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Can someone die from a broken heart?

Can someone die from a broken heart?
Nestled amongst fallen leaves at the foot of the west wall in the churchyard of St. George's, Brede, East Sussex, stands a wooden cross. Remarkable only for its simplicity; it is aged and weather-beaten and it bears just one word - Damaris. That's all. No date, no epitaph. Nothing in fact, to give a hint to the love story that ended so tragically on the very spot, local legend says, now marked by the decaying cross.

Damaris Richardson was a beautiful orphan living in the village with her uncle, when she met and fell in love with Lewis Smith, son and heir to a wealthy, local landowner. Lewis returned her love and they would meet at the west wall of St. George's, he on one side, she on the other. Their romance blossomed and they secretly became engaged, despite Lewis knowing his father would never approve because of their social inequality. Lewis was right; his father found out and he forbade Lewis to see Damaris again, threatening to cut his son off without a penny. Here, the facts become sketchy.

When my mother told me the story, many years ago, she said that when Lewis told Damaris it was over and Damaris watched Lewis walk out of her life forever, her young heart broke and she died where she stood, beside the west wall of St. George's. Others merely say that Damaris was a healthy, happy, young woman in love, who died suddenly at the age of 22, after Lewis broke off their engagement.

Damaris was buried on 4 September 1856 and the wooden cross was placed on her grave, at the site of the lovers' trysts, not by Lewis but the Reverend of St. George's. Lewis died at the age of 64 - a bachelor. 

Do you think Damaris died from a broken heart? There is in fact, a condition known as "broken heart syndrome" - it's stress cardiomyopathy - and studies have shown that acute emotional trauma or stress can cause the symptoms of a heart attack. Most people recover but some do die and research into this, which began in Japan, is ongoing. Examples of deaths attributed to "broken heart syndrome" include people dying shortly after the loss of their spouse, a relative or a pet.

How many times have you heard someone say 'he/she died of a broken heart'? Well, perhaps they did. And perhaps Damaris Richardson did too. I think so. What do you think?

© Emily Harvale 2011 - 2022. All rights reserved.

 

Comments

Guest - Francine Howarth on Friday, 18 November 2011 16:09

Hi,

Yes, I''ll concede to that possibility! When I lost my first dog (my mother's really) I think a little bit of me the child died along with him. I do still cry more over loss of pets and horses than ever I've cried for a human. Does that sound bad? Probably, but devotion from pets is unconditional love and has no restrictions or expectations!

The website has a swish businesslike approach to it, and the book shelf background on blog a homely feel.

best

F

Hi, Yes, I''ll concede to that possibility! When I lost my first dog (my mother's really) I think a little bit of me the child died along with him. I do still cry more over loss of pets and horses than ever I've cried for a human. Does that sound bad? Probably, but devotion from pets is unconditional love and has no restrictions or expectations! The website has a swish businesslike approach to it, and the book shelf background on blog a homely feel. ;) best F
Guest - Anita Chapman on Friday, 18 November 2011 16:34

Hello Emily, great new blog- found your post interesting and will definitely keep checking in. Shakespeare used the dying of a broken heart thing a lot I recall from studying his plays at school-A Winter's Tale and King Lear.

Anita X

Hello Emily, great new blog- found your post interesting and will definitely keep checking in. Shakespeare used the dying of a broken heart thing a lot I recall from studying his plays at school-A Winter's Tale and King Lear. Anita X
Guest - Isabelle Goddard on Friday, 18 November 2011 16:40

I'm sure people can die of a broken heart but it's usually where a couple have been together for a very long time and then one dies, leaving the other totally rudderless. It's very unusual for such a young person to die without any obvious cause - she could, of course, have beem sufering from some nasty Victorian aliment which has been excised from the story to make the legend a legend. But great drama.

I like the layout of the website - clear and crisp- like the writing, no doubt.! How about an excerpt now you've whetted appetites?

I'm sure people can die of a broken heart but it's usually where a couple have been together for a very long time and then one dies, leaving the other totally rudderless. It's very unusual for such a young person to die without any obvious cause - she could, of course, have beem sufering from some nasty Victorian aliment which has been excised from the story to make the legend a legend. But great drama. I like the layout of the website - clear and crisp- like the writing, no doubt.! How about an excerpt now you've whetted appetites?
Guest - Hywela Lyn on Friday, 18 November 2011 17:13

Came here from the' 'Romance Festival '. What a sad story. I do believe one can die from a broken heart, I've been very close to it myself, and as Francine says, the death of a horse or dog can hit one almost as hard!

Your blog lookes great!

http://www.hywelalyn.blogspot.com

Came here from the' 'Romance Festival '. What a sad story. I do believe one can die from a broken heart, I've been very close to it myself, and as Francine says, the death of a horse or dog can hit one almost as hard! Your blog lookes great! www.hywelalyn.blogspot.com
Guest - Jane Richardson on Friday, 18 November 2011 19:08

What a sad story - I'm sure the tragic circumstances may have hastened poor Damaris' untimely demise. When you think about it, so much literature, art, opera, and myths and fairytales from around the world and throughout the centuries about separated lovers dying of a broken heart - there must be something in it! This loss of a soul you love is the hardest thing to bear, and I'm sure that there are many who have simply 'given up' rather than face life without them.

Oh dear - on a lighter note! - your website is GORGEOUS and I suspect your blog is going to be a real goodie! Now all we're waiting for is that excerpt.....!!

Good luck!!

