How Best to Heal A Broken Heart
Intermountain Health expert gives advice on dealing with loss during a time focused on love.
St. George, UT (PRUnderground) February 15th, 2023
At some point in their life, everyone has — or will — quote some form of the 1960s Jimmy Ruffin song as they wonder, “what becomes of the broken hearted?”
Experts at Intermountain Health say the answer, however, varies widely depending on how an individual deals with it.
Despite February often being considered the month of love, for many, Valentine’s Day serves as a reminder of loss; the kind of loss that leads to a broken heart — whether that is romantic love gone wrong or the absence of a loved one because of death.
“When it comes to a broken heart, too often we say that you just have to get through it,” said Kevin Johnson, licensed clinical social worker with Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital. “My concern is that if we fail to acknowledge the nature of the injury, we won’t do what is actually needed in order to facilitate the healing.”
Using the example of a broken arm, Johnson said it hurts to have a doctor set the bone and cast it. However, those steps are useful in creating an environment in which healing can occur.
“You wouldn’t just put pillows and duct tape on the arm to keep from feeling any pain,” he said.
Such is the case when working through emotional injury and loss.
Johnson points out that people tend to weigh the pain of the problem vs. the pain of the solution before finally deciding to deal with emotional loss. But when they are ready, there are several healthy coping strategies, starting with a two-fold process of mindfulness and compassion.
“We talk about mindfulness in terms of learning to observe our experiences without judgement and without criticism,” Johnson said. “In addition, we are learning to invite more compassion into how we see ourselves as we go through these experiences.”
With that compassion in mind, Johnson said it is important not to compare one’s current self with a former version of themselves. Someone who is grieving, for example, may experience fatigue, or loss of interest in social gatherings, both of which may be out of character for them.
“Self-comparison is the more pervasive, and most insidious form of comparison,” Johnson said. “It is far better to simply assess where you are at on any given day. We can say, ‘I did as much as I could do today’ and allow ourselves to embrace our best efforts.”
Whether or not to seek professional help in dealing with emotional heartbreak depends on the level at which each person feels the injury. Once again using an analogous physical injury, Johnson said there is not much need for medical intervention for a bruise, but if a person has a compound fracture, they will need professional care.
“Either way, the healing is not necessarily made possible by the professional intervention. We have the innate ability to heal, but that can be assisted by the professional intervention,” Johnson said. “Some things require more care and nurturing.”
Emotional recovery is a process that requires both rest and exertion.
“We have to allow ourselves to go toward the hurt to understand it,” Johnson said. “But we also invite compassion and recognition of the defenses we put in place when we need to recuperate.”
About Intermountain Health
Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., www.intermountainhealth.org is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called SelectHealth with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.