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Tue., Nov. 1, 2011, 12:01 p.m.

The knot of grief in your chest

When my dad died in 1996, my heart literally hurt in a physical way.  I kept saying to people: "It's like a scarf with a huge knot tied right at my heart."

Now, I know it was a classic symptom of grief. From our column today:

Jackie Kleinjans, director of bereavement services at Hospice of North Idaho, says the physical symptoms of grief can also mimic heart problems. “People say, ‘I’m having heart palpitations. I have this heaviness in the chest and shortness of breath,’ ” she says.“They often put their hand to their chest and say that’s where the heaviness is manifesting itself. There’s a lot of truth and wisdom in that phrase ‘heartache.’ ”

In rare instances, this heartache is an actual physical response to grief known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, also called broken heart syndrome.

Has your heart ever hurt from grief?

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Spokesman-Review features writer Rebecca Nappi, along with writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., discuss here issues facing aging boomers, seniors and those experiencing serious illness, dying, death and other forms of loss.