Jane x

What a sad story - I'm sure the tragic circumstances may have hastened poor Damaris' untimely demise. When you think about it, so much literature, art, opera, and myths and fairytales from around the world and throughout the centuries about separated lovers dying of a broken heart - there must be something in it! This loss of a soul you love is the hardest thing to bear, and I'm sure that there are many who have simply 'given up' rather than face life without them. Oh dear - on a lighter note! - your website is GORGEOUS and I suspect your blog is going to be a real goodie! Now all we're waiting for is that excerpt.....!! Good luck!! Jane x
Guest - Emily Harvale on Friday, 18 November 2011 19:15

Thanks for all your comments so far. We all seem to agree it's possible to die of heart break and I agree with Francine, the loss of a beloved pet seems almost harder to bear.

Thanks for all your comments so far. We all seem to agree it's possible to die of heart break and I agree with Francine, the loss of a beloved pet seems almost harder to bear.
Guest - Susan Bergen on Friday, 18 November 2011 23:40

How tragically romantic. I don't care if it is true/possible or not. I still believe. How could I not and be a romance reader/writer? It is a poignant tale.

How tragically romantic. I don't care if it is true/possible or not. I still believe. How could I not and be a romance reader/writer? It is a poignant tale.
Guest - Lin Treadgold on Saturday, 19 November 2011 08:22

I personally have experience of someone who committed suicide - his wife died and within 48 hours he put a vacuum hose on the exhaust pipe of his car and passed away. The newspaper article said he died of a broken heart.

Very often when there is a wooden cross near the wall of the churchyard it can be a paupers grave and often this can be on the outside of the churchyard. I would investigate this further maybe?

Yes I like the photos on your site. Very well done.

try this http://www.itslinhere@wordpress.com

I personally have experience of someone who committed suicide - his wife died and within 48 hours he put a vacuum hose on the exhaust pipe of his car and passed away. The newspaper article said he died of a broken heart. Very often when there is a wooden cross near the wall of the churchyard it can be a paupers grave and often this can be on the outside of the churchyard. I would investigate this further maybe? Yes I like the photos on your site. Very well done. try this www.itslinhere@wordpress.com
Guest - Talli Roland on Friday, 18 November 2011 17:27

What a wonderful story, Emily (well, in a tragic way). Congrats on the new blog.

What a wonderful story, Emily (well, in a tragic way). Congrats on the new blog.
Guest - Debs Carr on Saturday, 19 November 2011 14:22

What a sad story. Poor Damaris.



I definitely believe you can die of a broken heart.

What a sad story. Poor Damaris. I definitely believe you can die of a broken heart.
Guest - Cara Cooper on Sunday, 20 November 2011 07:15

Great website, sad story!

Great website, sad story!
Guest - Katie Carr on Saturday, 19 November 2011 17:25

Lovely story, and the website/blog look fabulous!

Lovely story, and the website/blog look fabulous!
Guest - Emily Harvale on Sunday, 20 November 2011 14:11

Thank you to those who have shared their feelings and personal experiences on this very emotive topic, so far and thanks for the lovely comments about the website. x

Thank you to those who have shared their feelings and personal experiences on this very emotive topic, so far and thanks for the lovely comments about the website. x
Guest - Hywela Lyn on Monday, 21 November 2011 10:00

Lovely blog and website, Emily.

Yes I do think someone can die of a broken heart. I came pretty close to it myself once, and the loss of someone you love very much can certainly make one feel there is nothing left to live for.

What a sad and poignant story.

Lovely blog and website, Emily. Yes I do think someone can die of a broken heart. I came pretty close to it myself once, and the loss of someone you love very much can certainly make one feel there is nothing left to live for. What a sad and poignant story.
Guest - Henriette Gyland on Monday, 21 November 2011 13:34

I believe you probably can die from a broken heart, in the sense that it brings on a heart attack. It is said that the breakup of a relationship is among the top stress factors in a person's life, along with bereavement and moving house, and stress, as we know, is bad for us.

Poor Damaris. And poor Lewis. I wonder what happened to him.

And what about that reverend? There's a story there...

I believe you probably can die from a broken heart, in the sense that it brings on a heart attack. It is said that the breakup of a relationship is among the top stress factors in a person's life, along with bereavement and moving house, and stress, as we know, is bad for us. Poor Damaris. And poor Lewis. I wonder what happened to him. And what about that reverend? There's a story there...
Guest - Sarah Tranter on Monday, 21 November 2011 16:29

Poor Damaris. The man in question didnt deserve her love. Great blog!

Poor Damaris. The man in question didnt deserve her love. Great blog!
Guest - Sheila Johnson on Monday, 21 November 2011 16:49

What a tragic story but plenty of atmosphere. Is it true or your novel in progress?

http://www.journojohnson.blogspot.com

What a tragic story but plenty of atmosphere. Is it true or your novel in progress? www.journojohnson.blogspot.com
Guest - Emily on Monday, 21 November 2011 17:42

Hi Sheila, Sadly, it's a true story. Emily x

Hi Sheila, Sadly, it's a true story. Emily x
Guest - Margaret Morton Kirk on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 19:14

Very many congratulations on your beautiful blog!

I think the stress cardiomyopathy is more common than we think, and of course the poor girl genuinely might not have felt she had anything to live for.

I know when my mother died, my father basically 'deflated' - he lived on for another 8 years, but there was no joy in his life, and when he became very ill, it felt as though he simply didn't want to fight it.

Very many congratulations on your beautiful blog! I think the stress cardiomyopathy is more common than we think, and of course the poor girl genuinely might not have felt she had anything to live for. I know when my mother died, my father basically 'deflated' - he lived on for another 8 years, but there was no joy in his life, and when he became very ill, it felt as though he simply didn't want to fight it.
Guest - Pauline Barclay on Saturday, 19 November 2011 13:46

A lovely Blog and a beautful but tragic story.

A lovely Blog and a beautful but tragic story.
Guest
Tuesday, 04 October 2022

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