Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Can We Die of Heartache?

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

meuedcmCarrie Fisher, legendary Princess Leia of the iconic Star Wars movie series, died suddenly of a heart attack this week. She was 60 years old. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, well-known starlet of the 50s and 60s, died shortly after because of a stroke. She was 84.  Debbie’s son said, “She wanted to be with Carrie.”

Our hearts may be tangible muscles, however there is much more going on than a physical response when one dies of heartache. Whether it be shock at sudden loss, or a slow and tedious dying due to emotional pain, heartache can definitely be a killer.

Stress hormones can cause cardiac problems. One study says “incidences of acute heart attack increase 21-fold within 24 hours of the death of a loved one.” *   Another recent study concludes that we are 8 times as likely to suffer a heart attack in the first week after a sudden loss. **

Because stress raises blood pressure, it stands to reason that high blood pressure-related complications could arise such as stroke or even aneurism.***  Although not necessarily life-threatening, body aches and pains, gastrointestinal problems, and headaches are familiar reactions to stress and sorrow. 

Dealing with grief is usually temporary and is not clinical depression. However, complicated grief can lead to that. Both clinical depression and anxiety sometimes are part of the process.  After his wife died, C.S Lewis said, “No one told me grief would feel so much like fear.” * Whether his grief progressed into an anxiety disorder, I do not know. For many of us, it can.

An already present clinical depressive disorder and anxiety disorder are more likely to be triggered by loss.  When troubled or nonexistent relationships lead to acute loneliness, when trauma or abuse devastate one’s ability to know peace, and when self loathing is long-term, death can result if these chronic issues are not addressed therapeutically. 

Self-medication such as drinking, drug use, and overeating slowly destroy our health and often kill.  Of course, depression can ultimately lead to suicide.  The combination  multiplies that risk. 

The answer? Love. Stepping out of our comfort zones and touching the lives of those who hurt is a hugely effective way to ease their pain. Lending a listening, non-judgmental ear may be the most important act of kindness. Offering hope is like rain on the desert sand of a broken existence. 

Compassionate love saves lives. 

pffb8k4Today’s Helpful Word

1 John 3:18

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”



NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

-pictures from

*. How Grief Can Make You Sick. Everyday Health. Retrieved on December 29, 2016 at

 Broken Hearts: Strokes, Heart Attacks More Likely After Loss. NBC News. Retrieved on December 29, 2016 from

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