Can You Die of a Broken Heart?

Can You Die of a Broken Heart?

by Kerry Scott on 25 January 2012

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Apparently you can.

I read a New York Times article about this a couple of weeks ago. Apparently a recent study showed that your odds of having a heart attack are 21 times higher the day after a loved one dies.

This reminded me of my second great-grandfather’s brother, Valentine Scheiber. He dropped dead at the funeral of a friend on a hot day in Chicago in June 1906. He was only 53.

I also have a 60-year-old husband who died a week after his wife. The obituary from the [Albert Lea, Minnesota] Evening Tribune on 7 August 1907 (page 1, column 1) said:

Ole Hageness died at his home on Oak Street shortly after 6 o’clock Tuesday evening of typhoid pneumonia. He had been ill for several weeks, and the sudden death of his wife at Fargo last Tuesday seemed to break him down completely.

Now, Ole was pretty sick to begin with…but wow. What a tough week that must have been for the six grown children he left behind.

Do you have stories like this in your family tree?

Photo by Sister72

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah January 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

My great-gandfather died less than a month after my great-grandmother. My dad said he was healthy up before she died but had to move into a nursing home about a week after she died. My dad said it was like he just gave up.


Lynn Palermo January 25, 2012 at 11:03 am

Apparently, I do! I discovered an ancestor and his wife who both died on the same day. Assuming it was an accident of sorts, I investigated further. They were 78 and 80 respectively. No foul play, no accident. The man had died at home and upon discovering him the wife collapsed and died as well. How’s that for true love!


Kathleen Moore January 25, 2012 at 11:16 am

I had a brother on my mother’s line who passed away on the train back to his home after attending his sister’s funeral. Very sad. The obituary mentioned that he was ill for a few years before his death, and he had to retire because of it.


Jacqi January 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Now that you mention it, I think this is a more common scenario than presumed. My mother-in-law’s family had a funeral where this reaction almost turned into a domino effect.

While the effect is admittedly sad for those family members left behind, I think the sweetest story I ever heard on this account was that of a (non-relative) minister who in his later life cared for his stroke-stricken wife for years. The morning she passed, he basically joined her within a matter of hours. Now, that’s a love story!


Greta Koehl January 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Many. Apparently it’s not uncommon for a spouse to follow a loved one in death within a year, especially when the wife predeceases the husband. I always compare the death dates of married couples when I am researching, and this phenomenon occurs with startling regularity. One of my aunts died a year to the day after her husband died.


Jacquie January 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm

In 1945, near the Battle of the Bulge, in the sleepy dot of a town, Nothum, Luxembourg, my father’s cousins were outside playing after a battle between the US and Germans had calmed down. On March 14th, his 7 yr old cousin Francois was playing with 5 other boys including his older brother Camille (11 years old). Francois picked up what he thought was a toy, but was actually a small colorful bomb, and Camille begged him to put it down. Frustrated, Francois threw it down, killing himself, and two other playmates. Camille lost his arm and leg. The boys were taken by wheel barrel to the doctors, but it was in vain. Six days later, on March 20, Francois’ distraught grandfather(who lived with him), Jean, 81 years old, but in perfect health dropped dead, of what the family felt was a broken heart. (Camille was never the same – but lived to be a grandfather himself.)


Helen Spencer January 26, 2012 at 7:50 am

Same here. My aunt and uncle died very soon after each other. It’s almost as if they couldn’t find a reason to be here without their missing piece… – family stories past and present


Amy January 26, 2012 at 11:28 am

I think this is what happened to my great-great grandfather after his wife passed away. I don’t have proof, just a feeling based on information I have. I even alluded to it in a video I made about them:


Susan Tiner January 26, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Yes, an Aunt died within two years of losing her husband and the family spoke of it as dying of grief.

It’s not hard to imagine.


Rita January 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm

My dad died one year and 12 days after my mom died. He just gave up after she died. He was my mother’s caregiver for many years and they were always together. People often commented on how they walked hand in hand everywhere. When she was gone he was lost and I truly believe he died of a broken heart.


Jessica M. March 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm

i have one. My aunt who had been sick for about a year died and my uncle who had been with her for 40 years died the day after her burriel. Its really hard for the family but i think its best that he didnt suffer without her there…sad but so romantic


Tammy Durden January 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Me and my husband had been together and we was always together. He had COPD and in September of last year we was told he had stage two lung cancer he died on December 20 . I quite my job and took care of him 24/7 The last thing he told me was he loved me and always will and I was holding his hand when he died. I just feel lost because we was together for 16 years. He was my hole world it was just me and him for so long. He has been gone for one month today.


Kerry Scott January 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Tammy, I am very sorry for your loss. I’m sure it meant the world to him that you were there when he needed you most.

Take care of yourself.


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