August 7th, 2013
Have an acquaintance with a broken heart? Treat them like your dog.
Broken hearts are a part of life. They suck. Here’s the deal with a broken heart it will either make you grow, make you wiser and expand your horizons of personal growth, or it will leave you struggling in some purgatory between who your were and who you might be. For many it can take work to make sure you don’t get stuck in that struggle for years.
As you get older you learn about heart break, how to handle it and what to expect. You have parameters to guide you based on your own experience; as we get older we find ourselves in what can be a very awkward spot of having people experience heart break around us and being unsure of how we should respond. Once you have lived that pain chances are good all you want to do is make that person feel better no matter how close or not you are to them.
Recently I had a couple people in my world hit with some heart break. The awkward part was that while these are people I care about and I see regularly they wouldn’t be considered “close” friends. So as someone with a good deal of heart break experience how do I know what my bounds are in sharing and helping them through this time, or do I even do it? What are the boundaries?
Here is what I came up with.
It’s like having a dog.
When there is a storm, a natural disaster, sometimes the vacuum; your dog might freak out. Dog behaviourist tell us that we have to be the “pack leader” stay calm and act normal. Be aware that something is going on but let the freaking out party lean on your strength and calm so they to know that everything can and will be all right. For someone that is heart broken that can be as simply as grabbing them a coffee, like you do everyday. Telling a joke or sending a funny picture, like you would any other time. Be aware of their plight, no need to be cold, but be the “normal” in the life of the heart broken because to them life at the moment is anything but.
You have an opportunity to “hold space” for these people. You are not a close friend, chances are good you won’t get the 3 hour phone calls in which the heart broken say the same thing over and over… (Thank you Stef, Karen, Cathy and Lisa for that by the way) but you will be interacting and this is your chance to hold up some normal behaviour in the life of the heart broken.
It won’t always be as simply as it sounds. You will have that desire to wrap your arms around them and let them know that time really does help heal wounds and they will be OK. Your job is to be compassionate yet hold onto that normal. It may be years, or perhaps even never that what you did was recognized.. but for many it will be the piece of the recovery puzzle that makes the biggest difference.
Mind you, I wouldn’t tell them that you are taking the Cesar Millan approach to healing the broken hearted.. they might not understand.