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Broken Heart Syndrome and How to Help Those Who Are Grieving


senior lady looking at old photograph
Learn how to help a senior you love avoid broken heart syndrome.

In his documentary about grief, George Shelley uses the analogy of glitter. Toss a handful of glitter into the air, and it is going to settle into all of the crevices and cracks of the room, impossible to fully sweep up and remove. If you’ve lost a loved one before, then you can relate. However, in some cases, grief can be more than just a feeling. Grief may be so overwhelming that it can 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 some forms 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.


Furthermore, broken heart syndrome is more common than you may realize. A number of high-visibility examples include Johnny Cash, who passed on just four months after the loss of his wife and George H.W. Bush, who became ill following the death of his wife of 73 years.


There has been research conducted to study the impact of grief on a person’s physical health for decades. In 1995, for instance, the term “widowhood effect” was coined to describe the thirty percent increase in mortality rate faced by individuals who lost a longtime partner. Other scientists determined a connection between the immune system and grief. 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.

  • Talk about the lost loved one, allowing the opportunity for shared stories and memories.

  • Provide a listening ear and encourage the senior to convey their grief in a healthy way.

  • Remind the senior everything they have to live for, and that doing so is the best way to honor the lost loved one’s legacy.

  • Look for a grief support group for the person to attend, either virtually or in person.

  • Help the person stay involved with comforting, enjoyable activities as much as possible.

  • Suggest the person speak with a therapist to work through overwhelming emotions.

  • Make sure the person is staying hydrated, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of sleep.

A professional and experienced caregiving companion from The Care Company can also be an effective way to help a loved one who is grieving. We offer socialization and opportunities for conversations and reminiscing, along with engaging activities, transportation wherever an older adult wishes to go, and more. Contact us online or at (416) 422-2273 for a free in-home consultation to find out more information about our senior home care in Toronto and the nearby areas.

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