Citizen Two: Grief?
Citizen One: Its the nineteenth century. Thats the kind of shit that happened then.
Sometimes, life sucks. People go bankrupt. Plans go awry. People we love die. Terrible things happen to people. And sometimes the poor, unfortunate people to whom terrible things happen just... stop. Death by Despair is what happens when someone loses the will to live, and as a result, just dies. There's rarely a readily apparent medical cause for it. Just a broken heart, or a broken soul for those cases not caused by the loss of a loved one.
Truth in Television, to an extent, in that someone who doesn't care whether he lives or dies may start neglecting his health and slip into a downward spiral leading to death. Also, there is a phenomenon known as "Broken Heart Syndrome" where sudden, excessive stress can weaken the cardiac muscle, which can lead to heart attacks and acute heart failure. It's rare, but not impossible. That said, No Real Life Examples, Please! We really don't need a mess of gushing and "Poor X!" gossip.
Compare Angst Coma
As a Death Trope, many Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- Shou Tucker's first chimera dies this way by ceasing to eat and eventually dying of starvation. This makes more sense when it's later revealed that this chimera was his wife.
- Also, it's implied that this is what happened to Ed and Al's mother Trisha. Yes, it's true, she got sick, but it was stated that she was just never the same after Hohenheim left, and that the lack of self-care between being a single mother and her broken heart weakened her enough to die from an illness she probably should have recovered from.
- It could also be said that this is what almost happened to Riza. When Lust made the Badass Boast that she had killed Roy Mustang, Riza went on a brief Roaring Rampage of Revenge until she ran out of bullets... then slumped to the ground, weeping and waiting to be killed. She only recovered the will to live when she realized that Roy had survived.
- In Dragon Ball Z the stress of his people being slaughtered by Frieza and co. causes this to happen to the Grand Elder of Planet Namek. To be fair, he was extremely old and had been dying slowly for quite a while, so it amounted to dying a matter of minutes before he would have died 'naturally'. It nonetheless became a critical plot point because Planet Namek's Dragon Balls disappear when he dies. Luckily, when Kami and Popo use Earth's Dragon Balls to resurrect everyone Frieza's forces murdered, this brings back the Elder for the amount of time his life was shortened by...
- Tomoya Okazaki of CLANNAD ~After Story~. When his daughter, his new reason to live after Nagisa's death, dies in his arms, he collapses in the snow, presumably dead from a broken heart. But he got better. Really.
- Parodied in Mahou Sensei Negima! with Emily Sevensheep's mother. After she hears about her idol Nagi's death, we see her in her apparent death bed, telling her daughter that, just once, she wanted to see Nagi in person... then we cut to the doctor sweatdropping and saying that she only has a cold.
- Subverted/Averted as all hell in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, much to the (non) consternation of Itoshiki, a man so steeped in despair that he will Wangst himself to suicide over the most outlandish theories and observations.
- The Anti-Spiral tried to make humanity suffer this in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It didn't work.
- This is what killed Allen Schezar's mother in The Vision of Escaflowne after she lost both her husband Leon (disappeared without a trace) and daughter Selena (kidnapped). Allen is deeply angry at his father for that. It's later explained that Mrs. Schezar's depression became worse when she learned that Leon was Dead All Along.
- Kaede Fuyou from SHUFFLE! was close to this as a young girl, after her mother's death in an accident. Rin had to lie to her by putting the blame on himself so she'd recover the will to live.
- Almost happens to Liechtenstein in Axis Powers Hetalia, after World War I destroys her lands and kills a good part of her people. Fortunately, Switzerland finds her when she's about to give in and let herself die, and takes her in into his home (symbolizing the union between both countries, which still survives to this day).
- In [C] - The Money and Soul of Possibility, Entres who get bankrupt lose their future and would usually commit suicide afterwards.
- Barely averted in Bellemere's backstory in One Piece. She had fought in a terrible battle that destroyed a coastal city and was just waiting for her almost sure demise... then she saw little Nojiko carrying baby Nami in her arms and regained the will to live, taking the little girls in.
- While it hasn't actually happened so far, the succubi of Rosario + Vampire can literally die of heartbreak. Considering that Kurumu is in love with Tsukune who's in love with Moka, this can potentially happen to her as well.
