Our hearts can be disfigured. They may be worried and tormented. Our hearts can be clenched and emotionally and psychologically distressed to such an extent that they eventually begin to weaken under stress. They crack or even break. The experience of having a “broken heart” is real.

Losing a loved one, struggling with work problems, or having our lives shattered by a horrible divorce are just a few of the catalysts that can create severe trauma to our hearts.

Psychotherapist and author, Thomas Moore writes that “at one point or another, most people go through a period of sadness, trial, loss, frustration, or failure that is so disturbing and long-lasting that it can be called a dark night of the soul. . “

Unfortunately, hearts that live in darkness and confusion, hearts that are “broken” don’t just suffer emotionally. Medical research has clearly shown that deep pain, sadness, and other painful experiences can cause real heart disease.

In the 1970s, medical researchers at the Mayo Clinic discovered that what we think and feel is directly related to having a healthy heart. In a research study of more than 170 people, they showed that people in severe pain or overwhelming anger can literally “drop dead” from something called sudden cardiac death. In fact, you can die of a “broken heart”.

However, just as pain and emotional trauma can tighten us ever further and ultimately create heart disease, the troublesome cords that bind us can also loosen. We can learn to unravel the emotional distress that illness is creating. We can learn to heal our broken hearts.

An important first step in healing the heart is recognizing that our broken-hearted “dark nights” can be a path to deeper meaning, perhaps even a spiritual awakening. If we tune in to this idea that our misfortunes can actually teach us something about ourselves, something vital to our overall growth as a human being, then some of the painful “sting” of our heart pain can be relieved.

Not long ago, a patient of mine suffered a major heart attack. John worked at home as a computer programmer. He was a lonely man, who hadn’t made the effort to establish a new relationship after a complicated divorce. Having a heart attack was a wake-up call. Facing death, he became acutely aware of the fragility of life.

Having a heart attack provided him with the motivation to start dating again. He soon got married and actually started a family.

Another key to healing a broken heart is finding the right treatment for you. Support groups, meditation, psychotherapy, and many other modalities are available that can help you move toward healing your heart. What is vital is that you start diligently looking for a method that you are comfortable with and then start working on yourself.

Just as you can’t get in shape while sitting on a couch, you can’t release the pain and anguish of a broken heart by ignoring the problem. You must be busy doing the psychological work necessary to recover.

Having a “broken heart” is not the end of the world. Rather we should consider it as a natural part of life. As long as we live, we are going to rub ourselves against people and situations that stretch out and challenge us.

We just need to have hope. Your broken heart can heal. You become good.

Kirk Laman, DO

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