In Maggie Nelson’s engaging book of prose, Bluets, she declares “When I was alive, I aimed to be a student not of longing but of light.’ The fragment is the last of two hundred and forty, each number a meditation on blued longing and heartsick love and is a powerful statement of determination in the face of sadness, grief and pain. Her words hold so much emotion and so few answers. I revisit the book whenever my days are tinted blue with melancholy. I am weepy with change and so it seems are many in my little world.
The bittersweet effect of love is a force we all know well. Breakups can be a harrowing process. The recollections of time together haunt us and fog our thoughts. The heaviness of loss seems inescapable. There is no way around it, one must venture through the ugly ache. Untangling yourself from the loving comfort of a partner can feel like a death, and really, heartbreak is grief in disguise: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and in time, acceptance.
Create a space for yourself to sit with this death. Death, in all its manifestations, large and small, will always exist, so it is best to create a healthy relationship with it. Allowing these shadow emotions to have a brief home inside you can feel uncomfortable, I know many that prefer not to dwell on the hardships of love, but when you come out of the fog you will have a better understanding of yourself. For me, there is power and wisdom, not shame, in feeling deeply. These feelings hurt like hell but they are part of living a dynamic, whole, vulnerable life. Be patient with yourself.
When I feel lost I turn to words. I am known to reach for a dictionary whenever I am trying to unearth the truth of experience that connects us. “Longing: A strong persistent yearning or desire, especially one that cannot be fulfilled.” Our culture is certainly bewitched by the yearning desire for more. Whether a person or object feeds the desire, a framework of wanting is reinforced by many elements of mainstream culture. We are never enough. We will only be complete when we find our one true love. We cast spells to gain that which we crave, but to cast spells of devotion and inner light to and for ourselves, seems worthy of exploration.
In our gloom, ritual and ceremony can connect us to our core needs and bring us enchantment. A day hasn’t gone by where rose, jasmine and atlas cedar essential oils have not graced my skin. Smudging my apartment with sage or palo santo after every cry helps to clear my anxious energy and reconnect me with the here and now. Community, laughter, meditation, hours of Netflix (let’s be real), journaling and of course plant magic can be a huge support in the darkest of moods.
In times of heartache, our bodies stress hormones can increase, causing low spirits, mood changes and full on panic attacks. Our blues engulf us and we neglect the sleep and nourishment we need to heal, leading to emotional exhaustion and lowered immunity. In striving to be a student of light, one must know health, tenderness and self-love even when all seems wrecked with sorrow. Flower essences, heart healing essential oils and teas that ground, nourish and calm are my go-to.
It is up to us to stop the cycle of longing that does not serve us. What if instead of longing for another, for romantic love, we stopped yearning and began to cultivate an intimate relationship with self and all that we have? Take all that love and gift it to friends, new and old. What if we let go of the longing that torments our hearts and stood in the wake of this death and welcomed a new chapter: a rebirth? What does it mean, to you, to be a student of light? Like Maggie Nelson, I do not have any real answers, nor am I claiming rebirth to be an effortless occurrence. There is no one simple way to heal from heartbreak. All I can offer is this:
Cry. Let it out, it’s painful and loss is never easy. Talk with those you love. Drink a glass of water. Stop checking social media. Anoint your body with essential oils. Listen to our redemption playlist, or some other kickass tunes. Go on a walk. Turn off your phone if you need to, for a whole day even. Brew a cup of tea. Visit an apothecary or make your own flower essences. Walk in nature. Talk to a professional therapist or healer. Take a bath with rose petals. In a moment that feels warm and safe, write yourself a love poem, or a kind reminder that it will be okay. Set it aside and the next time you feel chocked with tears read it out loud. Share a beautiful meal with those you hold dear. Make art. Start a dialogue about self-care, sadness, longing, and heartache with people in your life. Feeling less alone can make all the difference in the world.
For better or for worse, people part ways, and all we can do is be compassionate and grow from the experience.
HEART MENDER TEA
1 pt Hawthorne leaf + berries
1 pt Holy basil
1 pt Lemon balm
½ pt Oat tops
½ pt Rose petals
½ pt Peppermint
One tablespoon of tea per eight ounces of boiling water.
Allow to steep for 5 to 10 minutes add flower essence if you’d like!
Borage - This is a significant depression remedy to restore and uplift. Primary indicators are congestion or energetic blockages in the heart and related meridians, stemming from grief and despair. A persistent feeling of emotional heaviness or sluggishness is also predominant.
Bleeding Heart - This flower addresses the grief and heartbreak of severed relationships. The aching emptiness of the heart is bolstered so that one can gradually reclaim internal strength and emotional equanimity.
Star of Bethlemhem - The remedy of comfort. It is used in shock situations and for times of sadness. It can also be useful for long term unresolved grief.
White Chestnut - White Chestnut is for those times of repetitive thoughts where the mind goes over and over. This over mental activity is very draining and can be hard to stop.
Honeysuckle - Anytime there is an over attachment to the past or when there is homesickness, nostalgia, or excessive reminiscing. It helps to rid sadness caused by loss. Honeysuckle helps redirect the mind to the present and allows one to move forward and let go of the past.
Brittany Ducham is a community herbalist located in Denver, Colroado. She is owner and operator of Spellbound Herbals, creating handcrafted medicines from ingredients wildcrafted in and around Colorado.