Do you remember when you got that call….the call that made you weak in your knees. You heard the words coming out of the receiver but you couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t be dead. You sit down trying to catch your breathe. Your heart is pounding so hard it feels like it is going to explode. You just keep thinking “is this happening!? NO, this cannot be happening!!” You literally feel like your heart may stop. You are suffering from “Broken Heart Syndrome”
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Erv Hinds speak about his book, Healing the Pain of Heartache, in which he introduces the terms Acute and Chronic Heartache into our vocabulary. And what he told me has forever changed my life, and hopefully, today, you will learn something new too and quite possibly save a life.
Unfortunately most of us know what a broken heart feels like but what is really going on inside your body? There are three physical symptoms of ACUTE Heartache:
1) Epinephrine and Dopamine surges and catecholamine is released. This is commonly referred to as an adrenaline rush, but much more extreme. For example, when someone has a heart attack catecholamine is 4 times higher in the body vs. during ACUTE Heartache it is 34 times Higher!!
2) Ejection Fraction Decreases. A normal heart pumps 55% out of the left ventricle. During ACUTE heartache this decreases to 15%!!
3) Arrhythmia that causes ventricular fibrillation, when your heart is “quivering” quickly but not pumping blood and can cause cardiac arrest.
Wow! As an ex-funeral director I am sitting here listening to this man explain what happens to the heart physically and I FINALLY understood why I was seeing spouses and parents die suddenly and unexpectedly. It wasn’t that they loss their will to live it was that their heart had broken, literally, it no longer functioned properly after the heartache of losing someone that they loved dearly. And even more amazing is that this is a medical diagnosis. The Japanese were the first to “name” it in 1990’s ( YES it took doctors THAT LONG to name something mankind and animals have felt for thousands of years) Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken-heart syndrome) and even their definition is slightly different then how American doctors would describe this syndrome.
The other side of the coin is CHRONIC Heartache. This is long term versus the fast acting Acute Heartache but can be just as damaging to the heart over time. You may have seen these symptoms before. This is the person who is defined by their grief. They have a hard time getting out of bed, grief becomes their reality, they suffer from chronic pain and depression. Sufferers of this heartache often turn to alcohol and prescription drugs to “heal their wounds”. This long term abuse to the heart, of stress and grief, will wear and tear the heart down and can make you susceptible to life threatening illnesses and chronic heart conditions.
So what can you do? Now that we understand what the symptoms and manifestations of Acute and Chronic Heartache are, how do we treat it?
First assess the person who is suffering; do they already have a heart condition? Take them to the hospital immediately for monitoring. Do not let them drive, medicate or use alcohol. Next, Be there. Do not let them be alone. Be silent and listen. What do they want and need? After that, bring their “heartache out of hiding.” In the American culture men and even woman are told to suck it up and keep it in. This puts strain on your WHOLE body when you are in grief. LET IT OUT! You are loved and safe. Let the heart sing its grief. And finally a few extra tools: meditaion can do wonders to heal the heart and soul by turning the grief over to a higher power, Bio Feedback is also an excellent tool where your own body “tells” you how to calm the heart and other parts of the body.
Here is a quick and simple meditation to use in the moments of extreme grief: Say these words slowly as they slowly breathe in the positive affirmation (inhale) and then release the negative (exhale)
Breathe in GRACE
Breathe out FEAR
Breathe in LOVE
Breathe out SUFFERING
Breathe in the LIGHT
Breathe out the DARKNESS*
*You can change these words to another ex.God’s Love/ Anxiety
Heartache is real. Recognize it, embrace it, challenge it, and release it. We will all be faced with it in some form. Don’t let it take your life.
For even more information please visit Dr. Erv Hinds website HERE where you can purchase his book, Healing the Pain of Heartache