Healing from Mass Mourning and Broken Heart Syndrome

My friend, priest and spiritual mentor, Father Sonny taught “Grief is the price of love. We grieve as deeply as we have loved.”

Anyone who has lost a loved one is painfully aware of the truth of this statement.

But what about grieving for those we didn’t know personally? Is that real grief?

Every year we lose celebrities and 2016 has been no exception. The world lost household names like Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Prince, Arnold Palmer, Florence Henderson and George Michael to name just a few.

Yet the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds bring home to all of us the devastation of grief. Who couldn’t admire Carrie Fisher as the courageous and swashbuckling Princess Leia and Debbie Reynolds who on the silver screen portrayed Titanic Survivor the “Unsinkable Molly Brown?” Both on and off screen these women exuded the many facets of feminine strength and energy.

As a Star Wars fan (okay, I’ll admit it, I love Science Fiction) I was shocked when Carrie Fisher died. Then a day later her mother the iconic Debbie Reynolds was rushed to the hospital and died.

Like millions of people worldwide I am stunned and somehow feel a personal sense of loss—why?

Mourning Sickness is a real phenomenon and part of what is known as “Mass Grief.” It is a reaction to the pain and suffering of others whom you don’t know personally yet somehow feel akin to during this time of pain. The death of someone we admire yet do not really know can and does cause real pain.

It isn’t silly to feel the pain of loss for a public figure. What it demonstrates is your humanity. It shows how the vast majority of humans actually do care about their fellow humans. This is a good thing!

Did Debbie Reynolds, like so many people around the world, die of a broken heart in response to the death of her child?

The experts agree the answer is “Yes.”

Broken Heart Syndrome according to the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association is a temporary heart condition that’s often brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. In other words, your grief can cause you to die of heart failure even if you have a healthy heart.

Due to the overwhelming pain of stress, there’s a temporary disruption of your heart’s normal pumping function in one area of the heart. Broken heart syndrome may be caused by the heart’s reaction to a surge of stress hormones. Studies have indicated that women are more likely than men to experience Broken Heart Syndrome.

The good news: Broken heart syndrome is usually treatable. Most people who experience it make a full recovery within weeks.

What To Look For: Signs and Symptoms: The most common signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome are angina (chest pain) and shortness of breath. You can experience these things even if you have no history of heart disease. Seek immediate medical treatment!

It is vital to acknowledge that the physical pain of loss is as severe as the emotional pain. This is why expressing and confronting your grief is the healthy thing to do:

  • Allow yourself time to grieve. This is especially difficult for men who tend to suppress emotional expression for fear of appearing weak. (Guys, it takes a real man to confront his pain—we have feelings and tear ducts for a reason).
  •  Have a good cry! Recent medical studies have found that tears of grief actually contain stress hormones and other toxins which cause grief. Crying not only purges these chemicals from your body it also stimulates production of endorphins which are the “feel good” hormones in our body. Crying doesn’t make one weak, it can actually strengthen you emotionally and physically. So, if you feel the urge to shed tears of grief for a deceased loved one–do it! It will make you feel better.
  • Above all do not suppress your feelings. When we suppress our feelings, we slow the recovery process. It is okay to express your feelings and it is okay to cry. As I describe in detail in Evidence of Eternity, “Grief leads to crime which leads to grief.”

If Star Wars taught us anything it is realization that the person you love has not ceased to exist but has transferred to a different dimension. The energy of our consciousness, our soul, who and what we are lives on in the Light.

May the Force Be with You!

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