RECENTLY two of my women friends chose to separate from their respective spouses after being married for more than a decade. Incidentally, both had married for love.

Will that love now be the cause of regret rest of their lives? Or, will they be able to rise above the heartbreak and emerge from the experience richer and more evolved human beings? Even though it is still too early to tell, you can already see the difference in their attitudes. One has confidently set out on a path rebuilding life and imbibing lessons she has learnt from the breakup; the other is low as low can get, sounding stricken and clearly having taken a bad hit. Surely for her, it would have been better not to have loved at all?

A question that plagues all who have visited heartbreak zone - is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Lord Tennyson raised the issue in In Memoriam , written in a state of almost suicidal grief after the sudden death of his friend, Arthur Hallam.

Since then, not just poets and essayists, but every lover has asked himself and the world in general this question. Would you rather never have tasted love, and so none of its attendant rollercoaster ride of emotions ranging from exultation to grief? Or, do you feel richer for all the experience loving and being loved brought to you?

Difficult question to answer, especially given the fact that all of us walk into love with our eyes closed, believing like every full blooded human being does, that only the good stuff happens to us, while bad things happen to others. And yet, nobody can be in love and not be swung to absolute extremes of emotion. You are riding an unbelievable high one moment and plunging into abysmal depression the next. You believe yourself to be the luckiest person alive while in love and then, when that love ends, there could be nobody more torn apart than you...

They say love and intimacy is the cause of all our happiness and sorrow; our well-being and sickness, and of all our pain and healing. To give up one is to give up the other. If you deny yourself love for fear of the pain, you would undoubtedly be depriving yourself of all the ecstasies too. Surely the high that love alone can swing you to is worth the risk of pain?

And then, there is a beauty to even the pain that love brings. Its beauty lies in the depth of emotion we experience and to the way we respond to it. Some of our most beautiful poetry, songs and art have been the result of emotional turmoil resulting from rejection in love. In fact many creative artists work on perfecting the art of wallowing in melancholy. The world's greatest love stories have ended in pain and separation. Does that stop us from idolising Romeo & Juliet, Tristan & Isolde, Heer Ranjha or Paro Devdas?

There are those who say that love never ends. Two individuals may choose to end a relationship, yet if they truly loved each other, the love lasts beyond their togetherness. It is an emotion that you can revisit and wrap around yourself as a comfort in times of loneliness and despair. Love imbues two individuals with a sense of wellbeing, happiness and confidence that rest of the world cannot penetrate. And when they separate, why must they also give up all the positive strokes love brought them?

Whether or not you are able to smile at shared happy moments later and retain the positive feelings really depends on the way two individuals choose to end their relationship.

Dr Brian Weiss in Only Love is Real , the book Princess Diana read just before she took off on her last holiday with Dodi, explains that love is a powerful, reuniting energy. If you believe in love as the be-all and end-all of our existence; as both the beginning as well as conclusion of the journey of life, you would agree that we need to go through any number of relationships in life because we learn our life's lessons through them "forgiveness, understanding, patience, awareness, non-violence...We have to unlearn other traits, such as fear ... anger....greed ... hatred ... pride... ego which result from old conditioning.'

If that's so, then the very purpose of the beginning and ending of a relationship must be to enable us to learn valuable lessons. And, if we don't understand that, we would be doomed to a series of loves that keep ending in grief!

Love sharpens our senses and mental faculties. It increases our capacity for giving as well as receiving emotion. Love brings with it enlightenment and a lightness of being. And when love creeps away, it leaves us with a depth of emotion that is just as meaningful and necessary to our existence, to the very fabric of our lives...

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.