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Case Study - Recovery from a Broken Heart
Kate got in touch to explore setting up an appointment. We chatted for around 15 minutes about the wretched place that she had found herself in. She reported a visceral sadness that was consuming her mind, body, and work-week. She told me that she had never experienced feelings quite like these before. One moment she was blissfully in love, and then suddenly it was all over. It had taken her three weeks of hiding under the duvet in shock and denial before she decided to reach out for help.
I have worked with many divorcing men and women. I have worked with people in experimenting with separation. I have worked with people who have had a major break up, both the planned and the unexpected. Kate's situation felt familiar. I intuited that I could support her return to peace. We scheduled an initial coaching session for the following Tuesday. I assured her that help was on its way!
Our Heart has so much capacity to feel Love. And paradoxically the other side of love is pain. It is amazing how our hearts have the capacity to hold so much love AND so much pain.
These are some of the most traumatic heart-process that we can endure. These words have profound and dramatic weight. They are potent, real, and active. They invoke profound negative feelings —especially in the heart. A broken heart feels heavy, laden with sadness and fear, it is one of the strongest emotional experiences this life can throw at us. In a world where we are used feeling in-control, a broken heart surely throws us out of control – it happens to us.
There is good news though, as a broken heart can heal. I have experienced that in my own journey, and I have seen numerous clients heal their broken hearts. The birthing of a more peaceful heart is a journey that needn't be endured alone.
Kate called and left a message on the Monday, asking if we could delay for a week because she simply couldn't stop crying. That was a shame because there was work that we could do straightaway to support her to ease her pain.
We eventually met. She was ready to move on, and the resonance we created in our first session assured me that I could help her. The space I held with her was in total confidence. The life Coaching work that we did together over the next three months had several key qualities to it.
- Developing a coping strategy
- Support to clearing turbulent energies
- Healing and emotional stability
- Exploring Self love
- Reframing life/people expectations
- Action to Fill vacuums
- Developing an understanding of the roles that were played
- Preparing for a Re-invention
- Welcoming in the new
Support through Turbulent Times
Kate shared stories of how she had met the love of her life. Their journey had been great, but she also shared that on numerous occasions her intuition had told her that "this man was bad news". We so often walk against our intuitive knowing. She shared the events that lead to the breakup. She replayed the numerous scenes of laying on the bedroom floor, sobbing uncontrollably in devastation. She told of how she didn't want it to end. She told of how she couldn't let it continue. Her heart was visibly shattered, she was in pieces.
On the threshing floor, Kate stated to reveal the core of her hearts pain. I'd say one of the most challenging discourses arose whenever Kate ventured off into her "life is supposed to be all roses and unicorns" narrative. Then she'd change tact and feel deep remorse at all the terrible things she had said to him mid-break-up. At this stage, she shared and I listened. Then deeper truths emerged --- She had lost her Love, and the life that she thought she was going to be living (even though she had ignored her doubts right from the beginning). Ultimately, she was fearful of feeling alone in the world.
It is hard to describe a broken heart better than the way sage-poet Kahlil Gibran does…
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire
By K Gibran
I've had a few broken hearts in my own journey; and anybody who's had one will know what the emotional reactions feel like. They are not pretty. Over the first few weeks, my coaching work with Kate focussed on various exercises to allow her to accept and process the raw energies that were thrashing her around. She started to lean into our work and I supported her to return to an emotional stability. She reported that the appetite loss, the wild dreams, the disruptive sleep, and future anxieties had started to subside.
Remember losing a relationship is like losing somebody to death. The GRIEF process shows up. The longer the relationship, the deeper the grief. Grief shows up if you initiate the break up, or if you are broken up with.
When we enter a romantic relationship, we enter into creating commonality with each other. Common friends, common home, common pastimes, common daily rituals, common memories, common bed. We develop a common private language together. And then it is all interrupted. You lose the person, you lose the way of life you created. The many little things you usually report to your lover on a daily basis, have no outlet.
It takes time for the system to recover from that kind of upheaval.
Its important to give yourself that time. Don't carry on with life as if nothing has happened. It's healthy to take a moment, take a break and let grief happen.
But how much time? There is a healthy amount of time, and it will be different for every person.
Let things rest, then make a plan to gently restart your life. Developing habits that are not connected with the relationship. Try new activities that have a physical effect on the system.
One of the joys of walking the path with a partner is the considerable investment of our hearts, our time, our emotions and ourselves into the building of a dream. A dream that nurtures our happiness. A major break up not only robs us of that happiness but also establishes the illusion that we have no hope of ever finding love again. The 'I am not lovable' narrative gains considerable territory here.
I intended that our coaching process and focus on self-love would lead her to developing a fulfilling new life, to live happily without that man that she loved. The coaching work eventually changed gear, it was now time to use the break up as an opportunity for Kate to learn about herself. Her homework was a feeling-honouring exercise. I showed her that her feelings of grief were holding a lot of wisdom. Truthfully that wisdom is hard to access when consumed by blubbing. But as we start to take perspective on the whole situation, we can pave the way to return to a powerful centre. Life crisis is so often an opportunity for growth and self-betterment.
Life coaching focuses on action and the formulation of new choices and habits. We don't dwell too much in the how did I get here, preferring to focus more on the how do I make the next decade have the qualities that I wish to welcome in. My guidance to her was to prioritise happiness. A focus on filling life with desired situations is often one of the best solutions to neutralising a heartbreak. Time can heal faster when we give ourselves permission to focus on the cultivation of new possibilities. Truthfully this phase the work tends to take a lot of time. Finding wisdom embedded in heart-pain is often a daunting process.
I urged Kate to live one hour at a time. I shared some Gratitude practices to go and experiment with. These simple practices proved very effective at snapping her out of complete downers. I also urged her to keep a journal as a way of transforming negative waves into positive moments. There were times where she struggled though and even gratitude proved to be weak-medicine. In those moments I told her to create safe-space, and then indulge in gratitude for having a really good cry. Embrace the cry, accept the cry. That was the sacred fire. Then at the other side of the cry welcome in some new peace. After all, really feeling the heartache is an important healing process. There isn't any shame in mindfully experiencing all those raw energies. Indeed, its an important process on the path to feeling normal again.
When we have expectations of how other people should behave, speak, act, love, touch, understand. We surely set ourselves up for a major broken heart, when they don't.
Kate would often return to the narrative of how things could have been, should have been. We did several exercises exploring how feelings can change when she starts to eliminate expectations. Expectations of how her man should have behaved. Expectations of how life could have been. Acceptance is the great healer.
Kate had journeyed through shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger and loneliness. At some precious point in the heart-break journey, you can feel the tipping point when a client is ready to step into the new. To re-construct and re-invent. In many ways that's when some proper life coaching can begin. It is with alacrity that I love to support people through major life changes. My work always focusses on Authenticity and alignment with that authenticity.
Coaching work is dynamic, custom and targeted to an individual's unique situation, but don't forget the basics like…
- Get support
- Talk with friends and family (especially those who can pump you up)
- Eat well
- Sweaty exercise (Move your feelings)
- Be in big Nature (I find the Sea amazing!)
Perhaps the most rewarding part of the life coaching journey through heart-break was when I reminded Kate that she would love and be loved again. Hope springs eternal and when the heart is healed it will open to love again.
I have reconstructed this case study from several client histories to demonstrate a range of coaching interventions.