Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 30, 2007
Intense grief can kill the brokenhearted
Work through that unbearable sorrow for Christ is coming
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
British researchers at University College London and the Brighton & Sussex Medical School (BSMS) have verified that a person can actually die of a broken heart.
The research team studied people under extreme stress of bereavement. They found that intense bereavement can destabilize cardiac muscle rhythms in people who already have heart disease. Areas of the brain responsible for learning, memory and emotion can trigger irregular heart rhythms. (Roger Highfield, Scientists show we can die of a broken heart, Telegraph.co.uk., April 10, 2007)
Dr. Marcus Gray from BSMS, said, "We know stress can increase the risk of sudden death through cardiac arrest."
Have you ever felt so much heartache that it physically hurt? Have you ever been so brokenhearted or grief-stricken that you wondered if you were going to actually have a heart attack? I have - or perhaps I just wished it would happen.
Most of us have heard stories about old people dying of natural causes a short time after their mate passed away.
I'm not referring to those sad but rare occasions where brokenhearted people have taken their lives at the apex of grieving the loss of a loved one. That is suicide. For instance, I know of a woman who took her life after losing her child in a tragic drowning. She was overwhelmed by a tidal wave of grief.
Many people with acquired disabilities may want to die. It is usually the result of unattended, unresolved grief. This is the source of the current push to decriminalize or legalize assisted suicide. Helping the grieving young person with a newly acquired spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis, seems quite reasonable in the current climate of "choice" so prevalent in North America.
Rather than engaging in the hard work of constructively dealing with unresolved grief, it's much easier and tidier to kill the griever. Besides, there is a cultural bias against disability in which death is considered preferable to life with serious disability. I sometimes wonder if euthanasia advocates would so like to have a world free of disabilities that they are prepared to kill to get it.
Assisting the grieving mother to kill herself, when she has lost the will to live, is unthinkable. But in the current climate that heralds the "freedom to choose" the time and place of one's own death, she might decide that she wants assistance in her suicide from a medical professional. After all, it's preferable to taking her chances with an overdose of pills or misfiring a handgun.
Her heart is too strong to give out. She could say, "My pain living without my child is too much to endure. It's just as bad as the suicidal person without the use of his legs. I want assisted suicide from a physician too."
But the British medical researchers were not talking about suicide. They were talking about grieving people dying of heart attacks - if they already have heart disease. When I read the news article, it left me with a hollow feeling to think that bereavement can be so intense that it can stop a weakened heart. I was driven back to the Scriptures.
Just before his crucifixion, Jesus said to the disciples: "Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you" (John 16:22).
Although Christ was referring to his post-resurrection state, there is an application for you and me, and we find it in the last book of the Bible. St. John wrote that there will come a time when God will dwell with his people. God himself will wipe away every tear his followers have ever shed. Death and mourning, weeping and pain will be banished (Revelation 21:3-5).
For those of us who have lived with sorrow or who have grieved, these words mean everything. For those who see our bodies being destroyed before our eyes, we find comfort in these words.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that at death "life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven" (no. 1012). The soul is separated from the corruptible body at death and reunited with an incorruptible body at the final resurrection.
What joy! I will be united with Christ and reunited with loved ones who have died. No more wheelchair, or disability, or tears. As the hymn says, "No more crying there, we are going to see the king. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" If grief seems too great to bear, hold on. Very soon we are going to see the King. He will be our God and we will be his people.
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