The Three of Swords is one of the cards in the Tarot that speaks quite clearly for itself. The three swords piercing the heart is universally recognized as a symbol of heartbreak, grief, suffering and sorrow. It may be an unpleasant fact of life which has brought about this suffering, or it is possible that your own thought processes or outlook is what is causing you pain.
A friend of mine lost his father to cancer unexpectedly, and he reflected upon the grieving process by making an analogy to animals in the ocean like seals and walruses who absorb bits of trash, rock or seaweed into their skins. At first the pain is uncomfortable, as the animal suffers in misery and pain at this unwelcome object that is piercing his side, just as one grieving feels the unwelcome loss and change and does not want to accept it. But then, slowly over time, the skin grows around the object which has attached itself to the animal, and eventually it is wholly integrated and becomes an indistinguishable part of his body. He is changed, yes, but not necessarily into something worse, just into something new. In the same way, after the initial discomfort of sorrow is over and the reality of the situation is accepted, painful experiences and emotions can be integrated into the whole of the personality and become an essential part of who we are. One day what afflicts you now will cease to be painful, and all that will be left is the lesson that you may take away from the experience.
The Three of Swords is an image of, not only pain, but also the integration and acceptance of pain. The Swords pierce all the way through the heart from one side to the other completely, and their symmetry and alignment suggests a kind of purposefulness or higher order. This card can mean a period of deep introspection and integration of past hurts or grief, or learning to accept a painful situation with graceful surrender. Look for the deeper meaning of this pain, and take note of the lessons you have learned from this suffering. Pain that is ignored, repressed, underestimated or avoided will only come back later a hundred times stronger.
The Three of Swords is connected to Mars / the Moon as a symbol of feeling offended. It is in the aspect with Mercury, the decision taken contrary to the senses.
Card meanings upright:
The Three of Swords card can represent heartbreak, sorrow, pain, and separation in your life. This time of separation may be temporary, but it may also turn out to be final. You may have been covering up old pain in your life by buying it deep, and now is a good time to release it so you can heal.
Card meanings reversed:
When the Three of Swords card is reversed, it can indicate that you may be storing blocked grief in your heart. You may be afraid of grieving a loss and instead hold it all deep inside yourself. You may not feel comfortable telling people how you are feeling and it is possible you might have a tendency toward rejecting others before they reject you first.