- Literally occurs in Puella Magi Madoka Magica in the new world in the endings, a Magical Girl's magic is somewhat based on her level of hope. So if they run out of magic (or hope) they die, and it's speculated that they might ascend to Goddess!Madoka's Plane of Existence. This is a step up from the original timeline, where they turn into the very Eldritch Abominations that they fight.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena was close to this after her parents died but thankfully her prince (or Touga) saves her.
- In S Cryed, Ayase Terada goes out this way when she learns that her brother is dead (through a wireless heart monitor on her wrist). It might be justified, since she went through a process to refine her power which is said to drastically shorten lifespan in some cases, but aside from some scarring looks perfectly healthy. Kazuma, who she was fighting, didn't even get a chance to land a hit.
- Barely averted in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's by Ruka and invoked by Aporia. In this duel the hero's lives are connected to their life points and vice versa. When Ruka thinks her twin is dead, she falls to her knees, clutching her heart, as her life points ebb away... (They get better.)
- In episode 10 of Space Patrol Luluco, Nova tears out and shatters Luluco's Aflutter Jewel (which is the physical embodiment of her love for him), causing her to die of a broken heart. Amazingly, she comes back to life after regaining her hope.
- Heavily implied to be the fates of the protagonists of Girls' Last Tour. After a perilous journey through their After the End world, they reach the top of their Layered Metropolis and find...nothing. The two eat their last bit of food, go to sleep and are heavily implied to pass on during their slumber from the reveal that their journey was ultimately pointless.
- Fables: According to Bigby, his mother died of a broken heart after his father abandoned the family.
- Satsuki's death of leukemia in Sunshine is implied in part to be this after Ryuuko had died in the previous story, Raindrops. The story was even tagged as such.
- 4's death in Fly, Fly, Little Wing, Fly, after 3 was killed by the Cat Beast.
- In the Kung Fu Panda fic The Vow, this happens to Lord Shen's parents when there isn't any more news of the son they had to banish for committing mass murder being alive somewhere.
- The Bridge: Queen Amatheia's daughters were taken away by invaders and enslaved. After Amatheia used powerful magic to set up The Shroud to prevent future invasions, she passed away from both her exhaustion and her depression over the loss of her daughters.
- In Loving Vincent, Pere Tanguy says this happened to Theo: after Vincent's death, he lost his will to live.
- This is what took Chef Gusteau in Ratatouille after getting his rating shot down to four stars by Anton Ego. This may come across as an overreaction on his part to much of the audience, but keep in mind that high cuisine is highly competitive. Anything less than the maximum rating will destroy a fancy restaurant. See the story of Bernard Loiseau.
- Evelyn in Incredibles 2 implies that this was how her mother died.
- Possibly Illanka in House of Frankenstein after she shoots Lawrence Talbot with a silver bullet after he attacks her as the Wolf Man. She shows no signs of injury afterward, and since she can move, her neck was clearly not broken, but she dies on top of Larry's corpse.
- In Imitation of Life, Delilah the black housekeeper weakens and dies of nothing more than despair after her passing-white daughter, Peola, cuts Delilah out of her life so she can continue to pass as white.
- In Jumanji, Alan learns that after he disappeared his father gave up everything he had to try to find him. His eventual death of a broken heart likely wasn't helped by rumors that he himself had murdered Alan and hidden the body.
- Contact with the "ghosts" of J-Horror film Kairo (Pulse) results in this. The ghosts don't even do anything, they're just there, but coming face to face with one results in the victim realizing that, even in death, everyone is completely and utterly alone. The soul-crushing despair from this revelation causes the victim to simply shrink away, their will to live fading, until they literally become nothing but an eerie stain of soot on the wall.
- Lisa, from Letter from an Unknown Woman almost immediately dies after the death of her son, and finding out that her one true love never knew who she was.
- Possibly George in A Single Man. Eight months after the death of Jim, his lover of sixteen years, George has been so ground down by grief (which he can't outwardly show, because it's the 1960s) that he decides to commit suicide... which turns out to be an unnecessary decision, since he dies of a heart attack instead, having been shown throughout the film to be nursing a chronic heart condition. Diabolus ex Machina, or stress-induced cardiomyopathy?
