Discouraging – often painful – setbacks are part of the healing process after a physical illness, injury, or surgery. Overcoming setbacks is a difficult but necessary part of the healing process. It’s the same with healing a broken heart after a loss; the setbacks are inevitable…but healing is still happening despite the paint.
“Grief is not a mountain that you climb, go over the top, and then climb back down the other side so that you’re at the same ground level as when you started,” writes Ashley Davis Bush in Transcending Loss. “The spiral nature of grief is more like a journey in which you scale the mountain by going around and around the mountain, gradually moving your way up to new heights, but once you finally make it to the top, you’re not going back down. You can never go back down.”
It’s the same with your broken heart, whether you’re overcoming the shock of a sudden breakup or healing after a difficult marriage that took years to end. You are healing, even if it doesn’t feel like it! My prayer is that the tips below help you overcome the setbacks to healing your broken heart and continue climbing the mountain to wholeness, beauty, and joy.
It’s normal for your emotions to swing back and forth after a breakup or loss. Some days – and some hours – you’ll feel fine, almost normal. Still ginger and vulnerable, but stronger. Other days (and hours!) you feel like you just want to die. You’re exhausted, drained, unmotivated, sad, lonely and heartbroken. How do you overcome setbacks that make you feel like your heart will never heal?
That wasn’t a rhetorical question: I really am asking you for tips on overcoming setbacks to healing. Your broken heart is yours alone; your experience can only be felt and known by you. This means that your healing journey must be experienced and felt by you. What helps you overcome the setbacks? Who do you turn to, where do you go, how long do you stay in the healthy place? Knowing this about yourself will help you grow forward into a new season of life.
5 Ways to Overcome Setbacks to Healing
Healing is a natural process that requires little effort. Wouldn’t that be good if it were true? Well, maybe it is. Maybe we just need to look at and experience loss and breakups differently. Maybe we need to adopt a long view of the healing process, and see setbacks as ways to get stronger.
The Parable of the Lumberjack is my favorite story about overcoming setbacks that impede the healing of a broken heart. We’re shocked and confused when our lives – the trees in which we live – get shaken. We don’t know why our tree has crashed to the ground or what will happen to us in the future. But the lumberjack knows. He cares. He is overseeing the whole process.
1. Spirit Blossoms – Find a Heavenly source of power and strength
I used the Parable of the Lumberjack (which you’ll read in “Soul Blossoms” below) in my book, Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. My lumberjack is God. I trust that when my life gets shaken or when I lose something important — even a loved one — I can rely on Him to give me strength and courage to keep going. I don’t believe God caused my loss or even wanted it to happen…but I do believe He gives me strength to overcome painful setbacks when my broken heart is healing.
How’s your relationship with God? If you can tap into a source of powerful healing, love and inspiration then you’ll find it a little easier to cope with your broken heart. Setbacks will still be painful, but they won’t overwhelm you. You’ll find a deeper sense of hope for healing your broken heart if you rely on a bigger source of strength, love, and power.
2. Heart Blossoms – Trust the healing process
The only way to heal is slowly, by fits and starts. There are no hacks to healing, no instant tips or quick fixes to your broken heart. Band-aids don’t work; the only way to heal is to trust the healing process. Go slow, accept the setbacks to healing, and know you’re still moving forward — even when it feels like you’ve taken a step back.
Remember that setbacks happen; setbacks are normal in the healing process. Broken hearts don’t magically regenerate overnight, and there is no magic healing wand. Your growth is deep, steady, and true. Trust that your heart will be stronger and steadier than ever before. You’re growing roots that can never be shaken. There is a purpose to these painful setbacks, and they will help your broken heart heal in ways that a quick Band-Aid never could.
3. Soul Blossoms – The parable of The Lumberjack
Once upon a time, a lumberjack walking through the forest saw Mama Bird building her nest at the top of a tall tree. He knew the tree would be felled soon. She would lose her home and babies. So, the lumberjack pounded the trunk with the back of his ax. Mama Bird was disrupted and broken-hearted, and had to find a new place to build her nest. She chose another tree and started to rebuild.
But that tree, too, was slated for a fall. Again the lumberjack shook the tree so hard Mama Bird — getting annoyed — was forced to fly away. She landed on a third tree. The lumberjack returned and it happened again! She lost her nest. Confused and cross, Mama Bird built her nest atop a high rock, sheltered from the sun, rain and wind. She was finally safe, never to be shaken.
Every setback you face is the lumberjack shaking your tree, telling you to move to a higher, better, safer place. Instead of dwelling on the pain and discouragement of facing a setback, stay focused on the signs your broken heart is healing.
4. Body Blossoms – Breathe through the setback
I love walking/jogging, and yet most mornings I have to force myself out on my daily walk/jog. I don’t know why it’s such a struggle every single day, when I love it so much! This is one of the best tips on how to overcome a painful setback to healing a broken heart: remember how good it feels to move. Learn how to breathe through the setback.
Walk slow, but keep your head up. Take a deep breath, and look at something. Anything. Get your head out of your broken heart, your focus off how bad the breakup makes you feel. Think about something else — how your body is alive, what your lungs need, how your back and shoulders feel. Eat broccoli, or a kale smoothie. The healthier you are physically, the quicker you’ll rebound from this setback. It’s not just your broken heart that needs healing, your body needs healing after a breakup, too.
5. Brainy Blossoms – Focus on a new project
What was the last thing that fired up your brain? Besides your ex-boyfriend or dead husband, that is. Not crossword puzzles or learning a new language; those aren’t the best tips on how to overcome a setback to healing your broken heart.
When was the last time you were truly excited about your life? When you do feel alive, what could you do for hours without even noticing the time go by? Who are you, and what are your passions? What fires up your intellect, what could you talk about for hours?
Do something interesting. If nothing comes to mind, write the story of your breakup in the comments section below. Write it as a story that happened to someone else. Pretend it’s the main character of your story who is searching for tips for overcoming setbacks to healing her broken heart. Write her into the most painful, heartbreaking breakup of her life…and write her back out again.
What do you think? Your comments are welcome below. You may find it helpful to share how you feel; writing can bring clarity and insight.
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