A dear friend of mine lost her father a year ago and consistently brings him up in conservation. It’s hard when she goes on and on about how great he was and how she lost six significant males in her life within one year. My dad passed away ten years ago and I haven’t had one male in my family I could ever count on. My dad was, to put it lightly, a horrible person for the things he did to my mom and family. Every time my friend brings up her dad, it hits a dark sour spot for me. I’ve tried to talk to her about finding a way to find peace with what happened, but everyone handles things in their own time and in different ways. Is it insensitive of me to tell her that I don’t want to hear it so much? It’s ok when she would bring it up every now and then, but it’s very consistent now. I want to be a good friend and be there so I keep my mouth shut, and suppress my own personal feelings. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!
– Anonymous Reader
Thank you for this thought-provoking question. It is so hard to see a friend in pain.
My initial thought is that you need to just listen. There is no time limit on grief and it sounds like the hurt gets reenacted every time another man leaves her. Her psyche isn’t given the chance to heal. Part of being a good friend is to listen to her for as long as she needs you to. We all need to listen more and advise less. While we are wracking our brains trying to give the best answers, all people really want is to be heard.
My 11-year-old said (more like yelled,) “Stop telling me what to do!” Wait a second. Isn’t that basically my job to tell him what to do? Any words of wisdom on the transition in parenting, from constantly telling our kids what to do to letting them figure things out on their own?
– Anonymous Reader
Transition in parenting, hmm. Let me begin by saying I am not a child psychiatrist so this is not my area of expertise. But I have basic concepts that I believe in and think they would work here.
I also consulted with one of my favorite 11 year olds, to get a take on the situation from a child’s perspective.
Ask Dr. Annie K: Why is water so important in life?
Water is full of contradictions. It’s soft, yet strong. It appears still, yet it is constantly in motion. It can be silent or loud. It can be solid, liquid, or vapor. It can be salty or sweet. It can be scary and dangerous but also comforting and purifying. It allows us to both observe its beauty and use it to cleanse.
By being exposed to water, we are witnessing the movement and flow of life. It takes away our delusions of control. For people who see things black and white, water can be confronting. They may prefer to admire it from a distance rather than get close. Water reminds us that we don’t need to label ourselves. We are capable of adjusting to the opposite forces of nature. Fighting the current can sink you, floating can save your life.
A new feature on Love+Medicine!
Here is where I take questions from you, my wonderful readers.
Any subject is fair game. Questions may be sent anonymously.
Ask A Question
Today I was asked an interesting question I’d like to share.
A patient asked me:
“Is there a such thing as broken heart syndrome?”
Broken heart syndrome is, sadly, a real malady. It is also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Takotsubo, a type of octopus trap (!), was first described in Japan in 1990. When someone suffers from an event that causes stress, it can take a toll on the heart. The stressor can be from any type of sudden news or confronting situation such as
- loss or illness of someone close – a relative, friend, pet
- intense fear – public speaking, while engaging in high risk sports
- severe pain
- domestic violence
- receiving bad news – such as a cancer diagnosis
- witnessing an accident
- sudden financial loss
- a surprise
Scientists believe that the event causes an increase in the “stress hormone” called adrenalin. Adrenalin causes the heart to overwork and eventually weaken, particularly the left ventricle. Clinically, it looks just like a heart attack. The patient complains of the typical symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath. A complete work up to rule out a heart attack is needed, STAT! An EKG may show signs of a heart attack but in broken heart syndrome there are actually no blockages in the arteries surrounding the heart! Cardiac enzymes may increase, like in a heart attack, but the increase is small. Heart cells are merely “stunned”, they are not killed like in a heart attack.
The illness occurs almost exclusively in women, generally between the ages of 58-75. The good news is that it is reversible and most patients are better in one-two months. In rare cases it can be fatal, if the patient develops heart failure as a result of the weakness of the heart.
As humans we are very adaptable, but some situations are devastating to such a degree that, as we see, the heart can indeed be broken. No one should be alone while experiencing extreme physical and emotional stress. Even if the incident appears trivial and doesn’t warrant this degree of sadness, this is no time for judgement. There is no timeline for overcoming loss- so silly how we learned in medical school, one month of grieving for every year together- everyone is different. Be there, for as long as it takes.