Does a broken heart heal stronger?+comment
I’ve had my heart broken three times. I don’t mean that I’ve only been hurt by love three times. I wish. I’ve been hurt or disappointed in love so many times in my life that I’m not sure I can actually count that high. But when it comes to utter, sob-on-the-floor-for-weeks, life changing heartbreak, it has happened to me three times.
All were excruciating, but in many ways the first was the most horrible despite the fact that the person who first broke my heart was not the person I had loved the most. I think it was the most painful because it came as such a surprise that a love felt so deeply could end. Each subsequent heartbreak had more significant consequences because they came at the end of deeper, more mature relationships. So if I lost more from the second and third heartbreaks, why was the first so much worse? I think it hurt so much because it was the first time and my heart was unprepared, unscarred.
Of course the whole concept of the heart being the place where love resides is a metaphor; one so entrenched in our culture that it may actually inform how we experience emotions. When suffering an emotional loss, you may actually feel pain in your actual heart. As far as metaphors go, it is a damn good one.
Here’s what I’ve been wondering… when a heart gets damaged, does it change forever? Is it like shin: the wound heals but a mark is left? Or is the heart like other muscles, when torn, does it actually heal stronger? Or is it like an injury to the knee or back, it may heal and be completely functional but never quite as good as new? Does the metaphorical heart get metaphorical scar tissue, making it stronger but also less flexible?
After the initial pain of a broken heart fades and time heals the wound, are we better off or worse?
Perhaps the answer the this question depends entirely on the person whose heart is broken. For some, a broken heart leads to growth and a deeper understanding of just how precious love is, how fragile. For others, that same experience can lead to bitterness, resentment and self-protection to the exclusion of deep feeling.
And then there is the whole ‘everything happens for a reason’ philosophy. Which would mean that each heartbreak is a necessary preparation for the real love that is to come. Though that philosophy is comforting when life goes to hell, I’m not sure I believe it. I think everything significant in our lives is imbued with meaning and each event leads to the next in such a way that the past, the good and the bad, in inextricable from the present, but that’s not the same as happening for a reason. I am lucky enough to be married to a wonderful man who I love more than I can say. I had my heart broken many times in the past and learned a lot from these heartbreaks, and I do think has made me more appreciative of what I have. But were those heartbreaks necessary to have what I have ? I don’t know.
Though I do think many positive things came from the pain and tumult of heartbreak, many negative things came from it too. In addition to the pain I felt at the time, I also think those experiences made more more cynical. I think my heart was made stronger from the breaks and healings but would my heart be more open, less tentative and fearful had it been less damaged? Would my current relationship be even better had my heart been less scared? I honestly don’t know.
What about you? In your experience… when a broken heart heals, is it stronger or weaker? Did getting your heart broken make you more compassionate or more bitter?
What do you think…