Can You Die of a Broken Heart?
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.