- Padme in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith suffered this according to the medbot attending her. Watching her husband turn evil and everything she worked for come crashing down around her as she witnesses the rise of a totalitarian government was likely too much for her although it's unclear how much her husband choking her had to do with it. Fans have their theories of other possible causes for Padme's death.
- Word of God confirms that Padme died due to having a damaged trachea from being choked by Vader and that the medbots were too incompetent to notice although the stress of childbirth and the aforementioned "everything she worked for crashing down around her"didn't help.
- In Written on the Wind, Marylee's father dies after finding out from one of his daughter's sexual partners that she had a habit of instigating such encounters.
- The Hunger Games: Katniss attempts this during her confinement after Prim's death and her subsequent assassination of Coin. It doesn't work.
- Milly in The Wings of the Dove is ill throughout the book, but eventually dies due to a broken heart.
- In Anne Mcaffrey's Dragonflight, we learn that, when a rider dies, his/her dragon goes Between (a bitter cold, blackness through which dragons teleport), never to return. Also, dragon riders whose dragons die can become this.
- In With a Tangled Skein, we see this is apparently the reason people die after Atropos cuts their life's thread.
- In the novel The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham, after Walter dies of cholera, Kitty says that he really died of a broken heart.
- In most versions of Beauty and the Beast, the Beast nearly dies of despair when Beauty fails to come back from her visit home at the time she promised and he thinks she's abandoned him. Only her belated arrival and Anguished Declaration of Love save his life (and turn him human again).
- In Madame d'Aulnoy's Fairy Tale The Yellow Dwarf, Toutebelle dies of a broken heart after the titular villain murders her fiance.
- In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Physiologist's Wife, the eponymous physiologist dies of this in the end, much to the disbelief of those examining the body.
- After the dog Old Dan dies of injuries in Where the Red Fern Grows, his companion Little Ann gradually wastes away (her owner literally has to pry her jaws open to force her to eat something) and joins him in death.
- In World War Z some people are so traumatized by the horrors and hopelessness sometimes just go to sleep... and never wake up.
- The eponymous Phantom dies of a broken heart in The Phantom of the Opera.
- Zhuge Liang in Romance of the Three Kingdoms has the ability to cause this. Several other people die of this naturally as well.
- Not a few cases in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium (The Lord of the Rings, etc.), both Elven and Human. Specifically notable as a way of death for the immortal Elves. Elven spirits are noted to have a much greater influence over their physical bodies, so if they have the appropriate willpower and determination they can live and pull through almost anything; however it also works the other way round - if they lose their hope and will to live their bodies just give out. In The Silmarillion there almost seems to be a tradition for the men to be killed and their wives dying of despair shortly afterwards; this happening to Rian, Gloredhel, and Lúthien (although Lúthien's case is a little unique).
- In The Bishop's Heir, when Caulay MacArdry learns of Dhugal's capture, he clutches at his heart and dies within seconds. The news was the last straw for Caulay's already failing health.
- In More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the story Cold As Clay involved this, when a farmhand "wastes away" after his employer moves his daughter in order to keep the two apart. The daughter is never told about this, however, which is why she isn't surprised when the farmhand arrives at her door to take her home... some time after his death.
- Jean Valjean dies like this in Les Misérables, after he is separated from his adopted daughter.
- Iseult of Tristan and Iseult fame doesn't live long past Tristan's death.
- In The Wheel of Time people who lose the ability to channel do this as well as Warders with dead Aes Sedai who aren't killed trying to avenge them. Warders who outlive their bonded Aes Sedai and can't avenge their deaths (if the Aes Sedai wasn't killed by someone, or died in an accident, or someone else gets there first, etc.) more become Death Seekers By Despair — they'll continuously throw themselves at Shadowspawn and dangerous problems until they finally get killed.
- Catherine Earnshaw-Linton of Wuthering Heights — although the literal cause is premature childbirth while suffering from Brain Fever, her despair is what causes those two things. Nellie Dean personally believes Heathcliff died of this too, and was not Driven to Suicide — she sees his refusal to eat or sleep for days as a "result" of his illness rather than a cause.
