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Broken Heart Syndrome (Takotsubo)True Stories about Couples Dying Together from a Broken Heart

Updated on March 8, 2013

Broken heart syndrome

Dying from a broken heart ~ fact or fiction

There are numerous stories about faithful and eternal love in literature. In many legends and tales of fiction we come across the metaphor "Broken heart" or heartbreak.

We feel the ache and mourn with the hero and heroine in the story.We share their pain and sorrow at the demise of their love one. And when like Romeo and Juliet they take their own life to follow each other unto death,we do not censure or condemn. But only marvel at the steadfastness of their resolve and binding loyalty to their love.

In real life there are many stories of couples who after sharing a close relationship for many years chose to follow their partner rather than continue living which apparently had become a burden without their love one. Dying from a "Broken heart".


First described medically in 1991 by Japanese doctors, the condition was originally called takotsubo cardiomyopathy."Takotsubo" is a type of pot used by Japanese fishermen to capture octopuses. When doctors take X-ray images of a person who's experiencing the syndrome,the left ventricle of his or her heart resembles the pot. The medical term is stress cardiomyopathy or "Broken heart syndrome". It is real and potentially deadly but recovery is quick.

Schematic representation of takotsubo cardiomyopathy (A) compared to the situation in a normal person (B)
Schematic representation of takotsubo cardiomyopathy (A) compared to the situation in a normal person (B)

symptoms of takotsubo or broken heart syndrome

A feature of takotsubo is the heart’s unique contraction pattern as viewed by echocardiogram, or ultrasound. While the base of the heart’s main pumping chamber (the left ventricle) contracts normally, there is a weakened contraction in the middle and upper portions of the heart's muscle.
Broken heart syndrome can mimic a heart attack, with common symptoms being chest pain or shortness of breath.

"My grandparents died within days of each other.On the day of Grandpa's funeral,my grandmother,who was a pretty tough lady cried in a way I'd never seen her cry before and said,"I don't know how I'm going to live without him. I don't want to live without him".This was someone she'd known and loved for the greater part of her life.It felt like half of her had already died. Less than two weeks later on what would have been their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary she passed away".__Rita,Collinsville,Ill.

Takotsubo or broken heart syndrome statistics

80% of cases occur in post-menopausal women (with an average age of 60 years) who are under extremely stressful situation such as the loss of a love one
95% of patients recover completely if the syndrome is diagnose early.Patients have complete use of their cardiac function within a few weeks

"My grandfather passed away from a massive heart attack.The next day after my aunt took my grandmother to make all the arrangements. My grandmother started talking about how the only time they had ever been separated was when one of them was in the hospital. She then decided to lay down and rest.When my aunt checked on her about an hour later,she too had passed away. the doctor said that medically she had died from heart failure, but we all knew it was from a broken heart. we buried them both on june 20, 1985. they were married 63 years."
— Anonymous

"I lost my husband 6 years ago and although we were only together for 20 years it felt like a lifetime.We spent every day together working side by side in our own business. After work,on our own time we did everything together,too. The hurt seemed unbearable....even now I still wish I could be with him "__Lorrie,Geneva,N.Y.

The difference between takotsubo or broken heart syndrome and a heart attack

Most heart attacks are caused by a complete blockage of a heart artery due to a blood clot forming at the narrowing site from fatty buildup (atherosclerosis). If these blood clots cut off blood supply to the the heart for a long period of time, heart muscle cells can "DIE" leaving the heart with permanent and irreversible damages.

In "broken heart syndrome", the heart arteries are not blocked, although blood flowing in the arteries of the heart may be reduced. Large amount of adrenaline produce by the body which is supposed to help a person in "fight or flight" situations overwhelms the heart muscle causing it to weaken temporarily and unable to perform it's function of pumping blood into the heart.There is a complete exhaustion of the heart muscle. The heart cells are "STUN" by the stress hormone buildup but no permanent damage occurs.

