Researchers at John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland came up with a phrase “broken heart syndrome” to describe a peculiar type of patient.
They developed the phrase as a result of their diagnosis of 20 people (18 were women) who had come to the hospital complaining of a heart attack.
In each case, the person displayed classic heart attack symptoms such as shortness of breath, pains in the chest, accumulation of lung fluid and a noticeable reduction in the heart’s ability to pump blood.
However, after careful examination, the medical staff found no physical evidence of a heart attack. They found no heart injury, artery blockages, or the usual enzyme increases associated with heart damage.
What they did find – through an echocardiogram – was the heart developed unusual contraction patterns with one part pumping normally (usually the lower left ventricle) but other sectors pumping at a much weaker rate.
Since there was no sign of a heart attack, researchers were curious about what caused the problem.
That is when they noticed a common denominator in these patients. Each person had recently experienced very stressful circumstances ranging from armed robbery to a car accident to death of a loved one.
Further testing showed during these stressful periods, there was a significant release of catecholamines, (stress hormones such as adrenaline) which stunned the heart.
In their report — published in the New England Journal of Medicine — the medical researchers suggested these ‘broken-heart” attacks may be more common than previously thought. Reports have come in of similar attacks in Japan and other parts of the U.S.
In most instances, the people will fully recover from the physical symptoms within few weeks. But as all of us know, the emotional damage can carry on for months, even years after the incident.
Healing the broken-hearted
Throughout Scripture there are references to “broken heart” which is commonly associated with mental and emotional anguish.
In Psalms 147:3, we read of God’s desire to heal the broken-hearted. The issues are real and crippling and with enough power, as the study showed, to seriously affect us physically.
He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds. (NASV)
But God wants to heal us emotionally from our past hurts. So what is the key to receiving this healing for cases of a broken heart?
The first step involves letting go of past hurts — forgive those who injured us. The healing process starts here.
Forgiveness can seem impossible to do at times, particularly if we have been hurt by a family member, friend or even someone in your church.
Peter came to Jesus one day asking Him how many times he had to forgive his brother. Is it possible, Peter was referring to his real brother and fellow disciple — Andrew (Mathew 4:18)?
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18: 21, 22 NASV)
Jesus’ answer of 70 x 7 basically said there was no limit to how many times you must forgive a person. We look at this verse and think we must forgive every time they offend us, and that is certainly true.
But 70 x 7 can also refer to a different element of forgiveness. It is what I call onion forgiveness.
Like an onion, forgiveness can come with layers. We forgive a person and things seem fine for a while. Then one day those old emotions of anger and resentment flood back. It is usually sparked by something — a similar situation or even contact with the person.
Does this mean you didn’t forgive the first time? No, I believe you did.
But hurts can go deep. And your emotions show there is another layer and you need to forgive again. You may need to forgive again and again.
But every time you forgive, you peel another layer away. Then one day the onion is gone.
- “Broken Heart” Syndrome: Hopkins
- Sometimes a Heart Attack is Really a ‘Broken Heart’: MSN Health