My physical heart is okay

From my journal dated January 20, 2003:

Yesterday was an awful day. I woke up at about 5 a.m., and my heart was doing this weird, intense quivering thing. It lasted about a minute or so, and then I fell back to sleep. I woke up again at 5:30 a.m., and the entire left side of my head was numb – my lip, top and back of my head. Sort of that just-coming-out-of-Novacaine feeling. So weird!

It freaked me out! I’ve been so concerned about my heart. I’ve had pain of some kind in my chest practically since the accident. I know grief puts so much stress on the body. I’ve been worried my heart can’t handle all pain and stress.

I waited a little while to see if it went away, all the while assessing every ache and pain I was feeling to see if it was tied in somehow to the numbness. I didn’t know if I’d had a stroke or was on the verge of a heart attack or what it could be! Finally, I got up and took a long, hot shower. Thought it would relax me enough to figure out what was going on or to take away the numbness…plus, I would be ready to go to the emergency room, if needed.

Anyway, about 6:30 a.m., since the numbness wasn’t going away, we decided not to take any chances and headed to the emergency room at Evergreen. They put me in a room and hooked me up to a heart monitor. The ER doctor was really great – very thorough and asked lots of questions.

When she asked questions about breathing and commented about my body being “air starved,” I told her that sometimes I have to really concentrate on my breathing; otherwise, I breathe so shallowly. It’s like I breathe shallowly because it hurts too much to breathe deeply. It doesn’t really hurt my body; it hurts my broken heart. It’s hard to explain. I know I don’t breathe deeply enough and haven’t since the accident. I have to actually concentrate on getting enough air in my lungs. How strange that I have to actually make a conscious effort to breathe!

I told her that it’s hard to separate some of the symptoms, especially when it comes to my heart and pain in my chest. It’s hard to tell which ones might actually reflect something going on in my physical body and which ones are from my broken heart. She agreed. I told her that I think grief is really hard on the body, and she agreed again.

They monitored my heart for a while and then ran an EKG. My blood pressure was actually lower than it’s been in a while, and (other than an irregular heartbeat) everything else checked out okay. The diagnosis was heart palpitations and hyperventilation syndrome. At least I know my physical heart is okay. Can’t say the same about my broken heart.

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

I Can’t Make Anything Change

From my journal dated December 14, 2002:

My kids have brought me so much joy – and I wouldn’t have traded that for anything! I love them so much! I want good for them! The flip side of that is now I’m in so much pain. This huge pain of losing Jason; the pain of seeing my precious girl suffering the loss of her brother and everything else that has broadsided her this year; the agony of watching Eric struggle so. We’re all struggling so much! I feel powerless to change anything. I can’t MAKE anything change!!

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

Can you die from a broken heart?

From my journal dated December 7, 2002:

Saturday again. Bright and sunny day outside.

Have to meet with my accounting group for school, but I have had such a hard time concentrating lately. Don’t know if it’s because of the whole trial thing, because of the holidays, or just because.

I have had this cough from something to do with my sinuses. Can’t seem to get rid of it. And then I’m so tired. Sometimes all I want to do is lie down and sleep. I start to watch a movie or TV, and just fall asleep. Sound asleep. People can move around or whatever, and it doesn’t even wake me up. It concerns me some, but it’s frustrating more than anything.

I am more certain than ever than grief is really hard on your body. I’m concerned that the grief I feel physically is particularly hard on my heart. I really and truly think you can die from a broken heart.

I just need to make sure I take care of myself. I need to be here for Jenna, for my family.

Physical reactions to grief

From my journal dated August 26, 2002:

Joe and Jenna keep telling me I mumble when I talk. Is it stress or is there something else wrong with  me? I know I have physical signs of stress – rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing. It seems like I breathe shallowly, too…it’s like if I breathe too deeply, the pain of grief goes too deep. There is almost always a pain in my chest down to my gut, always pain in some form or to some degree.

I keep having a sore throat and a cough. I just don’t feel well.

I haven’t actually relaxed since…I don’t know when. I know I’m tense. My face is taut. I’m so jumpy and loud noises irritate the heck out of me. I’m antsy and get panic-y at the drop of a hat.

What is the matter with me?



Stress as a result of grief affects to body in a multitude of ways. I ended up being so jumpy. Too much noise was like fingernails on a blackboard, and I had a major fight-or-flight reaction at times. Sometimes I thought I was having a heart attack.

Although physical reactions are common and walking or some other form of exercise can help relieve some of the stress, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor if you are concerned about any physical symptom you may be having.

This is an excellent article on the physical reactions to grief: