The Conundrum of a Broken Heart; or, the gift of silence

The holiday season is in full swing and Christmas is a mere 23 days away. My last post was about gift-giving, with the intent of exploring that theme in the following days. Well, today’s post has a slightly different spin, as the gift I’m going to talk about is a bit more intangible, and perhaps part of the conundrum. Before I explain, I do want to acknowledge Carin Channing at The Therapy Booth. A dear friend, her November 29 post inspired mine.

My boyfriend and I broke up a few days ago. The details are unimportant, as these ponderings mostly have to do with the responses I’ve received since then, thus the title. And as anyone with a broken heart knows, the last thing anyone wants to hear during a time of grief is anything. Really. Most well-meaning, heartfelt condolences and advice are at best ignored, because it’s just too painful to hear any of it. And loving friends risk cynical, nasty reactions from the newly single.

Here are the top three “helps” I’ve been given since Wednesday, two of which came within the first 24 hours, and my internal responses:

What have you learned from this?
I’m a strong supporter and practitioner of learning what I can from all of life’s experiences. However, I generally don’t have a handle on the real lesson within hours of a relationship ending. Sometimes it takes weeks or months, or sadly, years. My immediate response is spurred by hurt, not introspection. So, while I could tell you that I’ve learned I was foolish to open myself to love, that men are idiots and not to be trusted, and that I am being told by the Universe that fulfilling romantic relationships are not for me, I suspect that those aren’t my take-aways. And vocalized aloud, I’m likely to be told I’m wrong about those things, which I don’t want to hear, either.

You need to go out with other men. Let me set you up with ______ (fill in the blank).
I’m sad, I’m hurt, and I’m sadly still in love with the guy that broke my heart. On top of all that, I’m terrible company right now. I’m prone to tears, and under the wrong (right?) conditions, bitchiness. I don’t want to leave my house. I don’t want to talk to anyone. And need I remind you I’m still madly in love with someone else? Why on earth would you set me up with someone you like? So, no, I don’t want to be fixed up on a blind date. I’m in my 40s. I don’t see the value in rebounding by dating a string of men. I do see the value in grieving, at home, alone. When I’m through, maybe I’ll take you up on your offer. However, you should pay careful attention to my previous commentary about the take-aways.

He’s just scared and probably still loves you. Maybe you should think about staying open/trying to help him through this fear.
Now, this may be valid. He’s suffered a lot of loss and probably has abandonment issues—it takes one to know one and like attracts like. However, for as correct as this might be, I have my own vulnerability and fears to revisit. And no matter how he really feels, I can’t get around the fact that his interest has waned over the last few months and that he has, for all intents and purposes, pushed me away. He didn’t say, “help me through this.” He said, “I don’t know how I feel about you, I love you, and here’s a laundry list of reasons we shouldn’t be together.” This could be interpreted in a number of ways. My current interpretation is that he doesn’t love me, he isn’t interested, and that he was trying to let me down easily. All I can say with any surety is that he says he doesn’t know, so neither do I. For now, I’m going to tend to my own heart, until I hear otherwise.

Okay, my rant is over. We’ve all said things to make someone feel better during a time of loss because we all know how painful it is. My friends are ultimately well-meaning, and I know that with their words come with caring, love and compassion. They are trying to ease my suffering in order to ease the two-fold suffering of their own. One, they hurt for me. Two, they are being reminded of the pain they felt from their own past hurts. So, I try not to judge them and keep my responses silent. Which brings me to the theme of this post: the gift of silence.

I know for myself, and probably most people, we really don’t want to hear anything anyone has to say shortly after a break-up. Nothing makes us feel better. Even chocolate and alcohol fall short. The best gift that can be given during this time is the silent treatment. A gentle “I’m sorry” or “I love you” is fine. Even better, a knowing, compassionate nod. If you are the receiver of what sounds like platitudes, please try to be gentle with yourself and your loved ones. If you are the giver, before you speak, ponder what words make you feel better when your heart is in pieces. If you can’t come up with any, stay quiet and maybe give a hug instead. Silence isn’t just golden, it’s worth a thousand words.

4 thoughts on “The Conundrum of a Broken Heart; or, the gift of silence

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