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  • When You’ve Loved Deeply and Lost: 10 Ways to Heal the Pinoy/Filipino Heart

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    Filipino mental health

    How to heal the Filipino heart?

    There is no said criteria or minimum qualifications you need to possess to have gone through a broken heart, a loss, or some kind of deep disappointment that rocks your world. If you’re human ( I guess that’s the only qualification), you’ve experienced this feeling.

    The feeling of being stabbed in the heart, punched in the stomach, and floating in thin air hoping to be swallowed by nothingness are all too real for someone whose heart has been broken.

    Despite knowing that this is a collective phenomenon, it doesn’t matter or make sense at all while you’re in it.

    Because it feels like it’s only happening to you.

    The pain & the longing is excruciating.

    The intensity of the pain can vary from person to person. Many times, it can be influenced by our surrounding, the support we get from family or the insensitive response from friends, can make all the difference.

    The Filipino Heart

    Culture makes a difference.

    Filipinos love deeply, although not universally (they say) as expressive as our Western counterparts, we are people driven by our hearts. The most ambitious among us, guided by the principle of service if not for others, at least for the people who believe in us.

    Our love language consists not only of tender hugs and cuddles but a foresight to comfort and relieve any kind of discomfort and hurt our loved ones have to go through.

    Filipino healing

    In the Philippines, it’s quite natural for a Filipina mama to grab a friend’s baby without verbal permission other than a quick tap on her shoulder for warning. The Filipino speaks beyond words.

    Our 10 million + kababayan in diaspora breaks their own hearts everyday but with the unwavering commitment  to provide better lives for their families- their love language.

    Sometimes, we even choose to withhold important necessary information (someone’s passing away or someone’s real diagnosis…etc), with the intent softening someone’s pain or is it our own pain we can’t withstand?

    Our collectivistic nature has taught us how to step aside when necessary, to allow someone to step forward,  in order to give someone else a better shot in life.

    We purposely jump into a deep-dugged hole to save someone trapped in it.

    Foolish!”an on-looker might say.

    But, Filipinos are oriented by his culture, his economic and socio-political history to survive and show connection in this way. We strategize by using ourselves as human step-stool to propel someone UP and out of the hole so that at least one us can come out alive.

    There is indelible trust through unspoken ties of utang na loob that what was done for one will be done to the rest.

    Our collectivistic orientation is one that makes Westerners either wrinkle their eyebrows in confusion or applaud because it’s all too different from what they know.

    It’s also this  orientation that allows you to to give with no guarantee to receive which makes you uniquely Filipino. Of course, any core value manifested in the extreme have their negative and positive traits.

    Extreme self-sacrificial ways can lead to being abused, dismissed by others and losing your voice.

    Nevertheless, it makes the way we love: deep, and complex at the same time. It’s simple when the act of sacrifice is reciprocated with the minimum needed to keep us giving.

    karaoke for mental health

    It becomes complex and incredibly painful when the bare minimum is not met say, a mother who has sacrificed working two jobs for the sake of sending her child to a private school. In most cases, the bare minimum is the child’s good behavior and exemplary report card.  Another example is a wife’ s dedication to her family leading her to the decision to stay-home ( or vice -versa, stay-home to being employed) so she can tend to her children who she dearly loves. At a bare minimum, she needs her husband to support the family financially and be faithful to her. When this is not met & when the husband engage in extra-marital relationship, the wife’s grief and pain is deep because it is coupled with much self-sacrifice.

    You will know if you’ve made self-sacrifice a part of your love language if you start muttering these statements to yourself after a heart-break:

    “ Paano mo nagawa sa akin ‘to (how can you do this to me)?….followed by what you’ve done for the person.

    “ Wala kang utang na loob…” ( You have no debt-of-gratitude; no shame).

    “ Hindi mo man lang ako naisip nung …(followed by the wrong deed the person has done to you.”

    These statements are not wrong.

    It may mean that you feel invested and felt like the dividends of  the former was not worth it. In many ways, self-sacrifice is conditional. You’ve put money in the bank hoping you’ll take out more but ended up with much less.


