The Power of Heartache
By Alissa Klugh, MS, LPC
What is heartache? Have you ever experienced it? I’d take a guess that you have, and if you have, you know. It’s not something that you have to wonder whether or not you’ve experienced. It’s powerful. It can knock the breath right out of your chest. It can last days, months, weeks, or even years. When it comes to doing therapy with people, I’d say that this is one of the most common reasons people seek treatment.
Although what people are coming in for is described as a break up, or a tough spot in a relationship, what people describe to me are symptoms of anxiety, depression, and sometimes PTSD. Who would think that a relationship could have so much power and influence over us that, when there are problems, when they end, or when someone passes away, it can manifest into symptoms of a mental health disorder? It’s amazing to think of the strength of our emotions and minds. Loss is loss. And that doesn’t have to mean that someone has passed away to experience grief (although this is a huge source of heartache).
Each heartache is slightly different. Sometimes, there is an anticipation that it will occur, other times, it appears to be out of nowhere. Regardless of the way it happens, it can be incredibly debilitating. What has your heartache been like?
The common denominator in all of heartache is one thing: We all want it to stop as quickly as possible. We get desperate in our attempts to bring an end to the immense pain that we’re feeling. We try to justify situations and behaviors and want to talk it out or work it out with someone, sometimes ad nauseum, just so we can avoid the immense amount of pain that heartache brings. We may even be willing to forgive for “unforgiveable” things because we want the pain to end.
We get to the point that we no longer want to bother our friends and family with our stories and our beliefs about what happened, because even we are getting sick of worrying and thinking about it so much. But it is so painful, and talking about it makes us feel slightly better, lighter, even. Maybe it the fact that we’re having our feelings validated - that brings us the brief reprieve, which we are seeking.
But where do you go and what can you do to begin to heal? I know most people do not want to hear this, but it takes time. And man does that stink to be told that, doesn’t it? If we could just fast-forward to the part where it hurts less…
Some of us have the opportunity to “get the person back,” which, could be just what is truly needed for the relationship, but other times, we are left with continued pain and no option to rekindle with our partner, family member, or friend.
What do you do to sort out your pain and feelings about heartache? Do you try to cover it up with finding someone else to date? Do you try to make new friends to avoid feeling the pain of the loss of the old? Do you let yourself feel the feelings or do you attempt to cover them up? Maybe you have tried talking with your friends about it? Maybe you dove into something new to occupy your time? Maybe you shut down completely and don’t ever want to think of dating again?
Sometimes, it seems as though we would do anything to get rid of that pain. Sometimes, desperation starts to sink in. No one truly wants to feel desperate. No one wants to feel sadness; at least not all of the time.
What we focus on is what grows. The more we focus on our grief, the harder it becomes and the longer it sticks around. Greif will come-and-go, and sometimes, it will hit when we least expect it. This is normal. Greif is not a linear process. It’s more cyclic; where we can feel as though we’re back to square one just from a mere interaction, anniversary date, or some small memento that we discovered in the bottom of a drawer that we were not expecting to find. Heartache is real. Heartache is mental, physical, and emotional pain. You have the right to feel it, experience it, and take the time you need to heal in any safe way that works for you.
When we are ready to shift our focus, something to remember is that emotions are fleeting. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. The feelings of intense sadness are just as temporary as the feeling of excitement when something good comes into our lives. The fact of the matter remains that we need to work toward the good stuff. It doesn’t just happen. We need to make those situations happen and put forth a conscious effort in doing so. Give yourself the time that you need to grieve (which is different for everyone), and, when you’re ready, turn your face to the sun and make the decision to appreciate the little things in each day. I know that this sounds somewhat silly, but it truly will begin to help. Surround yourself with loved ones who won’t mind hearing you discuss and process your heartache and loss. Write/journal about your experience. See a therapist. Do what works for you to begin to feel better, when you are ready.
Please remember this: just because you decide to forgive, or move on, or look for happiness again does not make your experience with that person who you lost any less valid, beautiful, or memorable. Keep the fond memories in your heart and gently in your mind as you make your world the space you need to heal and move forward.
You deserve to feel better. You deserve to heal.
If you are looking to begin your journey of healing with a professional clinician, you can get started - call us to schedule an appointment at 412-367-0575 or click here to request an appointment.