- In American Gods, a funeral director observes that an elderly man whose wife just dies will most likely be dead himself in about eight months. In his experience, elderly women who lose their husbands are usually able to live on, but elderly men can't handle it and will stop taking care of themselves and lose the will to live.
- In The Cardinal of the Kremlin, after both of Colonel Filitov's sons died young, one while fighting counterrevolutionaries and one due to his tank suffering a critical defect, his wife faded away. The loss of his entire family is what inspired him to start working for the CIA, becoming the title character.
- Don Quixote:
- Parodied by the "resurrection" of Altisidora, a girl who claims to love Don Quixote and invokes this trope (its really a prank). Don Quixote and Sancho didn't believe it for a minute (this was at XVI century). When Don Quixote rejects her again:
Hearing this, Altisidora, with a show of anger and agitation, exclaimed, "God's life! Don Stockfish, soul of a mortar, stone of a date, more obstinate and obdurate than a clown asked a favour when he has his mind made up, if I fall upon you I'll tear your eyes out! Do you fancy, Don Vanquished, Don Cudgelled, that I died for your sake? All that you have seen to-night has been make-believe; I'm not the woman to let the black of my nail suffer for such a camel, much less die!"
"That I can well believe," said Sancho; "for all that about lovers pining to death is absurd; they may talk of it, but as for doing it-Judas may believe that!"
- Forced to return to his hometown and lay down his arms by his defeat to the Knight of the White Moon (really his friend Sansón Carrasco), Don Quijote falls seriously ill. His friends believe he is dying of despair over his defeat, but unexpectedly the sickness snaps him out of his delusion, and he expresses relief that he has regained his sanity before dying.
- Parodied by the "resurrection" of Altisidora, a girl who claims to love Don Quixote and invokes this trope (its really a prank). Don Quixote and Sancho didn't believe it for a minute (this was at XVI century). When Don Quixote rejects her again:
- Happens to the Aboriginal boy in Walkabout. He believes the girl's fear of him is because she's seen the spirit of Death on him (in fact, she's just afraid because she's been taught Aboriginals are savages and never actually met one before). Because he thinks death is coming for him, he then more or less wills himself to die. More precisely, he catches the flu from the girl's brother, but has neither the inherited resistance nor the will to fight it. (The movie is more explicitly Death by Despair: he hangs himself after the failure of his courtship dance.)
- Occurs at the end of The Pigman, where the eponymous character (having suffered a very long series of sad events) has a heart attack and dies after finding out that his best friend Bobo died.
- In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, Freckles's conviction that he is unworthy of Angel is killing him after his injuries.
- In And Then There Were None, General Macarthur's wife Leslie died of a broken heart after her lover, Arthur Richmond, falls victim to her husband's Uriah Gambit in World War I.
- Anna Karenina subverts this, along with along with many other common tropes of romance novels. Anna does go into a period of fever and delusion when her adultery is exposed, but when her husband manages to forgive her and her lover, she recovers. In a further subversion, however, she and her lover are both so ashamed by his magnanimity in contrast to their own behaviour that the latter (unsuccessfully) attempts suicide, and the former still can't bear to be in her husband's presence. She later commits suicide for real, when she realises that even though she got what she wanted, her life still wasn't the fairytale romance she anticipated.
- An old legend is told in Galaxy of Fear; in it a witch boasted that she was a Necromancer until people killed her son and challenged her to raise him. Instead she cursed them before dying of despair.
- Ford's father died from despair over the fact he [Ford] never learnt to say his real name in The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. Like everything else in the series, it's Played for Laughs.
- The Captain of HMS Ulysses in the novel of the same title, the first published work by Alastair MacLean of The Guns of Navarone fame, suffers a variant of this. Soon after passing over his own personal Despair Event Horizon as his increasingly battered command limps towards the relative safety of Russia along with the dwindling remains of the convoy she and her crew have been struggling to protect, he's found on deck in nothing but his pyjamas and bare feet, horribly stricken by frostbite as a result. As the narration puts it (paraphrased from memory):
The formal cause of death was "post-operative shock and exposure", but in truth, the captain died because he didn't want to live anymore.
- Common in the works of V. C. Andrews, notably Cathy in the Flowers in the Attic series, who dies of a broken heart after Chris is killed in a car accident like their father. In the Landry Series, Gabrielle's Death by Childbirth is suggested to have happened because of her despair at having to give up another of her children.
