Such a sad story that truly does show that heartbreak can indeed cause death.
A Western Australian woman has described the moment her grief-stricken grandmother collapsed and died after kissing her husband’s coffin at his funeral.
Michelle Chorlton buried her grandfather in early January 2002 and on the same day said goodbye to his wife who “didn’t want to live without her husband”.
Her story is one of many shared by ninemsn readers today after a study by the University of Birmingham was released showing a scientific link between grief and the risk of infection.
The emotional stress of losing a loved one can lead to parts of the immune system being suppressed, researchers at the university said.
Ms Chorlton said her 79-year-old grandmother was in good health until her partner of 55 years died.
“She had old people problems like stiff joints, but she wasn’t sickly,” she said.
But after her husband’s death on January 4 she took a rapid turn for the worst.
“She became depressed,” Ms Chorlton said.
“We offered her to stay with us but she said she didn’t want to live without her husband”
The funeral was held at the Ukrainian Catholic Presbytery in Maylands, a suburb of Perth on January 9.
“It was sad but very beautiful,” she said.
“We went past the coffin and she kissed it to say goodbye and collapsed and died.”
“She was taken in an ambulance but she was already gone.”
Ms Chorlton said the moment her grandmother died was somewhat relieving, given the agony she was suffering in the shadow of her husband’s death.
Other ninemsn readers have sent in their stories of grief triggering the untimely death of a loved one.
Lyn Weckert’Abra told ninemsn her mother-in-law Joan, 72, died after her husband, Brian, 72, became seriously ill and was taken to hospital.
Brian contracted a rare water borne disease while on an annual fishing trip with Joan in Booraloola, on the Macarthur River in the Northern Territory.
He was transported to Royal Darwin Hospital and put on life support with doctors holding little hope of him making a recovery.
Joan rented a unit in a Darwin caravan park to be near Brian while he was in hospital.
After a week Brian had recovered enough to be taken off life support and his family was told he would soon be able to go home.
Shortly before he was due to check out Joan died of an asthma attack at the caravan park on a Monday night and was discovered the next morning.
“They were both fit and healthy,” Ms Weckert’Abra said.
“Joan would cleans houses and look after the elderly. A year before she died she was still working.”
Doctors advised Brian’s family not to inform him of his wife’s death immediately — but he never received the news as he slipped into a coma on Wednesday for unexplained reasons.
“We were preparing to tell him but he slipped into the coma,” Ms Weckert’Abra said.
The next day he died.
Sydneysider Gordana Radosavljevic said her Serbian grandfather died walking home from a ceremony at his wife’s grave only five weeks after her death.
She said the change in his condition was “almost instant” and he quickly went from a vibrant octogenarian who still toiled in the fields to a shattered man.
“My uncles went to look after him because he didn’t want to eat or do anything,” Ms Radosavljevic said.
“He just cried, he gave up.”
On the way back home from a ceremony at his wife’s grave he suffered a heart attack and died.
A former social worker from Melbourne, Melinda Wood, who worked in aged person’s mental health said she has witnessed the phenomenon on a number of occasions.
“I’ve seen how stress can affect people,” Ms Wood said.
“If someone died I would be following their partner closely because I knew what could happen.”
Professor Janet Lord, who led the research at the University of Birmingham, said that there seems to be a biological explanation behind anecdotes of long-term couples dying within days of each other.
“Rather than dying of a broken heart, however, they are dying of a broken immune system. They usually get infections,” Ms Lord said.
Immunologists at the university found emotional stress and depression can interfere with the function of a type of white blood cell known as neutrophils, which are responsible for fighting bacterial infections such as pneumonia.
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