Ask Dr. Christina: How Do I Keep My Mom From Dying From Broken Heart Syndrome After My Dad’s Death?

Dear Dr. Christina,

After reading your article on the Broken Heart Syndrome, I am very concerned about my mother who suddenly lost her husband of 50 years from cancer this past month. I am beginning to see my mom’s health starting to fail and she seems to be losing her desire for living, just like you described.  I am so frightened to think that she will give up on her life and that she will begin to stop doing all the things she once did so actively with my dad.

I am her caretaker and I only live 5 blocks away from her. My own grief gets in the way of my thinking of things to help her know how much she is wanted and needed by me and my kids. I appreciate any help and ideas you can offer before it is too late.


Dear Glee,

I can totally understand your concerns. I personally know how the loss of a loved one and the grief you are all feeling are some of the hardest experiences for everyone involved.

There are four losses in life that can pull at our heart strings:

1)   Loss of a spouse or significant other

2)   Loss of a child

3)   Loss of a parent or grandparent

4)   Loss of a pet

It is important for you to reach out to your mom and let her know that you totally understand her loss of her partner, soul mate and best friend.

It is imperative for her to find her purpose in life after the loss and identify what makes her passionate so she can continue with her own life journey.

See if you can find out what she feels is valuable in life. Ask if there is anything she could do that would carry on the love of her husband’s legacy. Let her speak and listen to her. Let her talk. Be with her and let her cry if the tears come. You being with her and prompting her about this may help her to understand that she is valuable.

Find out all the little things that may seem insignificant but that would help motivate her. Perhaps this would include you having a family meeting and getting her grandkids, friends and family together who are concerned for your mom’s welfare and having a sort of brainstorming session or bigger conversation with everyone offering their perspectives and ideas for your mom to consider. This may take some time and effort for you to formulate a plan of action to see what will perk your mom’s interest.

20 Questions to think about and ask your mom:

1)   What brings her Joy?

2)   What are her hobbies?

3)   Does she like to go out walking in nature?

4)   Does she like to go shopping?

5)   What different foods/restaurants does she like?

6)   Does she have a religious affiliation or church or synagogue that she attends?

7)   Is she interested in social media where she can learn to meet new friends?

8)   Are there any social groups like ladies clubs or senior groups that may capture her interest?

9)   Does she enjoy children? Would she be interested in volunteering her time at the hospital to help care for newborns?

10) Does she like volunteering at day care centers, nursing homes or schools? Would helping and sharing her knowledge with children help her to feel useful?

11) Does she enjoy going to your kids’ games and school events?

12) Does she like to travel? Perhaps you can help her find small trips offered by groups to go to local events or a change of scenery to various states and/or countries?

13) Does she enjoy going to crafts shows?

14) Can your kids visit her frequently and spend time with her so she can help them with their homework or enjoy working around her house with them?

15) Does she enjoy pets? If she does not want a pet of her own, maybe she could spend time volunteering her time at the Humane Society or local shelter?

16) Do you spend the time with her to let her know how much you love her and need her in your life?

17) Do you have family nights where you recapture the best times of your family, which include the funny moments of your dad either through stories, videos or pictures?

18) Do you recreate your family recipes and print them up to give to all your family? Perhaps she has some great ones that everyone loves to eat.

19) Do you have a gratitude night? This is where you gather together with family and/or friends and talk about everything you are each grateful for and what you have learned, not only about your family but what each person means to you?

20) Have you thought about a Memorial Celebration of Life for her husband?

So Glee, there are many things you can do to support your mom and her efforts to get back into living her life, but you must be careful not to push too hard. Let her go at her own pace so she can get over the shock. She also needs to realize that the love she and her husband will continue to support her through all of her days, even without him there every day in person. He is still with her every day. Her husband would in no way want her to suffer. He would want her to live her life and continue their legacy of hope and cherishment for all of those who matter to them.

It is the idea of helping her find her true passion and desire to live that we must support, encourage and remind her of in order to help redirect her thinking about the meaning of life for her now. This is a fragile time, but I know with just the expression in your letter and the love that you and your family have, you can indeed make her feel wanted and help her to increase her own self-worth and independence.

Sometimes there may be a need to engage the services of a professional and/or religious counselor if you feel your mom is unresponsive to your attempts to help her. Don’t be afraid to ask these resources for help and support for her too. As time passes, many times you will begin to see the sparkle come back in your mom’s eyes and you will know that she is not feeling so alone, for she has you, your family and her friends.

I wish you the very best at this time of need and I hope I was able to offer some helpful ideas to help spark other ideas to assist you with your care for your mom.

My thoughts will be with you and your family. Please keep in contact!

Dr. Christina

  • Posted By: DRC Editor
  • Tags: Ask Dr Christina broken heart syndrome death of a partner death of spouse. grieving widow Dr. Christina Dr. Christina Goldstein-Charbonneau help grieving widow how to help mom life after loss loss of spouse purpose after losing spouse
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