- One of the short stories in Wild Animals I Have Known deals with a wolf pack which is all but wiped out. A young girl manages to capture the alpha male and keeps him chained to a doghouse, but he refuses to eat even when presented with fresh raw meat (luckily for her, he's so depressed about the loss of his mate and pack that he also refuses to fight when she comes near him and even permits her to touch him). He eventually succumbs to his own grief.
- Happens to Zilpah in The Red Tent, after she witnesses Jacob destroying and urinating on the last of her household idols. She becomes both physically and mentally ill for a few hours or days, then just up and dies. It was said that her body broke into many pieces.
- Wolf Hall
- Implied to be the cause of Cardinal Wolsey's sudden decline and death. After an extended and humiliating fall from Henry VIII's favor, he was exiled to York. Being ordered back on the way there with charges of treason and probable execution was the final shock that finished him.
- When one of Anne's "lovers" claims he might die of this, Cromwell reflects bitterly that it's not that easy—he wanted to die after the deaths of his wife, his daughters, and Wolsey, but his body kept on breathing anyway because "God takes your heart of flesh and replaces it with a heart of stone."
- The Saga of the Faroe Islanders: When top villain Thrand hears that his nephews Sigurd, Thord and Gaut have all been killed in the Final Battle, he dies of grief. According to the internal timeline, he must be beyond 80 years of age at the time.
- Michael Henchard, the title character of The Mayor of Casterbridge, leaves the town where he was once mayor and a successful businessman for the last time after his stepdaughter Elizabeth-Jane rebukes him for lying to her about her true paternity, then lying to her real father, Richard Newson, about whether or not she was still alive. He loses the will to live, and lingers on for a few weeks in an abandoned house found for him by a former employee before dying alone and miserable. His last wishes are for a Lonely Funeral and for everyone to forget him.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince presents Merope Gaunt, who is a Stalker with a Crush to a man whom she eventually tricks into drinking a Love Potion in order to become married to him and whom she rapes into pregnancy with their son. She eventually stops giving him the Love Potion, either due to her believing he has fallen in love for her in return or in the hope that he'd remain for their son's sake. He runs away from her instead, which causes her such a deep depression she loses all of her will to live, ending with her dying soon after giving birth at an orphanage.
- Star Trek: The Original Series:
- Larry Marvick in the episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?".
- A Red Shirt in "The Naked Time" tried to commit suicide, was stopped before he seriously hurt himself, then died anyway because he couldn't summon the will to fight off the minor infection of the wound.
- Depending on how you interpret his comment that he would "neither [live long nor prosper]", Spock (during "Amok Time") may have expected to die of despair over apparently murdering Kirk. He certainly seemed to have lost his will to live.
- Seen in Scrubs in episode "My House", when a patient whose husband had just passed was suffering from "Broken Heart Syndrome" (see above), though she didn't die from it. This happens to lead to one of the show's all-time great Imagine Spots: "Get me a box of kittens, STAT!"
- Kamen Rider examples:
- One way to interpret Fumine Sonozaki/Shroud's death on Kamen Rider Double.
- The Phantoms of Kamen Rider Wizard are born this way. Despair given birth to Phantoms from within a Gates (humans with high magic potential). The Phantoms then burst out of those Gates, killing them in the process.
- Almost happens in Kamen Rider Fourze where Jiro Iseki, who has just woken from a coma, loses his will to live and becomes close to death after he learns that Ryusei killed Gentaro and collaborated with Aries Zodiart to save him. The trope is ultimately averted when he does recover.
- In an episode of Six Feet Under, a woman died and her husband died a few days later, sitting beside her casket at Fisher & Sons.
- In series two of Downton Abbey, Lavinia develops Spanish flu before her wedding to Matthew, forcing them to cancel. While Matthew thinks she is in bed, she witnesses him and Mary kiss, with Matthew explaining that Violet asked him to marry Mary. Lavinia tries to convince him to go back to Mary, but then her condition inexplicably worsens and she dies suddenly, leading Matthew to conclude that she died of a broken heart because she believed he did not love her.
