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Perspectives on Grieving

The Truth about Your Broken Heart


Many people believe that broken heartedness is nothing more than a romantic notion; a silly, melodramatic plot point in a movie or a hyper-dramatic proclamation by a teen. However, there are those of “us” that know better.  It is that tightening in the chest -- the grief that weighs on you like an anchor or knocks you down like a sledgehammer. It is real, and it is painful, and modern medicine has proven it. It turns out that a broken heart isn’t just the stuff of poetry, but the stuff of science, too. So, yes, you can have a broken heart.

You have probably heard stories of someone dying of a broken heart. In December actress Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, died one day apart. Ms. Fisher died after a cardiac episode, and her mother, under enormous stress and sorrow, fell ill and was rushed to the hospital while planning her daughter’s funeral. Years ago country legend Johnny Cash and his beloved wife, June Carter Cash, died just a few months apart. Are these just bizarre coincidences or can there be an underlying medical reason? According to the American Heart Association “broken heart syndrome”, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, may hold some answers.

The American Heart Association defines broken heart syndrome as the sudden and intense chest pain which occurs in the body as a result of a surge of stress hormones which can be triggered by an emotionally stressful event. The event can be negative or positive in nature. “Broken heart syndrome may be misdiagnosed as a heart attack because the symptoms and test results are similar. In fact, tests show dramatic changes in rhythm and blood substances that are typical of a heart attack. But unlike a heart attack, there’s no evidence of blocked heart arteries in broken heart syndrome. In broken heart syndrome, a part of your heart temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump well, while the rest of your heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions. “

Can you heal from a broken heart? Well, certainly there are medical interventions and if you or someone you love is concerned, you should seek out a medical professional. However, from a therapeutic standpoint, here are some self-care practices that can be helpful as you grieve:

  • Talk to a friend.
  • Join a Support Group.
  • Make sure to get plenty of rest.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Exercise is important. This can include going for walks or any type of physical activity to discharge stress from the body (check with your doctor first if you don’t exercise regularly.)
  • Write in a journal, draw or paint or work with clay.
  • Meditate, take deep breaths, stretch.
  • Listen to music you enjoy.
  • Talk some more.  

Find support and be gentle with yourself. Your heart will mend and grow stronger and more resilient. Those broken places can one day become the seat of your strength.

For support and resources contact Imagine at info@imaginenj.org or call 908-264-3100.  

Come to our Open House on February 22nd and see our new center. 

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