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Can You Die of a Broken Heart?

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There's an old saying that you can die of a broken heart and according to researchers this actually turns out to be true! According to a Washington Post article, a study done at John Hopkins School of Medicine shows that stress hormones produced by a breakup, a death, a sudden shock, or even a car accident can indeed mirror a heart attack, especially in women.

The article goes on to quote the main researcher of the study--"Our hypothesis is that massive amounts of these stress hormones can go right to the heart and produce a stunning of the heart muscle that causes this temporary dysfunction resembling a heart attack," Wittstein said. "It doesn't kill the heart muscle like a typical heart attack, but it renders it helpless."

So with this information, it's all the more important to take some very active steps in healing after a relationship breakup or divorce. There are some things that you can do to begin your healing process if you've gone through a breakup, whether it was yesterday or 10 years ago.

There’s no question about it—the breakup of a relationship of any kind that’s important to you can be very painful. Having a pain in your heart or a knot in the pit of your stomach and feeling like you've been punched are just a couple of the ways those feelings can get stuck and show up as physical symptoms in your body. Some people react to trauma with anger, some people withdraw, some people act as if nothing’s wrong, some people numb themselves out with alcohol, drugs, television, work, sex, or new relationships—so having the physical manifestation of pain in your heart is just one of many ways that this can happen.

Sometimes life does create circumstances that make us feel like we’ve been punched in the stomach and can’t catch our breath or we experience actual physical pain. When something happens that is painful and traumatic, you have to find a way to deal with it that’s healthy. It’s what we do next after that event that’s the important thing.

Whatever physical manifestations that you are feeling as a result of your breakup, find a way to get in touch with those feelings. Of course, if you are feeling pain in your heart, have it checked out by a doctor--AND also find a way to acknowledge your overwhelming feelings. If you need help in doing that, find a therapist who understands your problem and can help you unravel your emotions.

If you have physical pain in your heart or any other physical symptom after a breakup, you may be consciously focusing on the fear that is present inside you.

Here’s what happened to Susie after her first marriage of 30 years ended...

“I remember being in my house and not being able to breathe one day shortly after my ex-husband left me. I was overwhelmed, not only because he left our 30 year marriage and I was alone, but also because now I had the responsibility of the upkeep and repair of our one hundred thirty year old house. My ex had taken care of everything having to do with maintaining or renovating the house, as had my father when I was growing up.

“I had no confidence that I could do the things that they had always done and I felt sorry for myself. I realized that I had always been taken care of when it came to house maintenance jobs and although I was a very self-sufficient person with her own income, it was very hard for me to let go of having a husband around to take care of me in that way.

“Since I couldn’t seem to breathe inside the house that day that I was overwhelmed, I went outside, lay in my hammock and used every trick I could to calm myself.

“One important thing that I did was to separate the stories that I told myself about my situation from fact. The stories that I told myself came from the fear and low self-confidence that I was feeling at this time in my life. The stories told me that I couldn’t take care of my house by myself without my ex-husband here to maintain it. The fact was that many women live in and take care of old houses by themselves. To help get over these fears, I contacted several women friends who were living by themselves in old houses and asked how they did it. Then I took steps to feel more confident by actually doing what they told me. Simply by having phone numbers of repair services and other people who were available for home maintenance helped me to feel secure and to keep breathing.”

If you are experiencing physical pain because of a breakup, along with seeing your physician, separate the facts from your stories and you will begin to untangle the knots that you are holding in your body. In our book, "How to Heal Your Broken Heart," we tell the stories of several people who learned how to calm themselves and deal with their fears in order to take steps toward healing after a breakup. We also give some great techniques in the Resources section of the book to help you feel what you are feeling without overwhelming yourself. The important thing is to find something that works for you.

Begin a yoga or meditation practice. If you are drawn to something more physical, start taking aerobics, Pilates, running, walking—anything to start moving. Get a massage. In the process of moving, you will reduce your stress and the physical pain will probably begin to lessen or disappear in the process. Consciously, start loving yourself and see your heart as healthy in your mind’s eye. The more you visualize love around your heart area, the less you will focus on the lack of love that you currently feel if you've experienced a breakup.

We suggest that you begin now taking measures to reduce the amount of stress and sadness that you are holding onto, because if you don’t let it go, damage to your physical body can happen.


My boyfriend left me after almost 2 years, one week before christmas, and it still hurts soo much, my heart my chest, it even hurts to breath. We said we would marry each other we lived together. I loved him more than anything or anyone, and just like that it was gone

i lost my "closer than a twin sister best friend" and i still cannot get through each day with thinking "thoughts" all i know is i need to be well for my beautiful family who give me the best support ever. what is wrong with me, since nov of 07 i have not gone a day without "thoughts" i know are not normal. i feel so disconnected from the world, from where i work, from just about everything earth has to offer. i'm trying. i need very much to be well for my very beautiful family. please help me, please, i do not like what i'm feeling...

