A psychologist presents case studies to show that heartbreak may be inevitable, but it need not be terminal.
Too often, writes Winch (Emotional First Aid, 2013, etc.) in the latest addition to the publisher’s TED series, society consigns heartbreak to the early pangs of teenage love and thus trivializes or dismisses it. Yet divorce or death can also leave hearts broken, with pain that is as debilitating as physical injury—and that pain can last a lot longer, and longer than it needs to. The author makes the curious decision here “to focus on two types of heartbreak that have much in common: romantic heartbreak and the heartbreak that ensues from the loss of a cherished pet.” He does so because these are two areas where the support system is likely to be weaker than it would in divorce or the death of a spouse. Friends and bosses too often think that the heartbroken one should get over it and move on, long before the debilitation has lifted. If part of this book aims to underscore the seriousness of heartbreak, so that society at large may take it more seriously and extend more compassion, the self-help component suggests that there is plenty the victim can do to avoid prolonging the agony. Winch finds parallels between heartbreak and addiction, how wallowing in them can be so devastating to our well-being, how we continue to obsess over something that does us no good, how the vicious cycle perpetuates itself. “If your heart is broken, it will definitely take time to heal,” he writes. “But…how much time is up to you.” Winch advises shortening the period of rumination by practicing mindfulness and letting go. The narrative transitions between losing a romantic partner and losing a pet can seem awkward and strained (separate chapters might have been better), but the pain and the cure for both can seem very much the same.
A good starting point for anyone who wants to check out of the Heartbreak Hotel.