Heartache Truly Hurts

by Tonya Ladipo

Research has finally proven what many of us have known for years. Rejection hurts; it literally hurts. Researchers at the University of Michigan, Columbia University, and the University of Colorado found that our brains respond to physical pain and emotional hurt or rejection in much the same way (for more information, click here.).

Being rejected by friends, family, or lovers is heartbreaking. Our hearts hurt, we can’t sleep or eat, and we find ourselves consumed with the memory and pain of the rejection. I often have clients tell me that they “should be over it by now” when referring to some form of heartbreak. Losing a love, even worse, being rejected by a love, is not something that we just “get over.” When we break a bone or receive a devastating medical diagnosis we are often required to “take it easy”, reduce unnecessary responsibilities, and take care of ourselves. Yet when our hearts are broken we think that we should just push on and not dwell on it.

If our brains receive signals that our heartbreak is a true and concrete pain, then maybe we should listen to our brains and treat it as such. What if we took care of our hearts and our selves when we were emotionally hurt? What if we consciously gave ourselves time to heal from our heartbreak rather than rushing on?

Many years ago I was in the midst of a break up. Now this wasn’t the love of my life, nor was I his but I was sad and hurt and heartbroken. I left work early telling people that I was ill (my stomach really was tied in knots and I felt that I was in a lot of pain) and I headed to the movie theater. I watched two movies and laughed for hours. For a short window I was free from the pain and the hurt.

When I left the theater and went back into the world I was back to dealing with my sadness and pain. I went to work the next day, made sure that I downplayed the breakup to my friends, and continued to suffer with my sadness and pain. All these years later I remember that breakup not because it was the most significant one but because for a few hours in the midst of my sadness I allowed myself time to heal.

I wonder what I would have done differently for the duration of that heartache and for others if I had understood that my pain was indeed real and valid and that I needed to treat it as such. What would I have done differently if I let myself heal from my heartbreak rather than forging on?

What would you do differently?