometimes solo travel is in order also for self-reflection, but when you need support, go with friends.
So, to those with broken hearts, I personally recommend trying some or all of these tips above. And know that this too shall pass – while time alone may not heal wounds, it does help. Also, while it may be inconceivable now, believe that your heart will be whole again, and a love greater than you have imagined may be waiting for you, as what happened with me.
And keep traveling!