Nearly everyone has experienced the loss of a close friend or family member. Some may literally feel like their heart is breaking wide open. This raises the question: Can you really die of a broken heart?
The answer is yes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Grief, for some, can manifest itself in something known as “broken heart syndrome. "
The Mayo Clinic explains, “Broken heart syndrome may be caused by the heart's reaction to a surge of stress hormones. The condition may also be called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy by doctors."
In 2007, I personally experienced the physical effects of grief. Fortunately, I didn't end up in the emergency room complaining of chest pain, but within days of my husband's funeral, I did find myself at a medical clinic. I was diagnosed with bronchitis, a double ear infection, and a sinus infection.
In other words, I needed a medical intervention in the form of antibiotics. Although I was only 33 at the time, and a distance runner, I still became ill as a result of my experience with grief.
I also found that in doing research for my book, "A Widow's Guide to Healing,” that I wasn’t alone in feeling the physical impact of grief. I wanted to know and understand how other widows coped with grief, so I interviewed dozens of widows. Their age, financial, educational, religious backgrounds varied.
One widow named Julie, age 34, recalled that the grief took a physical toll on her body. She said, "For about six months I had heart palpitations. Sometimes it felt like I was having a heart attack and other times my heart would beat out of my chest."
Another widow named Penny, age 47, said, "At first after M (my husband) died, I was nervous and anxious all the time. I would be sitting and reading and find that my legs were shaking or that I had a queasy feeling in my stomach."
The Wall Street Journal published the story of a woman, Mrs. Lee, who appears to have experienced broken heart syndrome within minutes of witnessing her husband’s death.