Killer Thoughts: Grief Can Kill

We have all heard stories about how having negative beliefs can affect our health. Negative beliefs can affect our hearts, which can lead us to having a heart attack. Negative beliefs can also affect our blood pressure, which can lead us to having a stroke. It can even decrease our immune systems, which allows our bodies to be susceptible to many infections—both viral and bacterial. If we are having surgery and undergo a lot of stress, it can make our healing times increase and take longer for our incisions to heal. It can even affect our blood sugars if we are diabetic. The way we handle stress affects the way we handle our cancers, infections, anxieties and depression. So as you can see, stress has the capacity to affect our entire bodies in many ways.

In this day and age of chronic stress, with pressures not only from the workplace but also from our home lives and families as well as debt and perhaps financial problems, all of these stressors can seem like never-ending processes. Chronic stress can affect us in more ways than you may expect, for it can affect not only our bodies but our minds and souls too.

Now if you add to these daily stresses the idea of the loss of a loved one, the impact can be exponential. You may have heard many stories about an elderly couple where a husband/wife dies and then within a year or two the partner dies. Some are just unable to get over this great loss, and they proceed to give up on life. They feel so lost without their partner of so many years and they can no longer find their purpose in life. In the medical field, there are some that say they died from a broken heart and failure to thrive.

This is usually the hardest thing for families to undergo—to see their loved ones giving up on life.

This broken heart and grieving process can occur at any age and with any person such as a parent, sibling, friend, or even a pet dying. The amount of hurt and the grieving process must be taken into consideration as we take note of how our family members and friends cope with their losses. Stay alert as to how they are eating, sleeping, crying, and pay attention to their interactions with others. If you notice that they are not doing well, perhaps suggest that they talk to someone such as a friend, clergyperson, doctor or a counselor. If there is a need to go to a grieving class/group so they can share their loss with others who have also suffered a loss of their own, then help them find one that is near their location and offer to accompany them so they don’t have to go alone.

I would like to share with you 2 stories in this post, which I will never forget as a physician.

The first was a young 26-year old woman, who I will call Ana, who was about to give birth to her first child (a little girl) in a few weeks. Her entire prenatal course was perfect. Her mom, who had been helping her with her pregnancy, had just gone baby shopping and was helping Ana fix up the nursery. On the evening they finished the nursery, her mom unexpectedly died of a massive heart attack in her home. The grieving daughter hurt so much that she was unable to sleep or handle any of the preparations for her mom’s funeral. Ana’s husband became quite concerned because his wife had stopped eating and talking during the days leading up to her mom’s funeral. At the graveside, she continued to cry and could not bear the thought that her mom was gone. As the coffin was put into the ground, she fell onto the ground sobbing and laid her head to rest on the coffin.

The husband brought his wife into the office one week later for her regular OB visit, along with his concerns that his wife had continued to eat very little since the funeral as well as other concerns including her inability to sleep, her crying throughout the entire day, and her inability to go into the nursery. Ana finally revealed that she had felt the baby stop moving when she was at the gravesite. I immediately placed the Heart Doppler onto her stomach and was unable to find a heartbeat. Immediately an ultrasound was ordered to confirm what I had feared—that the baby no longer had a heartbeat and had died. This horrific memory of this family’s grief is one that I will never forget, for now I had to deliver a stillborn knowing that Ana would continue to have a broken heart, not only from her mother’s loss but now from the loss of her baby.

The question we can ask ourselves is whether this was just a coincidence that caused this loss or if it was caused by this massive emotional impact of a broken heart from the loss of her mother.

The second incident was a mother who had a 16-year old child who I will call “Angel” whom she thought had been abducted one day after school. For three years the mother continued her daily mission in her life of putting up pictures of her daughter at local stores and on telephone poles. One day, a close friend suggested that she go to a local psychic to see if she could help her and tell her if her daughter was still alive. The psychic told her that her child was dead and to go on with her life. The mother could not understand or cope with this great loss of her child, even though there was no proof that her daughter was dead. The fact that she had lost all hope and belief made her heart want to explode with this massive hurt and misery. The mind is such a powerful tool. The beliefs of others unfortunately impacted this mother so greatly that within one year she gave up and died from a broken heart—for she had given up on her quest to live. The irony of this story was that, two years later, Angel was found alive and no harm had come to her.

Again, was this just a coincidence or is there truly a disease entity called a “Broken Heart”? Many people have different opinions regarding this. For me, as a doctor, I find it to be a significant fact that stress of death can cause so many changes in our minds, which are connected to our bodies, which are connected to our souls. In my own opinion, there is such a thing as a broken heart. Being an Integrative Medicine Doctor, I feel this can happen when one experiences an unexpected or an expected death or loss. Our mind, body, soul connections can influence the outcomes of both illness and health.

You can see how it is important for us to watch over all those who are grieving. Help them find and regain their purpose in life and watch them so they do not give up their own quest to go on living. It is important for them to go through their individual grieving processes with people who care and who can help them and allow them to express their fears and thoughts.

If you begin to see that they are not doing well, get them to a doctor immediately or a counselor, a grieving group, or whatever it takes to help them understand that they are cared for and that they still have a purpose. Most importantly, help them grasp that their loved one who passed away would not want them to have any harm come to them.

Be vigilant and take care of your loved ones as well as yourself,

Dr. Christina

  • Posted By: doctorc
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