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How to prepare for a heartbreak

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"And how can you mend a broken heart? How can you stop the rain from falling down?.... Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again."

-Toni Braxton

It has inspired generations of poets and lyricists. Yet when it occurs, few are prepared to handle it. A heartbreak can occur in a number of situations, perpetuated by lovers, spouses, friends, children and sometimes even parents. Those who have experienced it know that mending a broken heart is never easy. The sense of rejection and loss of meaning that it brings can be both overwhelming and devastating.

Behavioural scientists have found that the loss of the sense of value and purpose you feel because of the relationship appears to be the key in heartbreak. This is because our sense of identity appears to be attached to the relationship. 'He values me enough to be with me, I am important to him,' runs the chain of thought when we think of the loved one.

How to prepare for a heartbreak


Is there something called a 'broken heart' in the physical sense of the term?
While the emotional consequences of a broken heart are well known, cardiologists have recently become aware of the physical 'Broken Heart Syndrome' (BHS). This is a condition in which the left ventricle of the heart becomes suddenly dysfunctional in the face of overwhelming stress. A recent article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology describes stress cardiomyopathy as 'a rapidly reversible form of acute heart failure reported to be triggered by stressful events.'

BHS may be triggered not just by the conventional 'heartbreak' related to an estranged relationship but by any extreme and sudden emotional trauma. Women are seven to nine times more likely to suffer from this physical BHS than men. Though scary, this is a reversible condition that can be handled by cardiologists. However, data regarding gender differences in emotional heart break is equivocal.

Is it really possible for us to shield ourselves from a heart break?
When Toni Braxton sings, 'Unbreak my heart', we all know that un-breaking is not that simple. Protecting, mending and healing is what we can and must aim for. It's not easy, but it is possible. Though each one of us who has ever gone through heartbreak felt terrible when it happened, most of us moved on and found courage and a new meaning to life and eventually a healthier relationship. Not just with a partner, but also with our self. Here are some ways to achieve this.

Never allow your relationship to be the only determinant of your self-worth.
  • Keep your interests alive (other than those involving your loved one).
  • Make sure you always have a good support system.
  • Be alert. Don't miss the early signs of rejection.
  • Stop yourself from expecting too much from the relationship and the person involved.

Dr Prabha Chandra

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