When Your Heart Aches   by Susan Dunn

When I was a child, my Dad read me the story of "Heidi," by Johanna Spyri. I doubt there were many illustrations in the book, but the pictures in my own mind were vivid. Heidi was my age, I was sure, and lived with Grandfather in the Alps. There were goats. Then she had to go live in the city. She "pined" for Grandfather and grew sick and finally a doctor said it was because she missed Grandfather and the mountains, and she needed to back.

The best cover illustration of "Heidi" is this one: http://www.geocitiesz.com/EnchantedForest/Glad/8905/home.html . It captures what Heidi was pining for.

We can miss and pine for people, places, things or ideas/beliefs.


Rachmaninoff's music reflects his deep longing to return to his homeland, Russia. Stravinsky also pined for his homeland and former circumstances, being so poor at one point, he agreed to compose music for Barnum and Bailey for the circus.


We can miss mountains and also mountains to climb. Ray Garrett, Jr. reached the top of his law career, then went to serve as Chairman of the SEC, where he turned around the stock market it its biggest decline since the Depression, deregulating commissions in 1970. That having been accomplished, he resigned, went back to his hometown, and died about a year later.

"Pining" is an old word that isn't used much any more. It's too bad because we have lost the word that best defines that feeling when we lose something of great value, something which we suffer without. It comes from Old English "pinian" which is from the Latin "poena", punishment. It means to lose vigor, health or flesh (as through grief); to languish; to yearn intensely and persistently especially for something unattainable.

"Languish" is another old word. It means drooping or flagging from or as if from exhaustion; weak; heavy; lacking vigor or force.

Languid from an aching heart is not "as if", it is "because of." Grief brings a host of chemical and hormonal changes, that bring an exhaustion as real as the results of a 2 mile run, only without the good feelings. The slumped shoulders, the sunken eyes, the sighs all attest to the fact that the loss of something emotionally important is a physiological event for us humans.


Doctors finally had to come up with a name to describe an ER scenario - - an individual would come in with all the signs (and symptoms) of a heart attack, but some of the chemistry was different, they had no signs of prior heart disease, they recovered well usually with no harm done, and, it turned out, had just suffered the loss of someone they loved, or a shock of that sort.

Sometimes with a long-married couple, when one dies, the other follows shortly thereafter.


We can feel a pang of grief over the loss of something like a car - if it is stolen for instance, but that's replaceable. We will feel it more strongly when it's something like our photographs. We also pine when we lose our wealth, because there are a lot of changes around that. The more you define yourself by what you have, the more you will suffer when you lose things.
One reason we take it so hard, and pine, is because a loss has a domino effect. When your husband has an affair and you divorce, you lose him, but many other things as well. Perhaps your house, some friends, maybe even your job and community if you must move.


When we are betrayed by our spouse, we lose something else very precious - our beliefs. What we thought the world and people are like, and our ideas of what might happen to us. We may come fact-to-face for the first time that bad things happen to good people (like us), that people don't keep their word or mean what they say, and that you can't count on what you thought you could. Betrayal is hard to deal with because it hits us in our core beliefs.


Being able to bounce back from loss, defeat, rejection and betrayal requires dealing with some of these issues. It may come down to, "Can I live in a world where - - where a wife cheats on her husband, where a trusted employee steals from you, where your beloved daughter marries against your will and, you fear, is going to trash her life... We realize there are some very important things we cannot control.

Resilience, an emotional intelligence competency, is about bouncing back - sooner or later - with enthusiasm and hope. It means learning the lesson, but not OVER-learning it. We do have losses, rejections and defeats; but not always and hopefully not too often. We do lose people we love; the pain we feel afterward is the price we pay for the love we enjoyed.

Resilience means bolstering yourself against the negative emotions so you can enjoy the positive ones. When we stuff down one emotion, we stuff them all down. You can stay safe, of course, not investing in anyone or anything, but what kind of life is that?

Part of Resilience is turning your face back to the sun and owning all the things you have to be grateful for. There are other skills, and it can be learned. Develop your emotional intelligence because it's like building muscle, muscle that you will need if you intend to have a long, full life.

Intentionality, BTW, is another emotional intelligence competency.

About the Author

Susan Dunn, MA, Professional Coach, www.susandunn.cc, mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc . Susan offers individual coaching, business programs, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional growth. She trains and certifies EQ coaches worldwide in a fast, affordable, comprehensive, no-residency program. Email for free ezine.