Losing someone to heart disease

Patient and loved one holding hands

Saying goodbye to a loved one is something we'll all go through at some point in our lives, and we're here to help.

How will I feel after losing someone to heart disease?  

When someone close to you dies, it’s hard to know what your reaction will be or how you’ll cope. How you feel and react will be completely unique to you. Although there are some common aspects of grieving, there is no ‘normal’ reaction. 

Emotionally, you may feel an overwhelming sense of sadness or despair. After a while, these feelings will fade and be replaced with a tender sadness that goes with loss and remembrance. 

You may also experience some or all of the following emotions: 

  • anger
  • fear and anxiety
  • guilt
  • loneliness
  • acceptance and hope

It’s normal to feel these emotions as you grieve. However, if you are experiencing feelings of desolation and despair that do not seem to be lifting and are affecting your ability to cope with day-to-day life, then you may be depressed. Speak to your GP if you are feeling this way.

Emotional distress can often trigger physical reactions. Physical reactions are short-term and should pass as you begin to come to terms with your loss. If you are concerned or if they persist, contact your GP. 

Physical reactions can include: 

  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • poor concentration
  • lack of energy
  • stomach upsets
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches
  • loss of hair
  • palpitations
  • exhaustion
  • lowered resistance to infections

How do I cope with losing a loved one? 

Talking to someone about your feelings can help you cope with your grief and loss. If you don’t feel like talking to family or friends, you could chat with your GP about getting some support or counselling.

Some people who die from a heart condition can do so suddenly and unexpectedly, which can be distressing. It’s natural to wonder why and how it could have happened, particularly if they were young or seemed healthy. If someone in your family has died from an inherited heart condition, call our Genetic Information Service for support and advice on what to do next. 

Find me help

The charity Cruse Bereavement Care may offer services in your area, including bereavement support and counselling. Our Counselling page lists other places you can contact for help if you cannot access their services in your area.

Other things that may help you cope are:  

  • accepting help from others
  • taking time off work
  • seeing family and friends and keeping up your social life
  • acknowledging your feelings rather than fighting them

What should I do when someone dies? 

There’s a lot to think about and do when you lose someone close to you so don’t be afraid to ask for help with the practical and financial matters. There are also many organisations and contacts that can offer support and advice through this difficult time.

In the first five days, it is important to:

  • notify the family doctor
  • register the death at the registrar’s office (within eight days in Scotland)
  • contact a funeral director to begin funeral arrangements

There are often many of forms to be completed, and it’s helpful to have the following information (as appropriate) about the person who has died:

  • date and place of birth
  • date of marriage or civil partnership
  • National Insurance number
  • NHS number
  • Child benefit number
  • Tax reference number

How can I help my child who’s lost a loved one?

Find out how Small Creature, our resource for bereaved children, can help you find the best way to help your child grieve the loss of a loved one. For further support, you can contact the childhood bereavement charity Winston’s Wish, which offers guidance to bereaved children and their families.