- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2009

“What becomes of the brokenhearted who had love that’s now departed? I know I’ve got to find some kind of peace of mind, baby … ”

Forty-three years ago when the late Jimmy Ruffin first sang those words, folks everywhere started humming the popular tune as they sought solace and a cure for heartbreak. Today’s heartbreak songs include more angry lyrics such as “I bust the windows out of your car.”

D.C. native, Melanie Shorts, 24, who defines herself as a “student of love’s pain,” wasn’t even born in 1966 when Mr. Ruffin’s hit exploded on the Billboard charts, but it didn’t take long for her to find out - after an abusive seven-year relationship with her high school sweetheart - that love hurts.

Not to be undone, though, Ms. Shorts is transforming her hurting into healing for herself and others.

Last month, Ms. Shorts launched a nonprofit organization, Heartfelt Healing, before a packed room of once and now-heartbroken women at the Busboys and Poets restaurant in the bustling U Street corridor of the District.

The catchy title of the Nov. 12 workshop attended primarily by younger women was “Did you want to bust the windows out of his car?” But she warns against acts of violence.

Ms. Short says Heartfelt Healing is dedicated to empowering women to live through and beyond the end of a relationship. Her book, “Loving Me After Heartbreak,” chronicles her own heartbreak and healing. She also wants to help other women realize and enhance their self worth.

“There is a thin line between loving the relationship and loving yourself,” Ms. Shorts said.

Subsequently, the LovingMeAfterHeartbreak.com Web site was created to increase and invite candid, nonjudgmental communication between women and young girls, who are experiencing heartbreak, and to give them a venue to share experiences, release pain and even console or counsel one another on the way to healing.

Ms. Shorts plans to expand Heartfelt Healing into other ventures such as workshops and conferences, according to her Web site.

Shena Boyd, 26, who endured mental and physical abuse from her former boyfriend, who she describes as awful and who once threw rocks at her, attended elementary school with Ms. Shorts. Ms. Boyd considers her “a big inspiration, my mentor, and a wonderful woman with an excellent heart who encourages you to have self-esteem.”

Although Ms. Shorts‘ boyfriend was physically abusive, disrespectful and reduced her self-esteem to its lowest point, she says, “He was very cute, and I loved him so much.”

Years later, however, she is still baffled why she stayed with him even after he took someone else to his senior prom. That was the same senior prom for which Ms. Shorts bought his shoes. He later told her she was too young to go to the prom. To deal with her depression after their breakup, Ms. Shorts said she sought refuge in nightclubs, all-night parties, daylong naps and meaningless sexual relationships with men.

Yet, through the fog, aches and pains, she said she somehow managed to graduate from high school, earn two college degrees and write a book about her heartbreak and healing.

“I’m surprised I finished school!” she said. She received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Trinity College in the District and a master’s degree in public administration and international development from Howard University

Standing confident and poised before her audience at Busboys and Poets, the attractive Ms. Shorts recounted her personal journey of pain which led to a life of renewed purpose and passion to help other women become whole after their heartbreak.

Known as a go-getter, she outlined her healing plan of do’s and don’ts, such as dealing honestly with emotions, especially thoughts of suicide. She suggests that you talk about your experiences, learn to forgive and adapt a positive attitude by seeking spiritual guidance.

Ms. Shorts cautioned against acts of violence such as doing bodily harm to your ex-lover or his new girlfriend, or destroying personal property. Rebound guys, old keepsakes and pity parties are out, she told the audience. She also warned of giving in to peer pressure to drink, do drugs or party heartbreak away.

An open discussion about why women stay in unhealthy relationships revealed that low self-esteem, embarrassment, fear of loneliness and hoping the situation will improve hinder women from leaving.

Renee Gore, 48, believes women must set boundaries and standards for themselves, learn to separate love from sex, and be respectful and supportive of each other.

“Love you first!” Ms. Gore stated.

According to a report released by Iona College Counseling Center, people in unhealthy relationships suffer constant stress and anxiety, which compromises their health, erodes their self-esteem, and undermines their academic and vocational activities. It stated one or both partners did not have healthy role models for sharing affection, managing conflict, or being respectful of one’s partner.

The study also blames the media for continuing to portray females as sexual objects, victims and unworthy of respect.

As a young woman, Ms. Shorts said that she, like many other women, never received guidance or instruction from her father on men or dating but that due to a few painful experiences, the former student of love’s pain has learned her lesson well.

In 1972, when soul singer Al Green asked, “How do you mend a broken heart?” too bad he didn’t have the benefits of Melanie Shorts‘ heartfelt healing insight. No doubt, she would have been happy to help him mend his broken heart so that he could live again.

Geraldine Washington is a writer living in the District.

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