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Can You Appreciate the Price of a Broken Heart?

When something hurts so much we say that it breaks our heart – does it really, or does it save it?

Have you ever lost someone you love? And yes, pets count. Can you remember the physicalness of the pain – the pain in your chest, the hollowness of your being? What is that? Why is that? And can we ever “suffer” a loss without suffering?

Probably not, and you probably wouldn’t want to, either.

Professor Yoram Yovell, a researcher on the relationship between emotional and physical pain and expert on the neurobiology of love and emotions, has studied why love and loss hurts so much. Turns out, emotional pain has a strong survival benefit – it alerts us to the fact that something has changed in our lives that we need to pay attention to.

When babies – human or not – are without their mother, they cry a very specific cry. Yes, the cry alerts their mother to return to them, and for the researchers, there was a surprising finding: neuroreceptors in the brains of those babies indicated physical pain was felt along with the mental awareness of missing the parent. The feeling of loss, it turns out, is both physical and emotional. It’s designed that way.    

There’s probably not a person on this planet who hasn’t lost something or someone they cared deeply for. Everyone has felt the pain of loss and will probably feel it again in their life. Some people seem to sail through losses, while others get stuck in the pain of the loss for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. Perhaps you’ve heard of the 5 stages of grief, a theory that everyone who suffers a loss must go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance before being able to truly move on with their lives.


First, these stages were put forward as the steps most people with a life-threatening illness go through, and that model doesn’t even work for most or all terminal patients. Yes, those are all normal, human emotional reactions, so if you’re feeling them in the wake of a loss, know that there’s no specific order or time you’re supposed to spend in any or all of them, no matter what anyone may tell you.

Feel what you feel. Deal with what you feel. Feelings are human, so please don’t beat yourself up for feeling however you’re feeling. And when the tears start to dry up, decide what you want your life post-loss to look like, and start moving in that direction. The emotional and physical pain of loss has alerted you to the fact that something has changed in your life. Time to move forward and face the change head-on. If you need a little help, here are three episodes of the world’s second-shortest podcast with ideas for you:

Is it the pain of your loss or the pain of unmet expectations that you're feeling? Here’s a Tiny Bite for that!

Need help remembering who’s really important in your life now? Here’s a Tiny Bite for that!

Want to know how to be strong through a loss? Here’s a Tiny Bite for that!

Understanding and appreciating the pain of loss takes you from being an observer of your life to being the leader of your life. That’s what moving through the pain of loss is – holding the reins of your life as you grieve, and slowly using them to direct your life going forward. As you scroll through the socials today, you might see memes reminding you to share a picture or light a candle in remembrance of pets you’ve lost, because today is World Pet Memorial Day. You can create a special remembrance of your lost loved one, too, if that resonates with you.

Oh, and that part about how we can’t “suffer” a loss without suffering? The pain is just a reminder of how much love there was, and if that’s the price of a broken heart then so be it.

PS...want more? Subscribe to the Mind, Body, Soul Sessions podcast, a weekly mental spa treatment for your total self!


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