How to Deal with Catastrophic Heartbreak | Choose Joy

Have you ever had a broken heart? And I don’t mean you’re unlucky in love (though that is awful). I mean secondhand heartbreak, the stuff that you feel through empathy for another because of their pain, their bad choices, their suffering.

I found out something the other day, and my heart shattered so completely that I was surprised there weren’t glittering pieces lying around my feet like some awful confetti. I don’t know how I managed to act normally after that, especially with this weighing on me.

This heartbreak is, arguably, worse than the love kind because you can’t do anything about it. I’d rather suffer myself than see somebody I love suffer. It’s even worse when the suffering will be in the future because of poor decisions.

How to Deal with this Heartbreak

What can you do in this situation? How do you deal with your bleeding heart, a chunk just broken off, lying glittering and golden in your hands, refined through trials, burnished with affliction, still pliable, beautiful in its scarred brutality, beating with pain for someone else? Disappointment, heartache, sorrow, love…all this makes heartbreak catastrophic. I’ve pondered this for a few days now. I think I’ve gone through the stages of grief with a particularly long stretch of anger in there (which did surprise me). I think I’m now at a place where I can start to figure out how to handle this in a good way without burning bridges, weakening relationships, or attempting to beat up people.

  1. Love. Just love the person, yourself, the world. But especially the person. Whether they’re in pain or just being super dumb, they needs love regardless.
  2. Don’t judge. Which you really want to do. But the truth is, every person’s motivations are a secret wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a Rubik’s cube. Nobody is completely knowable (at least to other people—God knows all). And yes, people often cause their own pain, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the pain is put on them regardless of their choices.
  3. Don’t preach. Because this always turns out so well (I say sarcastically). There’s nothing worse than somebody telling you that your suffering will make you stronger. When you’re in pain, this does more harm than good.
  4. Lend a shoulder. They needs a shoulder, an ear, any part that can provide support whether they knows it or not.
  5. Be available. You never know when you’re needed. Middle of the nights are especially hard; I hate many awful late nights after my brother died.
  6. Don’t be selfish. Or, in other words, recognize that it’s not about you. This is the awful part of catastrophic heartbreak; you can’t make it go away. The sooner you realize that, the better, for both of you.
  7. Don’t punish others. You might see this and think, why would I punish somebody who’s already suffering? The truth is, the human heart will go to great lengths to heal. You might try to punish the person making your loved one suffering or punished your loved one for bringing on their own suffering. This just adds wounds to your heart. And theirs.
  8. Get out (aka don’t obsess). Don’t sit around and obsess about this, even if the person in pain is extremely close to you. Having OCD myself of the Pure-O variety, I understand how difficult this can be; my brain just works, works, works with very little input from the rest of me. So get out and do something, take up a hobby, have fun. Being available doesn’t mean sitting by the phone and twiddling your thumbs.
  9. Serve others. Nothing helps you center yourself and heal your broken heart than serving others. In fact, bring the brokenhearted along with you for some dual healing.
  10. Have faith. It will be okay. I really believe that. Repeat it to yourself if you find it hard to believe at the moment. All things will work out for your good (and I’m pretty sure I stole that from the Scriptures somewhere).

This type of heartbreak is hard; I know it. It makes us feel powerless. But we’re not. Only, the power might not be in healing that person’s heartbreak. It might just be in healing your own. Hearts are amazing, beautiful things. They seek for happiness; they want joy. Allow them, their best, most pure instincts, to guide your actions. It will work out.

Choose Joy.



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