Intense grief can cause a great deal of stress on the heart, which could lead to stress-induced cardiomyopathy, also known as the “broken-heart syndrome.” So yes, you can die from a broken heart if you find yourself under enough stress. This not only applies to the loss of a partner, but also to anyone you love deeply, for example, a child.
There are many examples of broken-heart syndrome leading to the death of the individual. Harold Knapke and Ruth Knapke were married for 65 years and raised six children together. In his old age, Harold was suffering from dementia and heart problems and slept most of the time. Then, his wife fell terminally ill. After his children informed him of this, he died the next day. Ruth followed him the day after. It was as if he lived for his wife, and when he saw that his wife wouldn’t make it, he let go of his own will to live.
There are other similar stories. According to a study done by Harvard University and the University of Yamanashi in Tokyo, the researchers found that there was a 41 percent increase of death during the first 6 months after a spouse passed away. This study was based on data collected from 2.2 million people and found that age really doesn’t matter. Broken hearts apply to the young and old alike.
Men suffered differently than women from this syndrome. This was because women traditionally maintained the home and kept up with the familial relations. When the wife died, men were suddenly at a loss. They suffered more if they didn’t know how to cook. They became lonely and separated from the rest of the tribe. Women were affected more with the death of a child. A study done in 2013 found that women faced a 133 percent increase in dying during the first two years immediately after a child’s death.
Similar to a heart attack, the symptoms and test results show drastic changes in rhythm and substances in the blood. The difference is that, in broken heart syndrome, there are no blocked arteries. What happens is that a part of the heart (lower left heart chamber) enlarges temporarily, and blood is not pumped adequately leading to short-term heart muscle failure.
Unlike heart attacks, which can be fatal, broken heart syndrome is not as severe, and can usually be fully treated within weeks of hospitalization.
As man is a social being, he endeavors to surround himself with those he loves and cares about. As clichéd as it may seem, he wants to love and be loved. When it comes to experiencing love, the more, the merrier. But everyone wants at least one single person to take care of them. This primary relationship is deep and meaningful, and when there is a sudden loss, the affected individual does not know how to cope with it, and fails mentally. This mental burden and resulting confusion aggravate the stress hormones in the body to such an extent that the heart cannot cope and eventually fails.
The main things you can do to avoid the situation are to exercise and keep the heart healthy. Exercising regularly and intensely also allows the stress hormone buildup to be controlled. When stress is managed and the heart is healthy, the next thing to take care of is attitude. Attitude comes from a belief system. Cultivating mental resilience and a belief that the person is in a better world and free from suffering will help those who are grieving to get over the situation faster. If you are in a dark place following the death of a loved one, always reach out to family and close friends. Their company will help you get over the difficult situation until you are able to take care of yourself. Remember, time heals. You must give it the proper amount of time.