A dear friend of mine recently went through a breakup that has left him heartbroken. The end of the relationship was amicable but has been painful nonetheless. His experience has caused me to wonder a couple of things.
What is heartbreak and is it purely an emotional issue or is there more to it than that?
What is the best way to help someone get over it?
In Webster’s dictionary heartbreak is defined as crushing grief, anguish, or distress. It has been present since the dawn of humankind. We know because poets and writers have described it through the ages. It is something that the majority of us have experienced and some have been left scarred and scared as a result. What exactly is going on when the heart is broken?
There is new research that has answered this question. Scientists have found that it can actually cause physical pain. In their study they took 40 people in New York City who had felt intensely rejected. Their brains were being scanned as they were instructed to look at a set of photos of friends and think positive thoughts. Then they were given pictures of their exes and told to think about their breakups. Lastly, they were given brain scans when they received an actual pain stimulus. The same part of the brain lit up when they were thinking of their exes and when they experienced physical pain.
There is an extreme version of this called Broken Heart Syndrome. I have seen this a couple of times in my practice and it is dramatic. It usually happens when there is either a traumatic loss or a breakup that comes out of the blue. This type of pain actually looks and presents just like a heart attack. The heart will not function normally when this occurs but there is no evidence of heart damage.
The shock of the event causes a huge outpouring of adrenaline, which acts like a stun gun to the heart. This causes it to malfunction for a short period of time (usually no more than a week). These patients need to be observed and cared for in the hospital until things return to normal.
How can you help a friend to get over heartbreak? To be honest, in the throws of a breakup it is really hard to tell anyone how to get over it. However, there are a couple of things that might help. The most important thing to point out is that if someone is heartbroken they actually have a heart. They were able to become vulnerable and connect with someone on a deep level. They were able to love and allow themselves to be loved. Love is what makes life livable. If they can do it once, they can do it again.
It is also important to note that they now have the knowledge of what works in a relationship and what doesn’t. This offers an excellent chance for introspection that can help them to find the person who can be a more compatible partner. With this insight they will know what to look for in their next relationship.
Once someone is over the initial loss they may be more receptive to the rest of this advice. Here is what you can tell them.
- It is important to eat healthy and exercise. That will help you to feel better regardless of how sad you still might be.
- Keep busy. See friends and do all the things you like to do. It could be going to a movie, dancing, or just having dinner out with friends.
- Give yourself time to recover.
- Be kind to yourself. It is over. Don’t look back. We all tend to obsess in the land of “would haves should haves could haves”. Don’t go there. Be present in the moment and then you will be able to move forward.
- Finally, laughing helps. Go to a funny movie, hang out with people that are positive and help you to see the humor in the world.
Time often does heal all wounds and sometimes we are left with scars. But, hopefully it leads us to where we ultimately are meant to be. As one who has had my heart broken many times, hang in there, you will get over it. It may not seem like it in the thick of it, but you will. In the meantime, take care of your health so that you can enjoy yourself when you get to that point!
I leave you with these words of wisdom.
“Perhaps that is what the stories meant when they called somebody heartsick. Your heart and your stomach and your whole insides felt empty and hollow and aching.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
AND Just one more thing…..
This is a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love from Richard who is telling her why she should not feel sad about the end of her relationship with a man she identified as her soul-mate: “A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”