TLC: The Self-Compassionate Framework For Recovering From A Broken Heart

Falling In And Out Of Love

Falling in love is like floating up in a hot air balloon.  Each moment we spend with this newfound love, our basket gets another balloon.  Soon, we are soaring through the sky far removed from our worries and losses.  We experience the bubble effect of feeling like the two of us are the only people actually living in the world.  External comments seem to lose steam when directed at the bubble falling softly without sound like leaves from autumn trees.  The moments we spend together create a sense of warmth that we bask in without fatigue.

When we fall out of love, it feels like a descent.  Whatever mountain precipice we have come to know, it seems like we are forced to view it with despair, as we tumble down the mountain.  The bubble is irrevocably popped, and the warmth we felt is replaced with cold and sadness.  We have a nagging suspicion that we were never meant to be happy.  We feel alone, and worry that our sadness will drive others away.  This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as we demand others' support and help, but we are not ready to confront our great loss.  Our supporters feel battered and tired from their contributions, and eventually see us less, as a kindness to themselves.

We often make the mistake of trying to blunt these feelings with alcohol and food.  This mistake makes itself apparent in the depressive effects that manifest from being too inebriated or the sadness and self-loathing that come from consuming more than that with which we feel comfortable.  We get terrible advice from friends like, “Get back on the horse.”  Only, we are too wounded to ride anything, let alone the experience of opening up our hearts or even our minds to someone new with the power to hurt us where it counts.

My Own Experience With Love Lost and The Inspiration For TLC

Fourteen years ago in France, I was struck with the same lightening bolt, and as I lay there suffering, the phone rang.  It was my mother.  She said, “Jeffrey, this is a loss, and as with all losses, this break-up must be grieved.”  She educated me about the 5 stages of grief.  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance

I never saw myself as a bargainer, but I promise you I could have gotten 5 cattle for a stick during that time.  Like most people who lose someone they deeply love, I just wanted the pain to abate.  With the help of my mother’s phone calls, Corrine, who lived next door, and Olivier, who lived on the 3rd floor of my apartment building, I was able to put myself back together.  I am actually grateful for this experience because I love Corinne and Olivier so much.  Without this experience, they never would have become family.  They are still two of my closest confidants.


With this knowledge, I have used Self-Compassion Psychology to come up with a formula to help you get back on your feet should you be suffering from a recent break-up.  It is called TLC.  The T stands for Time.  The L stands for Love.  The C stands for Compassion.


Time.  Everybody says that with time your loss will become less, and you will feel better. To some extent they are right, but only if this time is used wisely.  If you wake up everyday feeling morose, and pursue life under this guise, you will be suffering for a long time.  I know people, who went through bad break-ups 10 years ago, and are still suffering from their effects.

To best use your time, you must acknowledge the pain when it comes up.  Notice where it comes up in your body.  Soften around it, and let it pass.  You must grieve, when it is necessary both by yourself and with friends.  You must also know when you have grieved enough for the day, and do something to help yourself feel a little better.  That is your reward.  It does not matter if it lasts.  It just matters that you are rewarding yourself for working the process.


Love.  Love is huge.  You should never stop loving yourself, your family, and your friends.  They were no less important during your relationship, and should be no less important now.  It may be inconvenient for some of them to see you suffer, but tough noogies.  Everybody suffers, especially in this way, and your good friends and family want to be part of your whole life, not just the easy stuff. 

Spread your support out, so that you do not burn anyone out, and use this time to be really kind to yourself and the people you love.  Also, use this time to think about what you need to be happy.  No one in this world will ever have the secret recipe to making you happy.  Only you can do this.  This does not diminish your loss, but reinforces the fact that it is important for you to know what you need, so that you have great skill in finding it.


Compassion.  Compassion is the key that ties this all together.  We always do our best to keep our relationships together, and to make them as positive and loving an experience as possible.  Of course, we have many failures, but we only have access to the resources available to us.  If you never had a model of a great relationship, you will have to learn through books, and others, and be willing to make a lot of mistakes along the way, but it will be worth it. 

You cannot control others.  If you are beginning to think about how you could have made the relationship go another way, acknowledge that thought, and let it pass.  Relationships were not made to be impossible.  They were made to manifest easily.  The hard work comes in negotiating how to share your life, and make choices for your children (should you choose to have them). 

You will find yourself wondering if you lost your soul mate.  The answer is no.  You cannot lose your soul mate.  If someone is destined to be fully connected to you, and bring you unimaginable happiness they never would have broken up with you, ever.  Your soul mate would never have given up your collective struggle to traverse the road ahead because your fates are inextricably connected. 

So, if you are alone, your soul mate is still out there.  Do not punish them or yourself for not having found you yet.  It is clear that you still have some things to learn, and some things to check off your list before you can be with your soul mate in a way that brings you kindness, peace, and ease.

Managing The Process

This process will likely be hard.  I deeply regret that for you.  It is also normal.  It means that your love capacity is working just fine.  Your love is infinite.  It will recover.  There is nothing in this world that is more capable, resilient, or powerful than your love.  Have faith in it.  Be kind to it.  It is working really hard for you, especially on tough days.

Give yourself credit for how far you have come, and how much you have learned about yourself and relationships.  You are going to need it.  The next relationship might be the most important one, and you deserve to be ready for all the goodness that comes with it.

365 Days Of Kindness.  Self-Compassion.  Day 114.  In The Books.