MamaBlogger365 – Broken Hearts and Broken Bones by Patti Ashley, Ph.D.
One year ago today, I fell off of a bicycle and landed on my elbow.
Two to three months was the time frame I was given for healing by the doctor at the Urgent Care who X-rayed my bone, however the pain was so severe, I thought it would never end.
I had to find ways to do things without the use of my right arm. I had to slow down and not do so many of the things I love to do, such as ~ dancing, listening to live music outdoors, bicycling, hiking. I couldn’t put my hair up in a clip, I couldn’t floss my teeth. I simply had to surrender to the brokenness of the bone.
The physical pain was a clear indicator of what I could and could not do. For example, even if I wanted desperately to brush my hair, the pain was not going to let me do it. I had to learn to do many things with my left hand, and I had to ask for help. I realized many things about myself. Especially how much I hate to ask for help!!!
It is times like these when I stop and think about all of the things that I take for granted on an ordinary day, and I develop a new gratitude for them. As I observed people using their arms in ways that I was unable to, I realized that I never noticed how important my elbow was prior to the break.
As I surrendered to the pain and resigned myself to the necessary regime of ice packs, ibuprofen and DVDs, I thought about the slow process of healing and how it happens in a natural order, one that was not at all on my own desired time-frame. In the contemplative moments of healing, I realized that healing takes time, nurturing and lots of loving care.
During this period of introspection, I started to compare emotional wounds to physical wounds and pondered the healing process. Wouldn’t it be easier if we could X-ray our emotional wounds to see how they are healing and whether or not we have re-injured them?
Since emotional pain is very subjective and still shunned in our society’s philosophy of “hurry up and get over it,” or “stop feeling sorry for yourself,” etc, etc., I wonder how much we really allow ourselves to heal and do not re-injure our wounds by running away from the pain.
The healing time-frame for my broken elbow was clearly evidenced by a long history of X-rays of other broken elbows. I knew what I had to do and how long it would take. However, when we suffer an emotional wound, such as death, divorce, heart-ache from relationships ending, or any of the other life challenges we face, we have no concrete evidence for how long the pain will last and what the best treatment might be for optimal healing to occur.
As a psychotherapist, I have witnessed hundreds of people going through the emotional healing process. The ones who heal the best are the ones who are willing to be with the pain and go through it, rather than try to avoid it. That is not always what a client wants to hear when coming to therapy. Especially in the managed-care dictated, solution focused philosophy of psychotherapy, which encourages a six week-quick fix designed to avoid a lengthy bill to the insurance companies.
Since many of our adult wounds re-open the wounds of our youth, we may have scar-tissue that complicates the healing. The process of true healing requires a willingness and courage to face the old and the new wounds.
Carolyn Myss, in her book Anatomy of the Spirit recommends the following six-step approach to healing emotional wounds:
- Commit to healing to the source of the pain.
- Identify the wounds and find a “witness,” such as a therapist, friend, or spiritual advisor, to help you confront them.
- Observe how you use your wounds to influence your life and others.
- Identify the good that comes from the wounds and develop gratitude and appreciation.
- Take on the practice of forgiveness.
- Think love! (pp. 214-216)
Recent studies have identified what is now called broken heart syndrome. 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 that of a heart attack. The study also revealed that approximately two percent of all heart attack patients are actually suffering from broken heart syndrome.
How long does it take to heal a broken heart? This varies considerably for each individual and again may depend on whether or not there are old unresolved wounds that get re-opened during a current trauma. The best advice comes from grief expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who found that most people who suffered a major loss took about two years to fully move through the five recognized stages of grief which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
How do we heal in times such as these that are full of traumatic events–natural disasters, job losses, terrorists attacks and other tragedies? We can’t stop living when we have emotional wounds, but we do need to take care of ourselves. Hot baths, long walks, retreats, meditation, supportive people, healthy foods, fresh air, rest and the six steps defined by Carolyn Myss are some ways to nurture yourself through emotional pain..
Most importantly, give yourself the loving compassion that your heart so desperately needs in times of stress. Sometimes simply breathing 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!
About Patti Ashley: Mothering Beyond Image helps women connect more deeply to themselves and others, therefore feeling more authentic, mindful and whole. Please visit www.motheringbeyondimage.com — sign up to be on my mailing list and stay updated on workshop information. Mothers always want to know whether or not they are doing a good job. This workshop will help you know that you ARE!