Jewish World Review Feb. 13, 2004 / 21 Teves, 5764
Russell P. Friedman
The Heart Has a Mind of Its Own
Do you recall a time when you were so giddy with love that even you realized that your thoughts and actions were silly?
If not yourself, you may remember observing friends or family members so smitten that you thought they were a bit daft.
In either case, you were probably willing to allow that the cuckoo-bird of love addles the mind when the heart is in the grip of romance.
When romantic fires are lit, people's feet barely touch the ground, except to propel them even higher into the air. Their thinking is often somewhat short of focused in other life areas. There are references to this kind of natural folly as far back as there is recorded history of the human endeavor.
Entire industries flourish under the mantle of romantic love, provoking the annual rainfall of flowers and chocolate every February 14. Each year Americans dance anew to the commercial cadences that remind us to open our wallets to our most romantic selves. It is doubtful that Tiffany's and other famous jewelers would abound or be profitable were it not for the reduction in financial reason occasioned by the emotions of love.
We tend to throw all intellectual caution to the winds, while we indulge in the courtship rituals that lead to marriage and family. We have learned to tolerate it in our friends and family and hope that they, in time, will return the favor. Oh yes, and lest we forget, love is also blind.
Love is not intellectually accurate, after all it is love. It is unbridled emotion.
Love is not logical, that is why it is called love not logic.
If we can all stipulate to that, as the lawyers say, then we can perhaps shed some helpful light on another emotional aspect of being human.
Those celebrating another Valentine's Day, with the exchanges of gifts and sweet sentiments, will do so in venues as varied as pre-school classes and senior citizen centers. But "celebrate" may not be the right word for everybody.
For millions of people, this year will be the first Valentine's Day since their Valentine died. For other millions, it will be the passage of the first Valentine's Day after a divorce or romantic break-up. For them there is no celebration. There is just grief.
Cupid's arrows of love are sweet poetic images. But we don't always think about those among us who have the other kind of arrows in their hearts, the arrows of grief and loss that seem almost unbearable.
Grief produces inordinate amounts of emotional energy. Grieving people have a very hard time concentrating. Grieving people don't always make very good decisions, because it is very hard to think straight when your heart is broken. The parallel between love and grief is that both produce massive emotions, but neither produce intellectual logic.
For those who are dealing with the aftermath of a death or a divorce, the emotions and actions of grief make little sense. The pain of the loss coupled with the sense that the pain will never go away is very hard to bear. Grieving people are constantly being fed intellectual bromides in an attempt to make them feel better. So they are told over and over that they shouldn't feel the way they feel, even though something sad has happened. It is what causes grievers to isolate to protect themselves, and often makes them feel as if there is something wrong with them.
The question that we need to ask is, "Why do we allow people to be emotional in love but not in grief?"
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Russell P. Friedman is Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute Educational Foundation in Sherman Oaks, California [www.grief.net ], and co-author of "The Grief Recovery Handbook & "When Children Grieve. Comment by clicking here.
12/31/03: Grief is Not a Partisan Issue: The Year in Review from a Different Point of View
11/11/03: Tuesday Morning at Eleven
10/30/03: Raging Fires --- Broken Hearts
© 2003, Russell P. Friedman