Family & Relationships Marriage & Divorce

Is It Love Or Science? Can Someone Die Of A Broken Heart?

Yes, You Can Die Of a Broken Heart

A few short days following the death of a 76 year old man, his wife suddenly died. She had no real health problems. This got me thinking about all the similar cases I'd heard of over the years and I started doing some research. Here's what I found.

About a year ago, some scientists at Harvard Medical School concluded a research which showed that people mourning a close relative are up to 21 times more likely to die themselves during the first day after learning of their loved one's death. It's called "broken heart syndrome", and is more prevalent in post-menopausal women. Their risk of dying remains high for at least the next week. The data further shows that this risk is as high as 1 in 320 for people who have a heart condition and 1 in 1,394 for everyone else. This is still a huge number. But this whole study is about people who died of heart attacks following the death of a loved one. It is easy to see how such a stressful event along with lack of sleep and general neglect of one's own health at such a time, could trigger a heart attack.

What I wanted to know is whether some of these deaths could have another explanation, other than a heart attack. Could there be a mind-body connection here that brings death on shortly after learning of this loved one's death? Doctors for years have puzzled over patients who should have died after being shot or a major head trauma. And many times, they concluded that their survival must be rooted in the will to live -the mind-body connection.

I have not been able to find anything in my research to substantiate my belief that someone can choose death when the grief of losing a loved one is too much, when they feel that they've lost their reason for living. My belief is that when this happens, the natural will to cling to life expires because that person's anchor in this world is gone. I imagine that the mind simply shuts the body down in order to be in harmony with the wishes of the mind. I believe this because I have witnessed people expressing the desire, the choice to die, but then asking to see a particular person before they did so. Their death usually happens within hours of this person arriving at their bedside.

What the medical professionals suggest is that this severe grief shuts down the body's immune response system, rendering the body susceptible to every infection, causing death.

Has this ever happened in your family? What do you believe?

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