Robin Muskal, Ph.D.
Heartache can come to mothers in many different forms. It can be the loss of a pregnancy, a difficult diagnosis of a child, disappointment from our spouse, a traumatic childbirth experience, or for many other reasons. From work with postpartum parents over the years who have suffered heartache, I have observed that despite the differing grades of heartache it is ultimately acceptance of the cause of the heartache that is most useful for those suffering to reach some peace.
Acceptance does not mean approval of whatever precipitated the heartache but rather, the deep understanding that what has occurred may be different than what was expected for the moment, and may possibly be permanent.
One of the ways to achieve acceptance is by mustering up the courage to experience the heartache head-on, versus avoiding the heartache through the use of alcohol, anger, compulsive eating or shopping, for example. It is not easy to face discomfort, but short term and long term, our choice to face rather than to avoid is critical to our well being and that of our family.
One of the ways to face the pain of heartache is by finding the support of others to share your grief with. Our families and friends often are the recipients of our feeling and thoughts when we are in the midst of heartache. Sharing our experience often creates more intimate relationships and a new found capacity for compassion. It may be especially useful to share with partners/spouses so that we don't distance ourselves from those who are closest to us.
In addition, there are several interactive electronic domains to share with those who have had similar, if not identical events as ours. This can prove comforting at those times that we may need feedback from others who may be further along in the healing process than we are. Sometimes just knowing that we are not alone can be helpful.
There are also those times when professional intervention can be useful to help clarify and make sense of confusing and overwhelming incidents in our lives.
Finally, keeping a journal to record our feelings and behaviors can be a healing activity. Writing our deepest felt thoughts and feelings can often bring us to more meaningful levels of awareness than the spoken word. For those who are inclined towards the arts, I strongly encourage drawing or painting something that represents some aspect of your heartache. This can be soothing and help to process the confusion and overwhelming feelings that often accompany heartache.
All of these suggestions can be instrumental in helping us to reach the acceptance of our personal heartaches. Acceptance allows for a quieting down of the anger, resentment, fear, sorrow, anxiety or depression. It offers some space for tolerance and peace in our lives.
No one is free of heartache in this life. It is how we choose to cope with heartache that will make the difference for us. We, as mothers, certainly deserve to achieve acceptance and to continue moving forward in our lives for the benefit of ourselves and our families.