Death by a Broken Heart

by Gabbie Aquino-Adriatico
May 8, 2020

This pandemic contains so much loss- Loss of routine. Loss of jobs. Loss of safety. Loss of schools. Loss of planning. And the one I want to talk about today is the loss of loved ones.

New York was hit hard by COVID-19. Hospitals are overwhelmed, frontliners overworked, and it seemed that the entire community lacked PPEs.

Two elderly members of my extended family that we called grandma and grandpa lived together in an apartment in New York. From the Philippines to New York, they were always together. They were inseparable. They were each other’s best friend.

One morning during the pandemic, my grandmother wasn’t feeling well. She started to throw up. My grandfather took her to the hospital and to his disappointment, he was told that only patients were allowed. He was sad that he couldn’t go into the hospital with her. Eventually he kissed her and said see you soon. He went back home.

My grandmother was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 31st. And a few hours later, she passed away. The doctor called my grandfather with the heartbreaking news. He was devastated. Next thing you know, he was informed that the love of his life had to be cremated immediately due to New York having no space with so many people dying from COVID-19.

He never got to see her after he took to her to the hospital. He never got to say goodbye. And, he did not get the choice of how to bury her.

He was heartbroken…

My grandfather got tested for COVID-19 since he was showing symptoms. He was sent home to recover since his symptoms were not as severe. Eventually after a few days, he collapsed in his apartment. He was rushed to the hospital. Several hours later, he died. He was cremated as well.

Did my grandfather die from COVID-19? Yes. But I think he died more from losing the love of his life – a phenomena called the broken heart syndrome.

Losing a loved one, especially the death of a spouse, is one of the most painful and stressful experiences a person can experience. It not only impacts the mental health of the individual, but it takes a toll on their physical health as well. You can read more about it here.

The feelings of loss have made itself a frequent guest during my quarantine experience. Week after week, I hear stories, receive texts from our family group chat, and see the media highlight how much people are losing their lives to COVID-19. At first, I was numb to all of it and would not give myself permission to grieve. I pushed myself to stay “optimistic” about our situation despite learning that over 250,000 people around the world have died from COVID-19. But now it’s sinking in. I’m choosing to let it in. I’m choosing to lean into my grief. Because I can’t move forward unless lean into it, right? This week I’m finally letting go of denial and opening my heart to my frequent guest – feelings of loss. I’m learning new ways to cope since I can’t be with my family during this time. I’m learning new ways to love on my family since we are all states and oceans apart. I’m learning to love through Zoom, Facebook, and group chats.

"The past month has been emotionally exhausting. COVID-19 has taken away so much from our lives- our routine, our jobs, our safety, our schools, our plans, and our loved ones. But one thing I have learned from this pandemic is that COVID-19 can’t take away our love."

My grandfather and grandmother refused to be apart from one another. They’re known to be the “forever loves” in our extended family.

Later on, when it’s safe to travel, my family will bring both his and my grandmother’s ashes back to the Philippines…and now they’re together again.

Do you believe love lasts forever?