Having a broken heart is hell. It’s the worst pain in the world.
It’s also:

• the loneliest feeling

• the scariest sensation

• isolating

• devastating

It addition, it frequently makes you doubt your own sanity – and leaves you feeling that life is pointless … hopeless … over.

No wonder heroines in Victorian novels and romantic operas often died of the condition. But dying is the easy option. It’s living with a broken heart that’s difficult.

Difficult, did I say? That’s an understatement if ever there was one. It’s far worse than that. It’s dreadful, tough, ghastly, seemingly endless and almost impossible to deal with. Yes, almost. It feels impossible, but it’s not. And millions of people could tell you their story of how – eventually – their broken heart was mended.

Your heart too will mend. It just doesn’t seem like it right now.

We can feel broken-hearted in many different situations:

• When love is unrequited

• When first-love ends

• When a marriage or long term relationship ends

• When we’re dumped

• When we do the dumping

• When a clandestine affair comes to an end

• When our own behaviour ruins a relationship

• When a partner dies

• When a close friend dies

• When a loved relative dies

• When a pet dies

• When we lose a job that has meant everything to us

That’s twelve appallingly awful situations.

You might be surprised by the last five of them – involving death and job loss – and I must say immediately that I am not going to cover them in any detail. There are, after all, all sorts of other books that deal with death and bereavement, and plenty of others that help readers cope with job loss. But these situations are on the list because they usually evoke extremely upsetting emotions – and cause heartbreak – and also because much of the advice in this articles we will help people understand and accept their pain.

the heart tree

Perhaps the toughest heartbreak is your very first one.

Despite all the statistics to the contrary, many of us believe that our initial romance will endure. That first time, we may be so in love that we simply cannot imagine a time when those feelings will disappear, or stop being reciprocated.

First love is so delicious. So heady. So exciting.

We usually start thinking about making a family with this new and perfect person. A golden life stretches before us. Our love is different. Our love is here to stay.

Alas, all too often it isn’t.

Here is an email i received

‘I just wanted to know if you had advice for a broken heart?’ he wrote. ‘My girlfriend was such an awesome, beautiful person that I can’t stop loving her. She just decided one day that she was falling out of love with me, and had feelings for another boy. I know I have a lot to learn about love and life, but I was so sure that she was the girl that would be my wife someday. How can I accept that she doesn’t love me and move on with my life? How can I ever let myself love again? I just don’t understand why this all happened. If you have any advice at all it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.’

I almost wept when I read it. In fact, you’d have to be made of stone not to feel this 19-year-old’s pain. And I guess that most people who read his email will sigh, not only for him, but also in memory of that first, worst nightmare of their own.

The other really awful thing about it is that he is obviously so nice. In the midst of his anguish, he is sweetly polite and grateful – which somehow makes his query all the more poignant.

This email raises a very important truth – and it may well help you to try to accept it, right now. It is this:

Terrible things happen to really lovely people.

That seems very unfair and cruel. In fact, it flies in the face of most of what we learned as children. We’ve all been led to understand that goodness gets its own reward.

Our parents told us:

‘If you’re good, you’ll get that computer for Christmas.’

‘If you’re a nice, quiet boy for half an hour, mummy will read you a story later.’

‘If you eat up your cabbage, you’ll grow up to be big and strong.’

‘If you work hard at school, you’ll pass your exams and be able to go to university/get a good job.’

Of course, much of the time, being good, or wise, or hard working does reap a genuine reward. So when we give love, and put a lot of effort into a relationship, and then it goes wrong, this disaster seems to break all our rules and assumptions about life. It feels very unfair. And it is.

In fact, for many of us, it’s the first time that we come face to face with the unpalatable fact that life often is unfair and that there are no guarantees.

So, a broken heart is a huge drama when we’re young – but it can also be dreadfully painful later in life.

Nowadays, we enjoy such fluid, flexible lifestyles, and live longer, and change careers several times in our lifespan, and move around our own country – or even abroad – it’s becoming quite common for us to have several highly significant relationships in our lives. And each time one ends, there’s likely to be some heartbreak.


Does it get easier? In truth, perhaps it does.

We know we got over it before – eventually. But heartbreak can still be a monumental blow, particularly when we had thought we were ‘settled’ for life.

Looking back at my own history, I realise that I’ve felt truly broken hearted about three times – and I think the third was the worst. I had invested so much in that particular relationship: it had seemed to be everything that I had never had before. And I simply could not see how anything better could ever happen again.

Of course it did and I eventually became happier than I could ever have dared to hope.

But in retrospect, I realise that one of the things that made my heartache so difficult to recover from was that I was thinking about it the wrong way. In other words, it wasn’t just the situation that caused me such suffering, it was my own thoughts.

This might seem an odd concept to you right now, but as you work through this and my next articles, you’ll understand what I mean. And you’ll also come to realise that your present thoughts are not helping you.

You see, in the crisis of a broken heart, we tend to become illogical, and that makes things worse.

We say, or think: ‘I’m really, really desperate and hurting and upset and forlorn …’

All these things are true. But what we go on to think or say is: ‘… and I will never love again, and no one will ever love me again, and life is going to be absolutely dreadful for ever.’

Does this sound like you? It certainly sounds like I used to be!

But can you see that while it’s true that you’re feeling desperate and hurting and upset and forlorn, it isn’t accurate to state that you won’t fall in love again, or that no one will ever love you, or indeed that your life is going to be absolutely dreadful for ever?

The fact is that even though you’ve lost a great love, there is no earthly reason why you should not love again, or be loved, or that your life should be perpetually horrid. You don’t have a crystal ball, or any other means of looking into the future, so you can’t possibly know those things. But by thinking them, or saying them to yourself, you are making yourself feel very much more wretched.

So here’s the first bit of advice to get you on the road to recovery:

Try to stop making wild predictions about the future – and concentrate instead on getting through the awfulness of the present.

I think you’ll find that your current predicament is quite tough enough. So try not to mentally condemn yourself to a lousy future, because if you do, you’re making everything harder than it needs to be.