Love and Loss Tips – Heart Health Month

by Dr. Karen Ruskin on February 11, 2017

February is heart health month. Coming up this week is Valentine’s Day. Some say that I am in the ‘heart business’, as I am a Marriage and Family Therapist providing relationship counseling. Love loss and love gain is a common theme in relationships, be it the marital relationship or the parent-child relationship, the relationship one has with one’s professional self (e.g., loss of a job you put your all into), loss of a pet… Additionally, there are those of whom believe the heart is the place where we experience many of our feelings, thus the heart has a voice. Put all of the above together, and that is what led me to write this particular blog article where you will find 4 key points through a relationship therapist’s lens: 1) the heart and brain connection, 2) emotional pain presents itself physically, 3) different kinds of love, 4) seven coping tips for the hurting heart/love loss.  

Heart communicates to the brain

The heart pumping is essential to living, and there are theorists who say the heart is the place where we experience many of our emotions. Through my lens as a marriage and family therapist, as a Psychotherapist I discuss with clients in my practice that one cannot help but to consider that the heart communicates love feelings, whether it is love loss or love gain, by sending signals to the brain. For example, in my counseling practice I have seen many examples where the heart communicates to the brain, thereby the body-mind connection, the heart-brain connection. Examples include:

  • Love loss (e.g., the painful heart beat pause that happens be it death of a spouse, a child, loss of job)
  • Love gain (e.g., the quickening heart beat when we see our lover after a long absence)
  • Conflicted heart (e.g., pounding heart feeling like having a heart attack, really it’s a panic attack in cases of infidelity, thus a conflicted heart)

Emotional pain presents itself physically

The mind-body connection

There’s an intimate connection between the physical sensations of our body (such as our heart) and the emotions that arise in response to our experience. The mind and body are interconnected. As a therapist who specializes in relationships, I bear witness to the pain/sorrow of love loss, joyous love, love of desire, excitement love – the wide variety of emotions people go through as it attains to matters of the heart. Helping people in matters of the heart, I provide treatment for the heart through the narrative of people’s lives, in communication with them to access the heart and brain relationship.

We’ve all said certain statements ourselves, or heard someone say things such as: “my heart aches”, “the heart wants what the heart wants”, “my heart is pounding”, “my heart is broken”.

A few examples of how emotional pain presents itself physically, the hurting heart as described by those of whom have experienced as such, includes:

  • Feeling physically weighted down
  • Teary eyed
  • Body aches and pains (e.g., back ache, stomach ache)
  • Feeling like one’s heart is beating out of one’s chest, AKA rapid heart

Different kinds of love

There are different kinds of love and loss, and our experience of that love and loss. Whether it is an example of love loss in which it is the loss of what was and will no longer be like in the death of a spouse, or the loss of love that will never be like in infertility, or an example of love gain like in the blessing of child birth, or getting married – these are but just a few examples of love gain and loss. Marital, child, love of self, parents, friend, pet, job – each significant examples of love and love loss.

Loss of love – Coping tips for the hurting heart

Tools for having a healthy emotional heart

In my counseling practice as a marriage and family therapist, I’ve seen much love and loss through the years. Each experience is unique, special, different in it’s own way. Where there is profound love, there is profound loss. For those of us lucky enough to experience such love is to know that very depth of love lives on within us, forever within one’s heart and mind. Each of the 7 tips below plays a role in helping navigate the journey of love loss emotionally and physically.

  1. Embrace what was and therefore will always be within. Cherish the memories of what was.
  2. Allow yourself to mourn, take time to mourn.
  3. Celebrate the gift of having such love. Although you may feel like you have a broken heart, and hurt for that, consider how joyous it is that you have such a connected heart.
  4. Communicate feelings and joyous memory recall with loved ones.
  5. Positive meditative breathe.
  6. Be in touch with what your heart is saying. If you are in touch with your heart, the vessel that speaks one’s emotions, you can understand your needs in a concrete way.
  7. Relish in what is in your life. Make the time each day to water the plant of your relationships, not take parenting, marriage, … for granted

Personal Loss

On a personal note, in a few weeks it’ll be the 1 year anniversary of the death of my precious father. I was blessed to experience the kind of love of love that runs deep, and his love is forever within me and my family. Anyone who has been lucky enough to experience such intimate love, it is a blessing. Let us all take a moment during heart health month to take a moment to cherish and relish matters of the emotional heart.

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