Where do broken hearts go?

All right, I have a confession to make.

This isn’t one of my 20 questions. It’s a Whitney Houston song from 1988. (And I’ll bet you sang it in your head as you read the words.)

Thing is, I had to sneak it in here because I have a couple of friends right now that I’d like to wrap up in my arms and rock to sleep like a baby, whispering words of comfort while I brush the hair from their eyes. But these women are not my children, and would probably punch me out if I tried to coddle them, and the cosmic irony is that the only person you want to hold and comfort you is the one who broke your heart in the first place.

But I’ve been there. In fact, I’m not too far removed from the long and arduous recovery process that comes from having your heart torn from your chest. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ve never had your heart broken. This blog is for the rest the rest of us.

No matter what point you’re at, if you’re in midst of a breakup, it probably feels like your world has come to an end. Everything that you invested in this person seems like a complete waste of time. Your trust may be shattered. You can’t imagine life without the person who was your counterbalance, your confidante, your partner in crime for the past 10 months, or two years, or almost a lifetime.

All of your hopes and dreams, all of the experiences you’ve yet to have — gone.

How many songs and books and poems and movies have been written, how many wars fought over love?

I warned you that you’d be hearing a lot of references from Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” and here’s one that I hated when I first read it, but I have now come to a grudging truce with: “A true soulmate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soulmate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soulmates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”

So what do you do when it feels like there’s a concrete block where your heart used to be? If I had the answer to that, I’d already be sitting on a beach somewhere counting my millions. As it is, I can only offer a few paltry words of advice, some of which I followed myself, and some of which I didn’t and learned the hard way that I should have.

•Face the hard facts. Stop fantasizing about getting back with your ex and start focusing on moving past the breakup. You won't move on until you've accepted that the relationship is over.

•Curl up into a ball for a while and grieve. You deserve the time to lick your wounds. But understand that this is only a temporary stop. Grief is a process, not a destination.

•Get angry. Cry. Hit things. Just don’t do anything you won’t be proud of looking back. That means no angry texts, no driving past the ex’s house 10 times a day, no Facebook rants.

•Don’t worry about being friends with your ex. Sometimes this is the hardest part of the relationship to let go of, but remember this: If your breakup was due to betrayal, poor behavior, neglect, or abuse, you have to realize that a friend never would have treated you this way.

•Don’t feed your misery. It’s tempting to listen to songs that remind you of your ex, or watch movies you enjoyed together, or go to places you frequented. But it’s far more empowering to put on some uplifting music and re-energize yourself. (Love her or hate her, Britney Spears’ “Stronger” is the best moving-on song I know. I still listen to it, full blast, every single day on my way to work in the morning.)

•Throw yourself into busyness. It’s pretty hard to get yourself up off the couch and get moving, but you have to do it eventually. The more you do to keep yourself busy, the faster time will pass while your battered soul heals itself.

I don’t know if any of those things will work for you, but I hope they do. They worked for me, and it was a process that took over a year. (Yeah, I know that’s a long time, but I’m telling you this from the other end of the tunnel. You can get here too. I promise!)

No matter how you work through your heartache, though, there’s one vital piece of information that I want you to learn: In the long-run, the only relationship worth rescuing is the one you have with yourself. It’s tempting to say, “I’ll never love again,” or “I’ll never trust anyone again.” (Psssttt … I still have days when I think this, too.)

But allowing yourself to be changed by someone who hurt you means you’re giving away your power to that person. (Is that really what you want?) You knew when you met this person that you were beautiful, and strong, and confident. Don’t let anyone take that from you. Ever.

It’s such a platitude to say that time heals all wounds. It doesn’t. YOU do. But how you spend that time (in misery, or rebuilding your faith in love and kindness and generosity) is going to determine whether you come out of that tunnel broken and defeated or stronger and wiser.

So where do broken hearts go?

Depends on where YOU go.

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