- This is how the Doctor deals with the Cybermen in the new series of Doctor Who. After their "upgrade", an emotional inhibitor is installed to keep them from freaking out or caring about how much it hurts to be unwillingly roboticized. Shutting off the inhibitor causes the Cybermen to go into What Have I Become?-mode, which overloads their systems and causes their heads to blow up.
Cybercontroller/Lumic: What have you DONE?!
The Doctor: I gave them back their souls! They can see what you've done, Lumic! AND IT'S KILLING THEM!
- The subject of "W" by Van Der Graaf Generator. A man is described as being twice as unhappy as he's been in his life and wakes up one morning to find that he's dead.
- The Wallflowers' "One Headlight" has the protagonist talk about losing a friend to exactly this.
That's when they say I lost my only friend.Well they said she died easy of a broken heart disease.
- In possibly the most depressing song ever (according to Tom Reynold's book I Hate Myself And I Want To Die), the infant protagonist in Harry Chapin's "The Shortest Story" dies of despair after days of starvation and neglect.
It is twenty days todayMama does not hold me anymoreI open my mouth but I am too weak to cryAbove me a bird slowly crawls across the skyWhy is there nothing now to do but die?
- The Bible
- In Genesis, the chapter immediately after the Binding of Isaac concerns the death of his mother Sarah. The actual text doesn't link the two events, but The Talmud says that after Sarah was informed by an angel that Isaac was to be sacrificed, she became so overcome with grief that she died.
- Some argue that a broken heart, in addition to crucifixion, are responsible for the death of Jesus.
- Norse Mythology:
- According to Gesta Danorum, aged king Gorm the Old of Denmark died from grief after he was told that his favourite son Knut had been killed.
- One of the regular "callers" on The Coodabeen Champions was Digger, and aged fan of the Collingwood Magpies. On one show, Tony asks him if there is a Mrs. Digger, and he reveals that she died "In 1970, around this time of year (late September), about halfway through the last quarter, trying to ram a can of Fanta down her throat." - the implication being that it was at the 1970 Grand Final, where Carlton staged a Miracle Rally to defeat Collingwood. "They told me it was asphyxiation, Tony, on the can of Fanta, but I knew. I knew it was the 'pies letting us down what had done it."
- Elves in Dungeons & Dragons who have formed an empathic bond with another person can fall to the depths of despair when that person dies. The shock and grief of the bond breaking can sometimes kill the elf in question, and vice-versa. Likewise, if confined away from nature itself and other elves for a long time, elves can simply literally lose all hope and force their own death.
- In Role Master, critical hits on the "depression damage" table can cause the target to assume a fetal position on the floor and literally lose the will to live, dying by despair.
- The Villain Iron Legacy from Sentinels of the Multiverse can cause this with the Demoralizing Presence card. Not only does it increase the damage Iron Legacy deals by 1, but at the end of each of his turns, all of the hero targets deal 1 Psychic damage to themselves. It's especially dangerous if any hero has damage buffs up (such as Legacy, Naturalist, Chrono-Ranger, and Knyfe).
- Durthu from Warhammer Fantasy has weaponised his own despair and self-loathing, projecting it as a missile attack called "The Lamentations of Despair". The sheer force of his grief kills anyone who comes into contact with them.
- Lots of characters in Shakespeare, especially:
- Romeo and Juliet contains two examples, one played straight and one subverted. Lady Montague is said to have died of despair after she learned about Romeo's banishment. Also, Juliet is believed to have died of grief over the death of her cousin Tybalt. Subverted because Juliet isn't dead, and wasn't grieving that much over Tybalt anyway... though despair does drive her to kill herself when Romeo kicks it.
- Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra after he realizes betraying Antony was too much for him. Manages a long monologue before he dies (and there's also an opera of the play, where he sings an aria in good ol' operatic tradition).
- John of Gaunt in Richard II, when his son is sent into exile.
- Falstaff in Henry V after Hal breaks off contact with him. Arguably the most poignant death in the play, despite its being the offstage death of a character who never appears in this play, as we hear Mistress Quickly describing his death. Perhaps it had to be unseen to be believed - if we actually watched Falstaff die, we would probably assume he was faking again, as in Henry IV Part 1
- Prince Mamilius in The Winter's Tale after his mother is accused of adultery and thrown into prison.