My boyfriend of a year just left me, I miss him so much. This break up is such a mistake, I don't want to love ever again.

Chest hurts, my lungs feel like they are lined with glass and my heart feels like it has iron bands wrapped around it

Valuable information and excellent design you got here! I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up

I've been afraid that I am going to die from a broken heart. I am 56, have been disabled for 5 years (it came on suddenly and with much pain and suffering-I have since had to go on morphine for the pain, and it only works 50%). My husband had always been emotionally abusive, but he took to chasing me around the house screaming at me, until my legs would give out and I would be in a heap on the floor begging him to stop yelling. I had already been hospitalized for depression 6 times since being married to him. But when I became disabled, he was my sole caregiver. Last summer, he walked out one me, and I think for another woman, but he won't talk to me at all, and the divorce is underway. He won't tell me why he left, and he broke my heart. At the same time, my four children also aren't speaking to me because I tried to kill myself after he left. They will only say I need help and they don't want to talk to me. Meaning psychiatric help. None of them will even listen to my story of abuse and betrayal. There has been a lot of heartache and stress in my life not just lately, but all my life. To make matters worse, my son, while I was in the hospital, sent me to live with my parents, who abused me as a child. My son did not know this, but I am now living in the loveless home where it all began, my parents still emotionally devoid and abusive. My heart is broken and breaks more everyday. I am disabled, don't drive, and my parents refuse to bring me anyplace but leave me home alone all the time. I can't get health care, except to go out of state once a month for my morphine at a pain clinic in the state I was living in when I was married. I haven't switched doctors because I just can't seem to pull myself together with this ache in my chest everyday. I know I am killing myself slowly, piece by piece by not getting help, but I need help to get help. I was not well when I came here, I was right out of the psych hospital, where they gave me a new prescription for depression one day and discharged me the next. When I had a reaction to it, I had to stop on my own as I had no one to go to. I have never felt so lost and alone in my life. I have faith in God, and that helps some days, but most days I am in so much physical and emotional pain I don't know how I can go on. But I want to go on. What can I do?

It sounds like you are in a very unhappy situation--both physically and emotionally. If you want to live, you'll have to find some reason to live for. So search within yourself to find that something. Then you know your next step is to find a doctor. A friend of mine was going through a terrible divorce and after she volunteered for Hospice, she saw her situation as not so devastating. I know you probably can't volunteer right now but you can find something that has meaning to you in some way and be of some service. Blessings to you, Susie

My boyfriend of a year and a half left me at the end of Novmember. We were living together, we have been friends since we were both little. I hurt him, so he left. He says he can't trust me. And all I know is I messed everything up. And I would kill for another chance to show him, I know what I have to do to make him happy. He was my very first love and I know he will be my last. I miss him so much. He still talks to me daily. And tells me he loves me. I can't move on or convince my heart to let go. He is slowly moving on. And it is killing me. My heart hurts, my chest hurts, I am breaking out in hives from stress and have sucidial thoughts just to make the pain stop. I'm afraid for the future. We had so many plans. We were going to get married. He asked and I said yes. And now, its all gone.

My husband left the day before Thanksgiving. I suffer from deep depression and he said he was tired of my ups and downs. I swear i'd be happy if i could, I was trying everything I knew how and it still wasn't enough. What hurts the most isn't that he left me and our 3 children, but the fact that he lied to me. for 6 months I thought we were if not good, working on getting there together. We had just had our 10 yr anniversary, an he gave me cards saying how he knew things were hard but he'd rather they be hard with me than terrible without me, and how he'd always be there and never leave. he said I ment the world to him...and then,he said it had all been a lie. he was only waiting til the kids had there birthdays and he had never been trying at all. Everytime he said he loved me, it was a lie. all the family outings and date nights were a lie. He said I should have known it was coming. I only knew that I believed what he said, that he truly loved me. It does hurt, it hurts to the point that I can't breath. My friends left me bc they said basically I told you so, even my mother and sister don't speak to me anymore. I'm all alone and scared and in pain with no one to turn to and no money to seek professional help. If it's true that you can die from a broken heart, then surly I will.

Crystal, I understand that you are devastated by your husband's betrayal and leaving. But here's the thing, whether you have the support of your family and friends or not--you have the choice whether to keep breathing and moving forward for you and your kids or not.

I'm urging you to see if you can find some free services in your area to help you. Often, churches offer grieving or divorce support groups that you might join. Or there might be some free or sliding scale counseling services available. Check your local newspaper.

If you don't do it for your sake, do it for your children's sake.

You can get over a broken heart but you have to keep breathing and do some things to move forward.

I'm 21 years old I been with my boyfriend for 6years he's been cheating on me for quite some time he just had a baby and now his gone he got convicted and is serving 13 years in state prison he broke up with me but besides everything I still love him I can't let go I feel like he needs me

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Susie & Otto Collins


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