When Unending Love Ends
The journey of heartbreak.
Posted Jan 13, 2020
Rabindranath Tagore, the great 20th century East Indian poet, wrote of unending love as one that moved through the ages, through endless lifetimes, “in numberless forms, numberless times, in life after life, in age after age, forever.” (n.d.) But sometimes that unending love ends—abruptly and incomprehensibly it would seem to the one who is left. And therein begins this journey of heartbreak—a rocky path, one that is neither linear nor speedy, and by its nature is marked by pain.
Given its ubiquitous nature, there may be a tendency to dismiss or minimize the impact of a breakup; particularly by well-meaning friends or family. The expectation is that the person whose heart is breaking should move on. This is rational: if someone no longer loves you, then you should move on. But, love, and more so the feeling that it was an unending love, can be irrational and its hold on your heart is deep. It is hardened to rational reasoning; all the heart wants is the impossible: that unending love back.
Heartbreak can be underestimated in its effects. It can spin your mind into endless ruminative thoughts; e.g., what should I have done differently? Why am I undesirable? What can I say or do to get them back? It can spin into depression. It can lead to nighttime ruminative thoughts—intrusive thoughts hold you imprisoned about love lost and sleeplessness. It may physically feel like a stone lodged indelibly in your heart. In fact, broken heart syndrome has been described to be physically experienced as chest pain and spasms (Field, 2011). It is similar to mourning that happens in bereavement where intense grief accompanies the breakup (Field). Like bereavement, losing a relationship may feel like death on multiple dimensions: of the loss of the person themselves; and loss of sense of self, of one’s desirability, or lovability (Perilloux & Buss, 2008).
Platitudes such as “you will love again” feel false. Statements from well-meaning others that the person really didn’t love you that deeply, that this is all for the best, may ring hollow.
So, what to do?
If the grief is deepening, it is critical to halt it before it burgeons into clinical depression. Some of the red flags that heartbreak is deepening into a problematic realm are these: constant intrusive thoughts about the relationship; difficulty controlling such thoughts; sleep disturbance; a sense of dysphoria or depression; anxiety; appetite loss; losing interest in life; and its severe spectrum—suicidal ideation.
If you have these red flags, and most particularly feeling a lack of desire to live, seek out mental health therapy to help stem the depression. Include as an option psychiatric medications to reverse the virulent effects of sadness, such as loss of appetite, insomnia, ruminations, and loss of interest.
Heartbreak can help you grow. However, staying mired in low self-esteem, constant ruminations about the person (e.g., such as reviewing in your mind conversations, looking at their picture, or listening to songs about love lost), an unwillingness to let go of the person (e.g., constant texting, calling, emailing, visiting their home to the point that it borders on stalking), or using substances to dull the pain are highly maladaptive and stop growth.
Remember, heartbreak is a journey and not a destination. Mourning the loss should be for a season, not a lifetime. The truth is that there are no “seven steps to healing from heartbreak.” Each person walks this path in their own way. The important thing is to not set up psychological residence in loss. Use whatever tools you need to help you overcome that hump of heart-aching pain. Seek out support from others. Meditate, pray, exercise, work, and engage in kindness to others. This is the core of building resilience: use the adversity to become stronger (Vogel, 2005). It won’t feel good immediately. It is likely to feel false or contrived at first. However, each step you take on this path is one that will move you upward and out of the pain.
The capacity for unending love is one sphere of the depth of your character; the other is growing strong in its loss. Thrust your arms upward into the night sky toward the stars and feel the energy of the universe to remind you of its vastness; but, also your place in it. As Max Ehrmann (1927) wrote in his timeless poem, "Desiderata": “you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars; you have a right to be here.”
Strive to have peace in your soul; don’t let a broken dream break you. Know that you will overcome this; that in doing so, you will learn not just how to let go, but how to open yourself up to even deeper and abiding love.
Ehrman, M. (1927). Desiderata. https://www.desiderata.com/desiderata.html
Field, T. (2011). Romantic breakups, heartbreak and bereavement. Psychology, 2(4), 382–387. https://doi.org/10.4236/psych.2011.24060
Perilloux, C., & Buss, D. M. (2008). Breaking up romantic relationships: Costs experienced and coping strategies deployed. Evolutionary Psychology, 6(1), 164–181. https://doi.org/10.1177/147470490800600119
Tagore, R. (n.d.). Unending love. https://allpoetry.com/Unending-Love
Vogel, J.E. (2005). Overcoming heartbreak. Learning to make music again. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 1(3-4),135-153, DOI:10.1300/J456v01n03_08