Death of a Child and Parental Heart Failure from Stressful Grief

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The intense grief for a mother who has had to endure the passing of her child or children is one of the hardest roads to walk in human existence. I have been told over and over again; the extent to which we grieve correlates to the extent we have loved. If this is true, my love has been deep, wide, and right to the soul. As mothers, we work on protecting our children every day of our lives, and when they leave our world it feels like the biggest betrayal of life ever. I was told once by an army lieutenant whose mother lost her older child that there is nothing more sad and daunting than the cry of a grieving mother. I have to agree. I feel sad for those who have had to hear me grieve the loss of my two children. It is not for the weak, that’s for sure.

Unfortunately, the grieving process we read about in books does not often talk about physical issues the grief of a child can bring, such as heart failure. It makes sense to me because it is the greatest heartache I think I have ever felt in my life. According to the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD, a grieving parent has at least a 35% higher risk of developing heart failure than non-grieving parents due to the stress of the event. This statistic in and of itself shows the care that must be given to a grieving mother, especially during the first year or so after the passing of her child. The grief will never fully go away but will settle into a part of everyday existence.

Good medical care, a lot of loving support, and caring counselors are what truly help during grief cycles. Also, meditative methods, time alone to process the loss and those who understand are also helpful. One of the hardest parts of grief is feeling so misunderstood only second to the loss itself. Life goes on without us as mothers while our hearts truly break. I have always believed our emotional and spiritual state will eventually be spoken to us through our physical bodies as they reflect our state of being. It only goes to show the breaking of our emotional hearts, the feeling of life betrayal, and the hardship of not having our loved one can eventually break our physical hearts to the point of heart failure. Our hearts speak out, “Life has failed me so now I am failing.”

It’s a difficult cross to bear as life seems to dish out events that feel very unfair. Can we, as grieving mothers, ever overcome the trauma? Of course, we can. Hopefully, we can overcome trauma before irreversible heart failure happens from the intensity of loss and grief of the loved one we have carried all of our lives. We will never stop carrying them, that is for sure.

Loving you from here,

Dr. Rev. Jenine Marie Howry

JenineMarie.com

**Wei D, Li J, Janszky I, Chen H, Fang F, Ljung R, László KD. Death of a child and the risk of heart failure: a population-based cohort study from Denmark and Sweden. Eur J Heart Fail. 2022 Jan;24(1):181-189. doi: 10.1002/ejhf.2372. Epub 2021 Nov 16. PMID: 34693593.