8 keys to recovering from a breakup

*Summer of 2013
After nearly two years of an enthralling, challenging, and captivating romance with a lovely and spirited French girl, our world, and eventually our relationship, unraveled.  A variety of circumstances, mistakes, and challenges led to the greatest heartache and challenge of my life as our love story came to an end. These keys I share are reflections on what I’ve learned over the years that I’ve been seeking to imperfectly apply to one of the most difficult times of my life.  This is a reflective guide, as much for me as it is for anyone reading it, on how I am moving myself forward to find healing, and by no means is it comprehensive.  I learned many things during this season, including how delicate love is.  I hope you’re encouraged through my own journey and the keys that have helped me.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and other keys that have helped you in your own journey.

8 Keys:

1. Serve others in love.
One of the best ways to get your eyes off your woes is to serve others with love and kindness.  Don’t limit it to just friends.  Serve your co-workers, your family, friends, random people you encounter.  Serve the poor or a non-profit you like.  Take a trip to serve somewhere with a church or non-profit too if you’d like an even greater perspective shift.  We underestimate and under-appreciate the healing power of serving others in love.

2. Reflect
journal, share your struggle with safe people in your life, seek counseling, read, pray.  This is probably the most commonly advised and often practiced.  Absolutely necessary.  Ignore growing in self-awareness of your thoughts and feelings in this sacred season at your peril.

3. Date but date with caution when you are ready.
I say this delicately as the appropriate time for each of us varies.  Differences in opinion will abound, but my perspective is that dating can bring renewed optimism (& sometimes pessimism).  One key, be sure to have honoring anyone you might go out with as a top priority.  That means seeking to genuinely honor their feelings and their heart.  Doesn’t mean no hurt feelings will occur, as that’s always a possibility in dating and romance.  Guard against selfishness.  And yes you’ll make mistakes along the way, but fail forward and give yourself and anyone you date forgiveness. For me this helped me remember that I am worthy of being loved; I am worthy of someone sharing their life with me and that there are desirable options out there even if I’m not 100% ready to plunge headlong into a relationship.  It has given me hope, which helped me move from the heartache of the past.  Some of the girls I have dated since have breathed life into me by their kind words and how they’ve treated me while I’ve been working through the healing process and for that I am grateful.

4. Channel heartache into creative pursuits.
One of my good friends is a top songwriter and his band is near the top of the charts with almost every album. But his best album was his most heartfelt album, which was written during some of the darkest hours of his soul. Those dark times in our lives are often some of the most creatively gifted moments in our lives.  Cherish these moments. Drink deeply from the well of sorrow in this precious time because from this season some of the richest parts of your creation could spring forth.

5. Pursue what breathes life to your soul.
Seize this season as a time to rediscover or embrace certain passions and desires.  Personally, this has meant pursuing creative pursuits in business, playing sports, going to conferences-I love learning, and vacationing/traveling with good friends.  Spend time with people that encourage you and that you genuinely enjoy being around.  A growing heart and spirit is also a healing heart and spirit.

6.  Wholeness is a Journey not a Destination: 
We are all broken and fragmented. We start out that way and we end that way. We never become 100% whole. Embrace this truth & it will free you from this false expectation that you can become fully whole. Now there’s a safe and acceptable threshold of where you want and need to be and you should pursue that no doubt.  And there are seasons where we’re not whole enough to engage romantically with another and we want to avoid those situations.  But pursue wholeness.

7. Rewrite your story, keep your mind strong
One of deepest challenges of a significant break up is letting go of the idea that this person who was supposed to have your back, was supposed to be your partner for life, is no longer going to be that person. The search for my other half must begin anew. The reality is our hearts long to share our lives with someone.  Building a career without sharing your life with someone often doesn’t have nearly as much meaning or significance.

If your ‘tragedy’ remains a sob story that you keep replaying in your mind, focusing on what could have been, you ingrain more deeply in your mind a negative memory.  Instead, focus on what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown, and the richness and strengthening of your heart that you’ve experienced because of it.  While in prison, Paul wrote “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  While suffering for years in a horrible environment, Paul had the wherewithal to realize he has the capacity to shape his circumstance based on his perspective.

8. Express gratitude to the Ex sincerely.
Even if they don’t do it back.  Whoa. I know, it’s hard.  This is part of the healing process – the rewriting of your story with them. The love you shared during your season together was real.  Redemption exists in your story if you search for it.  For me, an idea for a new business, the creation of my first product, was birthed during some of the darkest hours of our time together. Behind every setback, every heartache, there’s the seed of an equal or greater opportunity.

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I miss what once was and those special, sacred moments.  But what once was will never be again.  As trying as it is, it’s time to embrace this reality and the new season that’s around the corner with the potential for something even more fulfilling and fitting.  My life is better for what I went through both the good and bad.  I’m grateful for her and the love we shared for a season and even the heartache we experienced.  My ex had extraordinary courage and heart in trying to make a really difficult situation work and for that alone I’m grateful.

Now it’s time to embrace this new reality and the fresh opportunities it presents.  If you’re recovering from heartache, I encourage you to try some of these keys out and enhance the conversation by sharing what’s helping you through it.

Often times, we are too scared to open up again…Brené Brown explains the Power of Vulnerably in her famous Ted Talk:

*I also recommend reading Brandon Hawk’s blog on life and relationships.  Brandon is super inspirational and insightful life coach. His blog has some great stuff. Click here to check it out. 

My future awaits my hand in creation.  Your future awaits your hand in creation.  Your story and mine aren’t nearly over.  It’s time to write a new chapter in your story.

-Mike Zeller