Romantic love, like that celebrated on Valentine’s Day, can be a powerful thing. The end of romantic love can be even more powerful.
“After a heartbreak, your world just doesn’t make sense anymore,” explained Susan Piver, who literally wrote the book on the subject: “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart: An Uncommon Guide to Healing, Insight, and Love.” “The pain is so great, you just can’t move on with your life, and you’re not sure you will ever recover.”
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Real heartbreak is a profound, life-changing event.
“A heart that has been broken has been broken open,” she said. “If you can learn to maintain that open-hearted state toward other people, you will be able to find and appreciate lasting love.”
Piver will lead a workshop on heartbreak — just in time for Valentine’s Day — Feb. 10-12 at the Shambala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes. She has been a writer and teacher in the Shambala lineage of Buddhism for 15 years, but before that, she was a 20-something working in Austin.
That’s where she met the love of her life – and experienced her major heartbreak.
As she tells the story in the book, she was tending bar in a music club; he was the guitarist for the house band. They went through a number of intense situations together, but he finally started seeing someone else, and Piver’s whole world fell apart.
“I am not exaggerating when I say that I did not draw breath for two years without also feeling the pain of this breakup,” she wrote.
Piver is happily married now, living near Boston (and still on friendly terms with the guitarist). She wrote “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart” to provide a way of looking at heartbreak beyond what’s on the self-help bookshelves.
“There are basically two different messages out there, mostly aimed at women,” she said. “One is what I call the ‘you-go-girl’ message that says ‘you were too awesome for him, you deserve better, so go get a manicure, a new outfit, and don’t wallow in self-pity.’ That’s not bad advice, it’s not harmful, but it’s not very helpful, either. It doesn’t encourage you to use the experience to grow.”
The other school of thought actually can be harmful, Piver said.
“That’s the one that says ‘it’s all your fault because of your unhealed childhood wounds,’” she explained. “Everyone has issues from childhood, but to say that there is a formula to follow so that you won’t ever get your heart broken again is too pat. If you can love deeply, you can feel pain deeply, too.”
Piver pointed out that being able to open your heart to the world with love and compassion is one of the goals of all the major spiritual traditions.
Piver has spent time studying at the Mountain Center, and says she is honored to have the opportunity to lead a workshop there. It is open to anyone, of any age or faith. She said participants are usually people who no longer have someone they love in their lives, including widows and widowers, but sometimes couples in a rough patch come, too.
While Piver says it’s inevitable to spend some time in the depths of despair after a heartbreak, her workshop is not for people facing serious depression.
“I’ve had people tell me their suffering is so bad they think they should be hospitalized,” she said. “And if that’s where you are, by all means, get all the professional help you can.”
In her workshop, Piver shares meditation techniques and other exercises participants can use on their roller-coaster ride of emotions, “to help you actually become stronger in the broken places.”
“Please remember that what you feel now you won’t feel forever,” she said. “You will feel better, I guarantee.”