Common symptoms between takotsubo or broken heart syndrome and an anxiety attack

Symptoms of a "Broken heart" can manifest themselves through psychological pain but for many it has an indescribable physical effect.There is a perceived tightness of the chest,similar to an anxiety attack.

Feelings of loneliness,despair,depression,apathy,anger,shock and in extreme cases suicidal thoughts and even death.Typically these symptoms begin just minutes to hours after the person has been exposed to a severe and usually unexpected stress.

A broken heart's tale

As the sunset on the horizon
the mem'ries of yesterday
come flooding into my empty chamber

The simple joy of togetherness
a time of spring when our love bloom
happiness that knew no bound

Now only forlorn shadows remain
of two lovers that time has parted
the story of a broken heart.....


Our idea of what "Love" is has somehow been influenced by misconceptions foisted by media.It is being exploited for maximal profit."Love" has become a commodity to be bartered and exchanged.We think of much,how soon,how many. Advertisement encourage us to buy certain products to become more attractive. We look to the entertainment industry for role models.

So it is not surprising that in this age of impermanent and temporary relationships, true love is often trivialized. It is held in disbelief.But it is a real and documented phenomenon among longtime couples.A genuine union of two souls that grows stronger over time until each person's essence is fused into one another.The bond is so strong that when one soul departs, the other chooses to follow.

"When people are in a long term relationship they create some sort of a co-energetic resonance with each other" says Dr.Lee Lipsenthal (past director of Dr. Dean Ornish’s Preventative Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif.) “A simple analogy is two tuning forks, put next to each other.They create a co-resonant pitch. What happens when two people sleep together for 50 years? What happens when one goes away?”

"My great-grandparents died together. A neighbor found them the next morning when he realized he had not seen them. He entered their home and found them embraced. An autopsy showed Julie died of a stroke and John a few hours later of a heart attack. So I do think it's possible to die of a broken heart."— Anonymous

Research shows that in some cases, one person’s heartbeat can affect, even regulate another ones heart, possibly acting as a type of life support.

In one such study, Rollin McCraty, research director at the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, Calif., looked at what happened to six longtime couples' hearts while they slept. Heart-rate monitors revealed that during the night, as the couple slept beside each other, their heart rhythms fell into sync, rising and falling at the same time. When the printouts of their EKGs were placed on top of each other, they looked virtually the same.

Enduring Love Stories

Isabelle and John

Isabelle and John were my grandparents. They were crazy for each other. They were from Scotland and immigrated to the US in the 1950s.They were absolutely inseparable.They would finish each others sentences and cuddle and joke together like teenagers.You could say they lived for each other always. When Isabelle became ill with cancer and there was no hope, John too became depressed and aged rapidly during her illness.

When she passed away he was inconsolable. It was devastating to watch. He tried as hard as he could to hang on and live for my Dad and his seven grandchildren, but he was lost without his beloved wife and passed away quietly of literally a "broken heart" 5 months to the day of my sweet Grandma's death. I was 16 at the time I lost my grandparents but to this day at the age of 47 it still breaks my heart to think of them.— Isabel Debowski, Acworth, Ga.

Anthony and Catherine

"My paternal Grandparents, Anthony and Catherine Nikolai, both came to America through Ellis Island as teenagers in the early 1900s. He came from Russia, she from Poland. They met in New York's Central Park and soon Grandpa came courting. After a few weeks of dating, Grandma told him "Either you marry me or I'll never see you again." They married exactly 3 weeks after they met. Theirs was not an idylic romance. In fact, they argued almost every day. Friends would say it was how they got along. Yet the love was evident; Grandma would say "If I die first, I'm coming back to get you!" and Grandpa would respond, "Me too!"

In 1964 Grandma was diagnosed with gall bladder cancer. She passed away in July of 1965. Grandpa had a physical 2 weeks before her death and his doctor told us, for his age, he had the strongest heart he'd ever seen. The doctor told him he'd never die of a heart attack, that was for sure. One week after Grandma's death, despite the doctor's prediction, Grandpa died of a heart attack. The doctor said what he really died of was a broken heart, but we know better. Grandma kept her promise. She came back and took him with her, just like they'd planned."
Laura J. Turner, Whitmore Lake, Mich.