    Here are 10 Ways To Heal A Filipino/Pinoy Broken Heart

    #1 Write down 5 things you’ve benefited from this relationship (even if you regret having been in it)  and find ways to be grateful for it. If it’s a death of a loved one, you can write down: You taught me how to be a responsible daughter. I am grateful for this experience because I can impart the same values to my daughter.

    filipino love relationships

    #2  Create a ritual to honor your loss. If you broke up with your boyfriend or loss someone you love, set-up a small altar so that you can set-up an appointment with yourself to grieve, be angry or just cry. Say, at 7am every morning, you will have your crying session for 5 minutes and be done with it for the day. Do this until your heart settles a bit.

    #3 Do some serious karaoke. If you were raised in the Philippines (or hang-out with Pinoys abroad), you understand that for every phase in your life, happy, sad or in between, we have songs that represent our journey. Sing your heart out and yes, over and over again. Songs are stories and stories create realities in your head. Initially, choose songs for you to express your heartbreak aka” don’t break my heart” by Toni Braxton and then slowly move to songs that can help you escape your misery aka. “ I will survive” song.

    #4 Help a cause or support a friend in need. Sometimes when we put our energy to the very thing we feel we don’t have the energy for, magic happens. I know it sounds ridiculous to help someone when you yourself is in dire need. When you give out the energy you’ll like to receive, it comes knocking on your doorstep, and why not, we all have a need to be needed, so go ahead.

    If you feel you need more support beyond your circle of friends, learn more about Story Therapy/Coaching with Roanne here.

    #5 Morning pages. Morning pages is writing down your stream of thoughts usually at the first hour when you wake up in the morning. This one allows you to write your feelings, dreams,visions, raves and rants without judgment. You may write in sentences, words, draw, make illustrations or even do hieroglyphics if you wish to. The point is the paper becomes your sounding board. You can either keep your pages or toss them, it doesn’t matter because the process of creating the pages is what matters. 

    Morning Pages was coined by Julia Cameron. Most people need a bit of a help getting their creative juices flowing especially in the morning. It will give you a feeling of having control to determine your day and not allowing your day to determine you.

    #6 Visualization.This is the process of creating realities in your head by imagining how you would like things to be. If you dream to be happily married with 2 kids. You imagine this vividly in your head, as detailed as possible so that your mindset can be acquainted to your desires. It’s powerful when dealing with a broken heart because it forces your brain to change the scenery. In the beginning this will take effort but as you continue to make time for this practice, at least 3x/week at 5 minutes each, you might start looking forward to doing it.

    #7 Call a Barkada (group of friends or a member of that circle). Nothing feels better than someone who validates your worth like a barkada can.

    #8 Watch a Filipino drama preferably ones that are based from true-life stories. This advice is not conventional especially for a trained psychotherapist like me so hear me out.

    Filipino dramas are painful to watch. We are a culture where our elders highlight the sufferings of others to put context to our own suffering. If this gives you an invalidating feeling, please don’t take this advice then. Although, the relief here is temporary; it allows you to put your focus on someone else’s experience. Sometimes when this approach is over-done it can result to escapism. Use this approach conservatively, say,  during a heartbreak. Sometimes watching someone with a magnified experience of what we are going through can serve as a catalyst.

    grief Filipino

    #9 Write a letter. Write a letter to the person or experience (as if the experience where a person) addressing all your unvoiced feelings, frustrations, disappointments and even anger.  This letter is not meant to be mailed or given to the actual person. Your letter should have the intent of not being responded to but simply use it as a medium to express yourself. You can write daily or weekly letters if you wish to. You can keep the letter, burn or bury it or put it inside the balloon to allow to wind to take your message instead.

    #10 Talk to a Therapist/ Mental Health Professional. In some cases, heart-breaks can be a trigger for depression. You will do yourself a favor by asking for support; we all need it sometimes.  Seeking help saves you time, money and energy so you can live your life to the fullest sooner than later. If you have a question about therapy/counseling, please leave a message here.

    Don’t forget to use morning pages to help you determine your day. Having goals on how you want to feel throughout & at the end of the day can support your journey to healing your broken heart.

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