- King Lear, when he eventually realises that Cordelia is dead.
- Isolde of Tristan and Isolde, after a long monologue.
- Elsa of Brabant in Lohengrin. She's tricked by her Wicked Stepmother into learning her beloved husband Lohengrin's true name and revealing his origins — which means that he must leave and never return. Once Lohengrin does this and takes off, releasing Elsa's younger brother from the spell that had turned him into a swan in the process , Elsa's grief and guilt reach a breaking point and she drops dead.
- Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, most likely. She dies without a physical reason. Tannhäuser himself does this too when he sees Elisabeth dead.
- Also happens to Gudrune in The Ring of the Nibelung, who collapses when Siegfried dies and Hagen kills Gunther.
- Rachel Jackson in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, after her bigamy is made public by Congress. As quoted above, play even calls out how ridiculous such a death sounds.
- In The Yeomen of the Guard, this may or may not happen to Jack Point after he loses Elsie to Fairfax for good.
- It could be argued this is how Elphaba's and Nessa's father dies in Wicked. According to Nessa, he was "embarrassed to death".
- In Waterfall, after Noppon leaves Katherine and marries his childhood friend Pree instead, Katherine succumbs to the same heart condition that befell her mother, in other words, a literal broken heart. Similar to Tristan & Iseult, Katherine's maidservant Nuan summons Noppon to her deathbed, where they confess their love for each other before she dies.
- Minnie 'Stronie' Goodsoup from The Curse of Monkey Island died of a broken heart after her fiancee (revealed to be LeChuck) left her at the altar.
- Oswald from Odin Sphere lets himself be carted off to the underworld by a Halja (a grim reaper-type servant of the Queen of the Dead) after his mistaken conclusion that Gwendolyn doesn't feel anything for him and that he is imprisoning her in their marriage causes him to lose the will to live. Fortunately he's saved when Gwendolyn, who really does love him, invades the Underworld and rescues him.
- In The Sims 2, Sim children who are left alive, after their parents die, eventually die due to despair, even if all of their other needs are addressed.
- In Final Fantasy X it is heavily implied that Tidus' mother died this way after Jecht vanished, and that this is one of many reasons that Tidus hates his father so much.
- In Team Fortress 2, you can inflict this on your enemies: The Jarate weapon causes anyone hit by it to "lose the will to live" and take more damage from you and your allies' weapons. Played entirely for laughs- this is TF2.
- The Apathy Syndrome victims in Persona 3 suffer from this after Shadows from humanity's Collective Unconscious feed on their sense of "self." All they do is shamble around and vegetate, doing nothing but wait to die, while letting out the occasional moan if you try to talk to them. In the Bad Ending of the game, Nyx inflicts this upon everyone and everything on Earth, including the main characters.
- Persona 5 has Despair as an ailment— the afflicted skips turns and loses SP. If not cured within two of the afflicted member's actions, they will succumb to this trope on their third action.
- The Lord of the Rings Online, possibly uniquely among fantasy MMORPGs, replaces the admittedly conceptually illogical "hit points" most games use with "morale points." The general idea seems to be that the only way to die is literally from despair, though this despair is most commonly caused by the pain of being surrounded by enemies and stabbed repeatedly. Given the legendarium of Tolkien, mentioned in the Literature section of this very page, it's actually harder to argue against this being canonical than you'd think.
- King Endrin Aeducan goes through this in Dragon Age: Origins when his eldest son is murdered, his middle child (the player if the Dwarf Noble origin is chosen) exiled and possibly killed, and his youngest is behind it all. This becomes a major problem that the player has to deal with, as his line of succession is now in question.
- The Dalish Elf Warden's mother is implied to have done this as well as Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence shortly after giving birth to her child shortly after her husband was killed by humans. She simply "vanished into the forest".
- Ib herself, during the final scene of the 'Welcome to the World of Guertena' ending, after soaring over the Despair Event Horizon, she seems awfully still...
- The Chao from the Sonic Adventure series will go into a grey cocoon and die if it was treated badly during most of its life.
- Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War gives this as the demise of Tailtiu, a seemingly bright and cheerful young mage in the first generation, by having her survive the horrific Battle of Belhalla which took the lives of many of her friends and possible husband, separated with her son and then enduring physical and mental abuse by her completely evil sister-in-law to protect her infant daughter, all these taking a great toll to her own psyche that she degraded to a sorrowful woman that there is no day without her crying until at one point she succumbed to illness after losing her will to live.
- In one of the endings for Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Sicily sacrifices her life for her older brother Laharl (much like how their mother did when he was a child). The narration states that Laharl was so overcome with grief that he simply waited at the spot where she disappeared until he eventually died.
- At the very end of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, your defendant is in hospital while you establish the verdict. Get a Not Guilty verdict, and she lives. Vote guilty and the jury is hung, and she dies before court reconvenes.
- Corpse Party features The Darkening, which takes over a person completely when they lose all hope. While they don't technically die, they're made into mindless slaves of the Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl, and can never leave Heavenly Host, so it's as good as death for them. Notably, this is arguably a better option than dying, as death causes your spirit to feel the pain you felt at death for all eternity.
- In the beta of Katawa Shoujo Shizune ends up horribly depressed after Misha's death. She ends up in the hospital due to dehydration and in the Bad End (which occurs if Hisao leaves the hospital) you learn she removed her IV and she ended up dying of dehydration.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, Beauty sees the Beast down and is convinced that it's this, and agrees to marry him.
- In Sinfest, Slick's problem in Hell is the loss of the will to live.
- In Homestuck, this possibly happens to Dirk in the Game Over timeline. After finding the session destroyed and his friends dead, and believing himself to blame, he apparently allows himself to be dissolved into the cloud of glitches that's slowly overcoming the remains of the session. Only a possible example because It's ambiguous whether this actually "killed" him (though, given the dead-end nature of the timeline, it's arguably more depressing to imagine that he survived), as well as whether his glitching out was partly caused by his "soul-splintering" powers and triggered by the despair he was feeling (thus fitting this trope), or just an accident that happened to conveniently mirror his state of mind for symbolic purposes.
- Ink City: while not explicitly played out, Word of Mundane gave this as the reason for Misery's departure: the horrifying fashion in which her best friend departed from the City and the Awful Truths he unintentionally shared with her beforehand caused her so much grief that she curled up and wasted away.
- After realizing the painful truth that he's a waste of space whose life has gone nowhere, The Nostalgia Critic slumps over his chair to eventually die alone. Luckily, he then gets some confidence back with an awesome song.
- Raku from Nyan~ Neko Sugar Girls literally died of a broken heart due to a failed Love Confession. Her crush Hitoshi had entered a homosexual relationship with his kidnapper.
- Parodied in The Simpsons:
Abe Simpson: They may say that she died from a bursted ventricle, but I know she really died of a broken heart.
Reverend Lovejoy: He worked at the United Strut and Bracing Works as a molder's boy, until he was replaced by a Molder-Matic and died.
- In "Curse of the Flying Hellfish", this is implied to be the cause of Asa Phelps' death:
- South Park:
- Almost happens to Kyle when Cartman receives $1,000,000 from his grandma upon her death and buys a failing amusement park with it, and keeps it all for himself, having the time of his life and gaining national fame. This causes Kyle to have a hemorrhoid in his ass that is slowly killing him because he loses faith in God and the will to live. But at the end of the episode, when a series of hardships causes Cartman to lose his park and be utterly miserable, Kyle's hemorrhoid vanishes and he instantly becomes better, realizing that there is a God.
- Kenny's only death in season sixteen was the result of terminal boredom induced by crappy ziplining and horseriding experiences topped off with a tedious boat trip.
- Parodied in "Stanley's Cup", where the Littlest Cancer Patient's health is tied to the fate of his peewee hockey team. When he sees his team of kindergartners get brutally beaten by a professional team on live television, he immediately dies with his final words being "No hope... no hope...".
- Robot Chicken mocks Padme's death in the Revenge of the Sith with Dr. Ball, M.D.
"She's lost the will to live?! What is your degree in, poetry?!"
- The Legend of Korra: A criminal in Republic City's past, specifically Yakone, died a broken man after his son Noatak (Amon as he would later be called) ran away, thus robbing him of his petty revenge against Aang.