Meaningful relationships, belonging and love are essential to our health, happiness and what we want, need and desire. It is one of psychologist Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs and the one of the most frequently conflicted areas of human interaction. The willingness to be vulnerable to love again after things go badly in an intimate relationship requires both courage and resilience to transverse the landscape of such profound emotion.
Losing love by breakup or death is one of the most profound and stressful things we as human beings can experience. The loss of love can literally "break our hearts" and can even undermine our will to live. Sigmund Freud, MD, the well-known father of modern psychoanalysis, many decades ago stated that we "are never as hopelessly unhappy as when we lose love."
Love is what sustains our lives; so much so that research shows the impact of grief on the development and exacerbation of unresolved grief, and how it can result in the development of serious illness or fatal heart disease. The loss of love is something many of us fear and something many of us can't imagine happening when, on the surface, things in our relationship seem to be on an even keel. Yet, for most of us at one time or another, we experience the crushing pain of losing love and the almost obsessive reaction we have to try and regain that love, or find a way to end the pain and sense of emptiness that can often accompany such loss.
If you are not familiar with a small press literary publication, The Sun, you may not have read this poignant essay, published in that magazine, written by Poe Ballantine. He provides insight to the necessity of trust within love. Trust is the element of love which provides the safe place necessary to share our lives and hearts with others. Trusting, and dealing with the loss of trust within love, requires great courage to be able to move beyond the loss and love again. It is interesting that we are inundated from many sources these days with information about wellness and how to prevent illness, when what many of us need is information about how to create more fulfilling and healthy relationships and prevent the heartbreak of losing love.
Ballantine's essay tells a story about his father:
"He kept a close ritual of coffee, then work, dinner, his television shows and his cigarettes. The newspaper stayed on the table open to the personals. He had opened them the first day she had left him, like the reflex of a man covering a wound after being shot. His face was gray from survival. He was a man who could not allow himself to break. The despair stretched out. The music from the stereo could not fill the emptiness. Our conversations were automatic, clock talk. His single guiding hope was that she would return."
"What had happened to my father - he never believed it would happen to him. He was fifty years old, settled, comfortable, secure. His children were raised. He had worked hard all his life and now he could relax. I understood why my mother had left him, but I still condemned her for leaving - for taking the easy way out. My father and I played cards and watched private-eye dramas on television. He looked in the personals, called once at something that looked right, but cancelled soon after; it just wasn't in him."
"One Sunday afternoon I heard him crying in the bedroom. I didn't know what to do with a father who cried. He taught me all I knew, the important things: honesty, loyalty, firm handshake, the love beyond self-love, the duty of a man. Trust was his only religion and it was failing him and in turn it was the failure of the world."
"The one thing a human being asks for on this earth is to be loved. Why should it be impossible?"
Trusting, loving and the resilience to come back from the loss of love may be the next "health frontier." Nutrition, one of the more popular health topics, is not just about nourishing our tissues. Nourishing our hearts, which are hungry for love and acceptance, is another skill we need to learn. If we should be mindful of what we eat, how mindful should we become about how and who we love?