Teresa M. Shull, a licensed professional counselor at Hiwassee Mental Health Center, said “disillusionment, disappointment and dashed hopes” often cause heartbreak for many people. Primarily, she stated, people suffer this way from failed relationships.
“People are on that search for significance — to matter to somebody,” she continued. When the heart gets broken, she said, “you thought you mattered and you find you don’t ... it’s devastating.”
Shull noted research shows rejection or the loss of a close relationship, through divorce or death, is at the top of the list of the stressors in life.
“We treat grief of many types,” Shull explained of her colleagues and herself. The loss of a pet has moved up in the way loss can hurt and devastate people, the counselor noted. Some people grieve deeply over the death of a beloved pet.
Some, Shull said, seek to feel better by trying to replace the lost loved one. “We think we can replace,” she said, “but that’s like trying to heal a scratch with an oncoming train. You’re not ready most of the time. It’s the wrong answer.”
Shull conceded that some replacement relationships work out, but not most of them. Healthier ways to cope with a broken heart and loss, Shull pointed out, include self-care like making good choices regarding eating, exercising, resting and finding a social support system.
Spirituality, she added, is also a component that helps. “Spirituality is part of being a human being.”
Shull, who has almost a dozen years’ experience in counseling and currently serves as children and youth clinical service coordinator for Bradley and Polk counties, noted more specifically that most anxiety and depression are related to problems with relationships.
“Even more recently,” she pointed out, “we’ve had a lot of people broken-hearted over parents.” A sense of self-worth that was supposed to come through parents, Shull said, often did not. “They’re angry their parents didn’t do their job,” Shull remarked.
Holidays of all kinds, Shull explained, can be especially painful if there’s been a loss.
“There’s that expectation — here’s Valentine’s Day. I don’t have anybody. I must be worthless.” Being left out, the counselor stated, “reinforces (the sense) of worthlessness.”
To heal this kind of pain, Shull suggests inclusiveness. For instance, if parents want to send their child flowers, it’s best to send the gift outside the classroom.
“Can you imagine those kids who don’t have someone in their lives like that?”
Another suggestion is letting your child bless the whole class with cards or small gifts. Shull is no stranger to feeling rejected and left out herself.
“I never believed myself to be attractive,” she recalled. “I was sisterly, not flirtatious, so I thought I wasn’t pretty enough to get asked out.”
Now, however, Shull and her husband, Don, have a son, Nathan, and a daughter-in-law, Beth.
To help heal a broken heart and make it through Valentine’s Day, Shull said, “Make it about someone else. Have a generous spirit. Focus on a parent or mentor a child or teenager. Honor that person in some way. Choose someone who doesn’t have family ... someone in a nursing home. (Then) you’re giving instead of expecting to be given to.”