March 10, 2014

Discover Truth through Heartbreak. ~ Chelsey Engel

Item number: 181623401 Photographer: usamedeniz Collection: iStock

When we experience heartbreak, we go through the natural stages of grief and that, of course, includes blame.

We blame the other person and we blame ourselves.

Countless gurus and writers and spiritual leaders tell us, as they should, that blaming will get you nowhere. But with a virgin heart, and an innate stubborn character (what can I say? I’m a Sagittarius!), I didn’t know how to deal any other way when I first got my heart broken.

I thought I was doing the right thing by going to therapy, which was really me just ranting to my poor psychologist every two weeks about how awful this person was and how dare they do that to me? And I thought I was releasing my negative thoughts and my grief in a positive way by making music, which, again, was me just singing and recording tunes about how terrible it was for this person to ruin my life. Oh, woe is me!

Looking back, I was merely scratching the surface.

I didn’t fully realize it until this person stepped back into my town a year later, and their mere presence in the area hurt me like the day my heart got broken. This is when I knew there were deeper issues to deal with.

The closure I always thought I deserved, and would eventually get from this person, faded away. I made a decision right then, that Friday afternoon, to gain it myself. And I would gain it through transformation of my soul, my body and my mind.

I made major changes in one fell swoop, and I know sometimes, many life coaches and other wise people will say that easing yourself into a revolution is the better way to go, but then surely it’s not a revolution. I choose, and I advocate, for the radical. Why? Because, as I saw in Suzanne Morrison’s memoir Yoga Bitch, ‘Change isn’t a process; it’s an action’ (I slightly modified the phrase).

This person had sucked up all of my brain power, all of my heart strings, all of my energy for an entire year. That’s way too long. So I thrust myself onto a new path of yoga, meditation and no alcohol to become a different and better person (something this person didn’t have the courage to do), and it was time that I rid them from my life in every aspect.

I told this person, in my head (not via text!), “This is my struggle. This is my growth. This is my journey. You don’t deserve to be here.”

This may sound negative, as if I’m saying they are not a worthy person, but it’s not meant to be taken that way. For me, it simply means that it’s not about them anymore, and realistically, it never was. My journey to heal was for my own well-being, it wasn’t to let them off easy. It just took me 12 months to see that.

My issues with confidence and self-destruction were always there, but I pushed them down, as many of us do. It’s so much easier to play the part of victim than it is to just be who we are and to own up to our shortcomings. I’d been doing it for 25 years and I felt such a release when I consciously decided to not live that way anymore. I was also able to see this other person in a completely different light.

I had put them up on a pedestal for no reason other than my own lack of self-esteem and gave them permission to act the way they did as if their own lack of self-esteem and their own past heartbreaks made it okay. I deserved better; we all deserve better. We can’t be in a relationship with someone’s potential (I stole that from my psychic). We have to be with someone as they are now and we have to be with ourselves as we are now. But it doesn’t mean we can’t strive to make ourselves better and to live more in the moment!

So, what am I learning that I can possibly pass on to someone who feels stuck in grief?

1. Purge.

Please, not literally! You’re beautiful. What I mean by purge, is to purge all of your energy and get the story out of you, whether it’s by talking to a therapist or writing in your journal until your hand cramps. Find the method that feels good to you, because like many wise people say, you have to feel the feeling and let go of the story.

My version of this happened via music and eventually via yoga. Every session, I felt that bit by bit, my past and my grief and my inability to forgive poured out of me with every bead of sweat onto my mat. And with every note I sang and every lyric I wrote, lines from the story were leaving my body and my mind.

You also have to purge negativity from your life. That means tackling addictions and freeing your energy space from people who suck up too much of it. I cut way back on being surrounded by friends who weren’t really friends and who didn’t make me feel okay for having the feelings I did.

I took a major step back and only gave my time when I could give it. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them; it means our relationship has to be different in order to sustain its healthy existence. Learning to say “no” is difficult, but it is vital to maintaining a balanced life.

2. Get honest with yourself.

The people in our lives, particularly those who seem to affect us negatively, are always mirrors that reflect issues we have within ourselves. Again, it’s much easier to be a victim than it is to own up to this truth, but until we do that, the same situations and types of people will be popping up into our lives. So you have to dig.

You have to use your own nails and tunnel deeply into your soul and your past in order to find out what demons are keeping you from moving on after so much time has passed. Sometimes, you discover things you never knew about yourself or things that you thought you dealt with a long time ago but never truly processed.

This is the dirty work. This is not the fun part. But it is probably the most essential. An endless cycle of pain and grief will be in constant and heavy rotation unless and until you get brutally honest.

3. Be grateful.

The last thing we can see, or want to see, when we get our hearts broken is the fact that it happened for a reason and that perhaps, it was the best thing that possibly could have happened. We’re so wrapped up in the if’s and but’s to move beyond the grief, “If they had just opened up to me…and if the timing had been right…but why couldn’t they see how much I loved them?”

This is natural, for a while. But if we stay there, we’ll never get out if it and we will, ironically, end up hurting others down the line for the same reasons we ourselves were hurt. We have wounds, we have to heal them. And most of the time, we would have never gotten the chance to do that unless this heartbreak happened.

This absolutely does not mean we are giving the other person credit where it’s not deserved. It’s not about them at all. The opportunity was the universe’s work, not theirs. So be grateful for the situation.

But in order to do that, we have to…

4. Be open!

Heartbreak makes us incredibly closed off. If we’re naturally reserved or private people with walls around our hearts, it makes our guards ten times stronger. But we have to be open and willing to soften. We have to be open to transformation and open to the next great thing in our lives. If you’re not open, you won’t forgive, you won’t transform, you won’t be able to love and you won’t be able to receive the love you deserve.

For me, a way I did/do this is to begin each yoga session with a mantra like, “I am willing to forgive.” Or, “I am open to transformation.” Sometimes, just vocalizing your goal, or even praying, is all it takes to encourage the change. If you’re not open, you can’t receive.

So release your story and feel whatever you’re feeling. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but get real!

Get down and dirty, and thank the universe for giving you the experience of heartbreak. It means you are alive and it means you can undergo life’s greatest miracles, including unconditional love, which also includes self-love, as long as you’re cooperative in the process and open to it all.


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Editorial Assistant: Ffion Jones/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: usamedeniz

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Chelsey Engel