My husband's granduncle died right after his wife died. They where married for more than 50 years, always fighting but always together; he was a womanizer,but she had a strong will and personality. Often bursting into huge and passionate arguments with him, but she never left him. Even as they grew older and separated (he lived in the second floor of their house and she lived on the first floor), they would always argue through the stairs.

The morning that she died the family tried to keep the passing a secret. While he rested on his bed, barely half an hour after the wife passed away and having been kept from the truth, he suddenly said to his nurse assistant: “my wife just died; I’m going with her now as well” and promptly went into cardiac arrest. We were amazed how, even after all this years of trashing one another and fighting, their love and connection was so strong, so great, that they could not live without the other. Now we laugh thinking of them fighting in “the other side”— Pasionaria Arguello


Submit a Comment
  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Philippines

    Artin ~ To be able to find true love is a blessing. It is painful when death takes it away. A void is left in one's life. Your friend need time to deal with it and all the moral support and understanding from friends like you to make it through the transition.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Hi SilentReed, very well put together hub and an awesome topic. I have noticed that when couples in Love are together for a long time and one of them goes away, the other partner seems to appear lost and very alone. What a sad thing it is to witness this first hand from a friend perspective. Thank you for creating and sharing. Heartfelt for sure!

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    IntimatEvolution ~ Thank you for the appreciation.Their stories do pull at heartstrings,drawing out our deepest feelings of love and compassion.

  • IntimatEvolution profile image

    Julie Grimes 

    9 years ago from Columbia, MO USA

    Wow. I am all mixed up inside. I don't know whether to feel happy or sad. Terrific hub!

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    Denise Handlon ~ Thank you for your appreciation and please take care of yourself. A hub I have written might offer some comfort...

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    SilverGenes ~ Oops ! sorry Alexandra,how did I miss your comment. I'm not that old to blame it on memory lapse :)...Thank you for narrating the story about your neighbors. Grief must be shared. It strengthens the bond which binds us in our humanity.

  • Denise Handlon profile image

    Denise Handlon 

    9 years ago from North Carolina

    Well written hub about a sensitive and very real phenomenon. I cannot tell you how many times I have experienced those symptoms. Rated it up. Beautiful poem.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    SilentReed, this article made me think of neighbours we had a few years ago. They were a lovely couple well into their 80s who did everything together in a familiar pattern that had taken 70 years to weave. One day, the gentle man was out mowing his front lawn as I was passing by and I asked about his wife. She had taken ill quite suddenly and was still in the hospital. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said that he had known that girl since she was 13 years old and that she was his wife and his life. I don't think I really understood the bond that a lifetime together can forge but I had a glimpse of it in that moment. It does not surprise me that such love allows one to accompany the other on the rest of the journey. Thank you for this beautiful hub.

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    skye2day ~ We once had an old couple for our neighbor.

    Never did I hear an angry word pass between them. They were kind,generous and were well liked by the people living around here. When "Ed" suffered a heart attack and pass away.We could see the dramatic change in his wife Mary.Sometimes it pains us to see her just sitting for hours looking at a plot of land where they once shared a common joy of gardening. Neighbors,friends and family did their share in trying to console Mary but she pass away after six months. I still feel I recall the tragic end of a once vibrant and happy person slowly withering under the heavy burden of losing her love.This article was written because I wanted to understand what happened to our good neighbors. Did she die of a "broken heart"? Yes she did.

  • skye2day profile image


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    silentreed You are a compelling writer. This is a beautiful hub of love. Thank You so much for sharing. My daddy died of a broken heart. One year after my momma passed on. He would never be close to the same. He so missed her. Two become one flesh. I am so grateful they are together. It was so hard seeing him so sad for that year.

    Heartfelt and lovely hub. Hugs to you and yours.

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    thirdmillenium ~ I particularly like this song by the Beegees.Thanks for commenting and I'll hop over to the hubpage you indicated below.

