Research tells us that grief is one of the most stressful events we will ever experience in our lifetime. If you have ever lost a spouse, you understand the pain and probably didn’t need research to tell you this. The heartbreak that accompanies grief can bring on a variety of emotional symptoms. You may experience such things as sleep disturbances, brain fog, depression, and anxiety.  You may have even heard it said that someone, “died of a broken heart.”  When we are in the early, raw, and very painful stages of grief, it seems as though we could just die from a broken heart because the hurt is so intense. I know. I was widowed myself at age fifty. However, I still wondered if this could be possible. Can someone actually die from a broken heart? I set out to find the answer.

There is an illness called, Broken Heart Syndrome. The medical term for this illness is called, Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.  The word, “takotsubo” in Japanese, means a pot for catching octopus. When I read that, I thought, “Okay, what does one have to do with the other?” When a person suffers from Broken Heart Syndrome, the left ventricle, one of the four chambers in the heart, becomes enlarged and changes shape. It resembles the look of this pot, thus getting its name.

What Causes Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken Heart Syndrome is many times preceded by an intense emotional or physical event. These could include, but not limited to :

  • Death of a loved one
  • Surgery
  • Car accident
  • Domestic abuse
  • A surprise party
  • A frightening medical diagnosis

It is believed when the person experiences one of these events, the heart reacts suddenly to a massive surge of stress hormones, in particular, the adrenaline.

 Who Is At Risk?

There are risk factors that accompany this illness.

  • Women are far more likely to get this than men.
  • Most people who have this are over the age of 50.
  • People with a history of neurological conditions such as epilepsy are more prone to getting this.

Nevertheless, this condition is treatable and usually reverses itself within a few days. In rare instances, however, Broken Heart Syndrome can be fatal. So to answer the question, yes, it is possible to die from broken heart syndrome, though it is not all that common.

It is important to note that becoming a widow can sometimes lead to significant changes for some women, which could affect her health. There are different factors that come into play which we must consider. It depends on how the woman will adjust following her husband’s death. Just as we grieve differently, the way we react and adjust to the death will be differently as well. Some factors to consider may be due to the resiliency of the surviving widow and how she handles stress and the circumstances behind the death. If her husband did a lot of suffering, she may feel a sense of relief that the suffering is over. Another factor to consider is the martial state of the marriage before the death. So while the odds are in our favor that we won’t actually die from a broken heart, we must remember to take care of ourselves during this emotionally painful time in our lives.


Peggy Bell

Peggy Bell is a certified life coach, author, speaker and educator. She helps widows get through the grief process, moving forward to find their new normal. She was widowed at one time and now has a desire to help lessen the pain for them if possible. She helps them, and other women who feel lost or disconnected to discover their life purpose and authentic happiness. Her latest book, Life After Loss For Widows: Lifting the Veil of Grief is was released in June 2019. Peggy is the author of two children's chapter books, co-authored in two anthologies, written her own blog posts, guest blog articles, magazine articles, and newspaper articles. She has appeared in local magazines and on podcasts.

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