Yes, You Can Die of a Broken Heart

Hopelessness from a broken heart

There are many factors that contribute to a condition known as Broken Heart Syndrome. Although it has been around for centuries, the medical profession has only begun to recognize it as a medical condition since the 1990s.


They believe the condition is brought on by an adrenaline rush that happens shortly after a severe stressful situation. The left ventricle of the heart takes on a cone-like shape which resembles the shape of a pot the Japanese use to capture octopus called “tako-tsubo” which means “fishing pot for trapping octopus. “Tako-tsubo Cardiomyopathy” is now Broken Heart Syndrome’s medical name.


Wikipedia defines it as sudden temporary weakening of the myocardium (the muscle of the heart). This weakening can be triggered by emotional stress, such as the death of a loved one. Stress cardiomyopathy is a well-recognized cause of acute heart failure.


A study completed by Harvard Medical School provided the definitive part of this subject. Perhaps you know of someone who was married for several decades and died shortly after the death of their significant other. This is not an uncommon scenario.


Some of the symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome:


Physical symptoms may include:


  • chest pain and pressure
  • shortness of breath
  • arrhythmia (heart rhythm problems)
  • stomach pain, nausea and/or loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • death (in extreme cases)


Psychological effects of broken heart syndrome may include:


  • depression
  • constant or frequent crying
  • thoughts of suicide
  • feelings of emptiness


Two of the most common causes of Broken Heart Syndrome are the loss of a spouse or a child. Scientists have shown that after such an incident, heart attack risks increased to 21 times higher than normal within the first day, and were almost six times higher than normal within the first week. Stress and lack of sleep after the death of a loved one increase the risks of heart failure. Interestingly, it is more common for men than women.


It is extremely difficult to counsel or comfort someone who is suffering from this syndrome because they believe the only solution is to bring their loved one back. Anything short of that does little to console them.

It has been my experience that within the boundaries of a family suffering such a loss, each member reacts differently. Some get angry. Another may turn inward and become distant to other family members. Some may take on the role of guilt and cannot overcome it. The feeling of helplessness is almost always a factor in each case and can become so overwhelming that it consumes every area of its victim’s life.


The adage states “Time heals all wounds” but very often this works in reverse for someone suffering from a broken heart. There are triggers that can pole-vault him/her back to the initial pain. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are most common.


There are a lot of internet sites that deal with this trauma that give coping mechanisms. These are certainly helpful to a point, but this type of loss is different than any other because the person that is gone can never be replaced. This is what creates the feeling of hopelessness.


It is an occurrence in life that rarely, if ever, one completely heals, and it is difficult to empathize unless you have personally experienced it. Patience, and more patience, is the best soother to help someone through this trauma.


The scar will always be there, even though the scab may be gone.


Meet Carol Graham

Carol Graham has written 23 posts in this blog.

I am a wife, mother of two and grandmother of three. Family is of first importance, which includes many 4 legged members. Currently, I own and help operate two jewelry stores with my husband. My passion is being a health coach, which I have been doing for over 30 years. I survived cancer 40 years ago using alternative methods, which started me on the road to better health. Another great passion is public speaking. I am a motivational speaker that has much to share in the area of survival against all odds. I lived an intense life of outrageous traumatic events, always a fighter and a winner over cancer, rape, marital abuse, jail, loss of child, huge financial losses from fraud and greed of others. I strongly believe that laughter will get you through almost anything. I have just finished my memoir - Battered Hope - which was released this past summer. This fast paced memoir reads with all the elements of a good novel – character, conflict, suspense, and resolution. Follow my family through insurmountable hardships and witness the tenacity it takes for me to survive. It is a story of hope, perseverance, and faith.

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