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
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
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.
Dr. Robin Muskal