Broken Heart Syndrome and Tips to Help Someone Who Is Grieving

senior woman looking at an old photo
Broken heart syndrome may seem fictitious, but it’s a very real condition that can strike those who are grieving in certain situations.

In his documentary about grief, George Shelley uses an analogy of glitter. Toss a handful of glitter into the air, and it’s going to settle into all of the cracks and crevices of the room, impossible to fully sweep up and remove. Individuals who have lost a loved one can relate. Yet in some instances, grief could be so overwhelming that it could result in a serious and aptly-named condition: broken heart syndrome.

Broken heart syndrome is a very real physical condition due to the intense stress experienced in certain types of grief (such as one spouse losing the other after decades of marriage). The medical term is takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a temporary enlargement of the heart that prevents it from pumping blood effectively.

And, it is more common than you may know. A number of high-visibility examples include George H.W. Bush, who became ill after the death of his wife of 73 years, and Johnny Cash, who passed away just four months following the loss of his wife.

Researchers have been studying the impact of grief on a person’s physical health for years. In 1995, for instance, the term “widowhood effect” was coined to describe the 30% rise in mortality rate faced by individuals who lost a longtime partner. Other scientists determined a connection between grief and the immune system. Some surviving spouses simply lose the will to live.

Help prevent this condition and ease the pain of grief for someone you love with these tips.

  • Remind the person of everything they have to live for, and that doing so is the best way to honor the lost loved one’s legacy.
  • Talk about the lost loved one, allowing the opportunity for shared stories and memories.
  • Make sure the person is staying hydrated, eating healthy foods, and getting lots of sleep.
  • Provide a listening ear and encourage the person to convey their grief in a healthy way.
  • Help the senior stay engaged in comforting, enjoyable activities whenever possible.
  • Look for a grief support group for the senior to attend, either virtually or in person.
  • Recommend the senior speak with a counselor to effectively work through overwhelming emotions.

A trained caregiving companion from Serenity Home Care, the top provider of in-home care in Victoria and the surrounding areas, is also a wonderful way to help a loved one who is grieving. We offer socialization and an abundance of opportunities for reminiscing and conversations, as well as engaging activities, transportation wherever an older adult needs to go, and more. Contact us at 250.590.8098 for a free in-home consultation for more information.