  • thirdmillenium profile image


    9 years ago from Here, There, Everywhere

    Well, it is not hard to let oneself go and cry his broken heart out after reading this.

    Here is part of the Beegees song:

    how can you mend a broken heart?

    How can you stop the rain from falling down?

    How can you stop the sun from shining?

    What makes the world go round?

    How can you mend this broken man?

    How can a loser ever win?

    Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again.

    Please read this comment here too:

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    Doug Turner Jr. ~ It is the rarity of these kind of relationship that make us take notice.Reading their love stories one cannot but help become aware of how beautiful love can be if we just take the time and effort in forging a stronger bond with our love one. Thank you for comment.I appreciate it.

  • profile image

    Doug Turner Jr. 

    9 years ago

    Genuine love -- the love you describe so well here -- is a rare entity indeed, but always worth fighting for and preserving. It scares me sometimes, because the thought of losing loved ones is too much to bear. But in the end, would life be worth living without it? I think not. Thanks for the beautiful and thought provoking hub.

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    always exploring ~The love stories of the older generation are inspiring.It must have taken much joint effort to make their relationship succeed.I believe that part of the reason their love lasted so long was because of their deep sense of respect and admiration for each other.In our age of frivolities where "Love" is heavily commercialized in the media,relationship like these are becoming rare.Thank you for commenting.It is much appreciated.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    9 years ago from Southern Illinois

    I so enjoyed this article.When i was around eight years old,I lived on a block where there was an old couple in their eighties,the wife expired one morning and the husband died the next day.I remember my Mother telling me that he died of a broken heart.A deep love like that is so wonderful,really that's the way it's susposed to be,it's just that Martie and I were not that blessed.Thank you for sharing.


  • profile image


    9 years ago

    So very true! , that is the essence of love, true love.! Character , and virtue

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    ahorseback ~ During our parents time when words like "family" and "home" meant something they had to work out their differences.Theirs might not have been a marriage made in heaven but they didn't take the easy way out through separation and divorce.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Actually , it was a life of many highs and lows , but they outlasted many, many things . In the end , the won out though.

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    ahorseback ~ I'm glad this hub brought back good memories of your parents. So rare nowadays for marriages to last half a century.The love between them must have been something special.

  • SilentReed profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Philippines

    MartieCoetser ~ Coming after the holiday festivities I had second thoughts of publishing it since the topic dealt with grief.But I wanted to share the stories of people whose fidelity to love is awe-inspiring.And in an article that would describe albeit without the "irritating terminology" :) the how,what and why of a "Broken heart syndrome",the stories provided the "heart".

    From your life story,I believe that your heart problem was cause partly by the stress and tension you suffered during your marriage. With your grandson Julian around I don't think that would ever be a problem again.:)

    Thank you for your vote and encouragement. It is greatly appreciated.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    This is a great hub , and we have all seen this haven't we! I say why should anyone who wants to go to join their loved one not get their wish, My parents were very similar to these in your hub. Fifty something years together , and what a life. My mother died young at 66 of heart failure , my father three years later in a steady and sure decline . Telling me many times "I just want to be with her". Great hub!

  • MartieCoetser profile image

    Martie Coetser 

    9 years ago from South Africa

    SilentReed – This is the best article I’ve ever read about the topic ‘dying of a broken heart’. You have covered all aspects thoroughly without irritating the layperson with the terminology of specialists.

    The supportive true stories you’ve added is absolutely heart-touching. Is this not what we all desire – a marriage partner to love and to be loved by him/her, until death stop us, and then, as with Siamese twins, follow each other into eternity when no other mutual responsibilities request our attention on earth.

    I once suffered the Broken-heart syndrome – it is not like normal sadness and depression. I was 22. The pain in my heart was severe – unbearable – for two weeks. My heart literally felt like a heavy rock in my chest, causing severe pain in my back and stomach. I was not able to think, I just wanted to die. I can easily believe that older people are not physical and emotional strong enough to survive a ‘broken heart’. Those who do, definitely live on with fatal damage to the heart.

    I’ve bookmarked this and voted it UP an UP and UP.


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