“I don’t think this is going to work”, he said.
In that moment, I felt like a giant fist punched through my belly, taking all of my oxygen with it. My heart was surely breaking.
The next week was a blur.
I cried and cried. I spent hours a day talking with my girlfriends. I moved into a week-to-week apartment in San Francisco. I gave my notice for my New York apartment and scheduled the movers. I turned 34. I launched a poetry book whose proceeds would go to charity. I had a photo shoot for the launch of the LIVE FREE Retreat.
All in that one week — the week of my most devastating heartbreak yet.
In the weeks and months that have passed since, I’ve had several friends and clients ask me how I pulled through so well.
How did I manage to remain open-hearted? How did I survive two consecutive launches? How did I continue to support my clients when I was a wreck? How did I bear attending three weddings in the first few months after? How did I pull off a cross-country move and several trips?
What they were really asking was, instead of completely crumbling, how did I hustle through a heartbreak?
We’ve all experienced heartbreak in our lives: losing someone close to us through death, breakup or divorce, losing a job or one we were sure we’d get, receiving terrible news about our health or someone else’s or just having someone tell you something that’s painful to hear.
I’ve survived heartbreak before, when I went through my own divorce and when my grandparents passed away.
But, somehow, this time I thrived.
If you’re struggling through heartbreak of any kind, consider the following:
1. Give yourself permission to be a hot mess.
The first thing I did was let myself unravel completely. It helped that I didn’t feel I had a choice, but nonetheless, I knew that trying to hold it all together wasn’t going to allow space for healing. You can numb out and dive into “go” mode, but eventually you will have to deal with the emotions. When you avoid your emotions, they don’t disappear. They get packed away to be dealt with later. Like all piles of unfinished business, some of your energy goes into the low-grade anxiety of managing those unresolved feelings. Do not “suck it up,” “buckle down” or “get over it.” Just admit you’re a hot mess and accept that it is a temporary state.
2. Give yourself credit.
I gave myself big pats on the back and lots of loving self-talk while I was in the pain. I was being the kind of woman I admired: willing to feel my feelings and still keep going. The more I saw myself in this light, the better I felt and the more I was able to stay present in the moment. You are so much stronger and more resilient than you likely give yourself credit for. You are tender and fierce enough to remain open-hearted and present — and to take care of business. You’ve got this, and you are not alone.
3. Let it all hang out with your friends.
I spent countless hours on girlfriend’s couches, spent weekends away with friends, cried for hours on the phone, got rides from friends to other friends’ houses and called on my therapist and coach for support. If I were to write a list of all their names here, it would have at least 40 people on it. And you know what? I was embarrassed. I felt like a broken record, a burden and a crybaby. I also had the great realization that this is what friends are for, and when it’s my turn to help a friend in need, I’ll be there.
Enlist a core group of friends to hold a vision for your desires and to hold your hand through the painful parts.
4. Tell people who are close to you what’s up.
In addition to a few girlfriends, within 24 hours, I notified my graphic designer (we were working on the poetry book together), my assistant, my business manager, my mom, my dad and my clients of what was going on. Do not disappear off the face of the earth. Your colleagues, staff, clients, parents, siblings — and all your other friends and loved ones — need to know where you are. Don’t isolate yourself. Tell them what’s up right away. Let them know how they can help and how you’re dealing with it, when they can expect to hear from you again and how they can be in touch.
5. Get help and stay the course.
There have been times when I’ve cancelled everything on my calendar in the midst of heartbreak, but sometimes follow-through is the medicine we need. When I was thrust into this — my most epic heartbreak yet — I had a poetry book to compile and launch in a handful of days (in time for my birthday) and a big launch immediately after that. I could’ve cleared the decks and pushed everything off, but I decided to just keep moving. I asked for more help, delegated more tasks and kept the timelines in place.
The key here is answering the question, “What do I want?” and remaining committed to that, even in the face of despair and even when it’s much easier to crumble into stories of how terrible your life will always surely be. Deciding to keep going just might save you, too.
6. Work, cry, repeat.
I realized that being completely unraveled wasn’t going to help me heal and move forward. Conversely, being a completely numb, robotic machine of checklists wasn’t going to do the trick either. There were edges of this range — from tender to fierce — that felt healthy, productive and honest. So I navigated it my way. I cried for an hour or so, ate soup, then said out loud to myself, “Okay, deep breath…you’ve got this” and got to work. I wasn’t a purposeless heap or a machine. I was a fully feeling human woman on a mission. I’d spend an hour crying with a friend then an hour writing a blog post. Like that. There’s a way — your way — to navigate a broken heart while still showing up in the world. It just may take a lot of help and a lot of presence.
Nisha Moodley is a member of the DailyWorth Experts program. Read more about the program here.