Broken Bones and Broken Hearts
Broken Bones and Broken Hearts
Patti Ashley, PhD
January 29, 2021
Several years ago I broke my elbow. For almost three months my arm was stuck in a perpendicular angle resting perfectly in a sling. The doctor said it would take three months before I had more range of motion. That seemed like forever. But that is what his experience with broken bones had taught him. He was right.
In the process of healing, many daily routines couldn’t happen with the ordinary ease in which I was familiar. Flossing my teeth. Hooking my bra strap. To name only a few. I had to surrender to the brokenness of the bone.
Physical pain was a clear indicator of what I could and could not do. I learned to do things with my left hand, and I learned to ask for help. I also learned how much I hate to ask for help.
Eventually resigning to the necessary regime of ice packs, ibuprofen and movies, I contemplated the slow process of healing. It became more and more clear that healing happens in its own time. Not my time.
I then began to think about how we heal emotional wounds.
We can’t x-ray emotional pain to know how long it will take to heal. Instead we try to rush the process. Hurry up and get over it messages come to us from many angles. No one ever said that about my broken elbow. Instead they said healing takes time. The X-Rays confirmed that was true.
Grief, loss, abuse, neglect, conflict, and other human sorrows need time to heal. Psychologist Carl Jung once said- what we resist persists, and often grows stronger. Refusing to take time to heal emotional wounds might in fact create deeper pain. Let that sink in.
I am writing this today as we move into a year of the pandemic crisis of COVID-19. One of the biggest obstacles many people are now facing is uncertainty. They want answers to many things that no one knows how to answer. How long will it last? When will life be normal again? How do I cope with the restrictions in my usual lifestyle? First and foremost, people want to know when it will all be over.
What if instead, we accepted that healing takes time. What if we were able to bring more self-love and compassion to ourselves and others. What if we reached out and asked for help when we were sad and needed a shoulder to cry on? What if we embraced each other with utmost courage and compassion? What if we could simply be still and know that in time healing will happen.
As a psychotherapist, I have witnessed hundreds of people going through the emotional healing process. The individuals who heal the best are the ones who are willing to be with pain, rather than avoid it. That is not always what a client wants to hear when coming to therapy. They often want a quick fix. The fast-food solution to emotional hunger. However, the process of healing requires a willingness and courage to face the old and the new wounds, and the time it takes to do that.
Researchers at John Hopkins University found that stress can cause the body to release hormones that shock the heart and result in the heart muscle looking very much like a heart attack. The study also revealed that approximately two percent of all heart attack patients actual suffer from what is known as broken heart syndrome.
Unexpressed grief can literally break the heart. The words of William Shakespeare speak to this–“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”
How long does it take to heal a broken heart? This varies considerably for each individual and depends on whether or not there are old unresolved wounds that get re-opened during a current situation.
Grief expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross found that most people suffering a major loss need about two years to fully move through the five recognized stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, everyone is different and there are no X-Rays to diagnose the timeframe.
When in grief or any other sorrow, take time to heal. Give yourself permission to slow down. Hot baths, long walks, meditation, supportive people, healthy foods, fresh air, and rest and are a few ways you can nurture yourself through emotional pain.
Most importantly, give yourself the loving compassion your heart so desperately needs. Sometimes breathing unconditional love into your heart and crying until you cannot cry anymore is the best medicine.
Time is the greatest healer, and as my elbow has taught me, the body has a tremendous capacity to make all things new. So does your heart. Trust that healing will happen in time, and then give yourself a big hug for being there for YOU.
I created an on-line course to support people in the slowing down and healing process. The course is free and can be completed at you own pace. PowerPoints, videos, meditations and worksheets all designed to help you heal are part of this free course. You can sign up here: https://authenticityarchitects.thinkific.com