Friday, April 4, 2008

Broken hearts are for real

I commented for LBC Radio this morning on a really moving story from the Cass Business School. Apparently one of their lecturers just analysed over 11,000 life insurance policies to track down just how often, following the death of one partner, the other partner died too.

There's already been research about the stress of bereavement causing heart disease. But apparently losing a spouse can actually mean that in the following twelve months it is twice as likely that a woman will die and an astounding six times more likely that a man will.

So yes, you can die of a broken heart. Or - this is my surmise based on my mailbag, not on science - you can die of grief, of loneliness, of a lower quality of life. You can die because you miss your partner so much and simply can't bear the thought of going on without them. Jim Callaghan tried living without his wife of 67 years for just over a week - tried it, didn't like it, followed her to the grave.

Very moving - but also thought-provoking. So often I get letters which, summarised, say something like "my spouse died a few months ago and my family are telling me to cheer up - I should have got over it by now." To which I usually reply "Rubbish - this is serious stuff, you need to grieve!". I give the same reply, actually, to those whose spouses have left; a relationship breakup is not as final as a death, but it too can have devastating effect.

Advice then. If you are mourning a loss of whatever kind, be gentle on yourself and do all you can to look ahead and regain hope. If you are supporting someone who is mourning a loss, keep close - however much of a brave face they put on, they may well be suffering more deeply than you ever could imagine.

No comments: