How Grief Affects Your Health?
When you experience a major life change, it’s normal to feel sad. However, if your sadness lasts longer than two months and interferes with daily life, you may be experiencing grief.
Grief is a natural reaction to loss or major life events. It can be triggered by several things, including the loss of a pet, the death of a loved one, divorce, and job loss. Grief is a normal response but can take a toll on health when not handled properly.
The Impacts of Grief On Your Health
Grief can significantly impact your health, both physically and mentally. The impacts may include:
Grief often comes with crying and sobbing, and the emotions can be even stronger, especially when you deeply care for what you lost, whether it be a person, pet, or item. Eventually, after you’ve cried or sobbed for hours, you’ll feel tired and exhausted. But despite that exhaustion, you may still have difficulty getting enough rest or sleep and may continue to cry to sleep. Ultimately, this will result in physical fatigue.
To prevent yourself from reaching this point, you can discover some tips to help comfort yourself when grieving. For instance, if you’ve recently lost a pet, you can find some tips healing after the loss of a pet that may help reduce your grief, such as finding a support system or seeking professional counseling. Or, if you’d like to find a less painful way of grieving that won’t compromise your health, you can express your grief through writing, painting, or scrapbooking.
Insomnia or Hypersomnia (Excessive Sleeping)
As mentioned earlier, some people tend to cry themselves to sleep when they are grieving. This could eventually lead to sleep problems such as insomnia or hypersomnia. Both sleep problems can negatively impact your health and increase your risk of experiencing cognitive dysfunctions, such as trouble concentrating and memory loss. Furthermore, you’ll have difficulty functioning normally or going through your daily routine due to poor sleep quality.
Weight Loss or Gain
Grief can also cause weight changes in a person. When grieving, a person often experiences a loss of appetite, which can result in rapid weight loss. For others, grief may cause them to gain weight due to the emotional and physical drain it causes, which manifests in various ways (e.g., unhealthy coping mechanisms, poor sleep, depression).
Taking measures such as getting enough sleep, following healthy eating habits, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening can help you have a more restful sleep and reduce the impact of grief on the body, particularly on your weight.
Another impact of grief on your health is it triggers digestive problems. When you’re grieving, your body activates its sympathetic nervous system, which can upset your gut health or gastrointestinal tract. As a result, you may experience symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, queasiness, and nausea. Grief may also lead to changes in eating habits, which can cause digestive issues. For instance, a person may binge eat as a coping mechanism, leading to further digestive problems.
Physical Pain and Discomfort
Grieving may also induce other physical pain and discomfort that can impact your health, such as headaches, chest pain, muscle aches, and discomfort in the limbs, neck, back, or joints. The stress of grieving may also weaken your immune system, leading to increased vulnerability to infections and viruses.
People with existing chronic health conditions are much more prone to experience extreme levels of physical pain or illness while grieving. Thus, if you or someone you love is grieving and has a chronic health condition, come to their aid immediately and find ways to ease their grief to reduce their risk of getting sick.
Sadness, Depression, or Anxiety
Besides affecting your physical health, grief can also affect your emotional or mental health. It can cause extreme sadness, anxiety, and depression due to the emotional distress responses grief can trigger in individuals.
Although grief and depression can look and feel similar in many ways, they’re not exactly the same. Grief is a natural response to loss and typically resolves over time, whereas depression is a mental illness that may require treatment. If a person has been grieving for a long time (months or years), it’s already considered complicated grief. In that case, it must be treated by a professional therapist immediately before it completely impacts the person’s overall health.
How to Deal With Grief?
Grief can be difficult to navigate, but remember that it is temporary, and you are certainly not alone. Here are tips for dealing with grief:
Take Your Time
It’s natural to want to get over the loss of someone close as soon as possible, but rushing through the grieving process can lead you down an unhealthy path. Instead of forcing yourself through it or making yourself feel better when you aren’t ready, give yourself permission to take things slow and allow time for healing.
Find Your Support System
Reach out for support from others who understand what you’re going through, may it be your friends, family members, or professionals like psychologists or therapists who specialize in helping people deal with grief.
Pick Up Your Journal
Write down your feelings and thoughts, even if they don’t make sense to anyone else. It’s important to express yourself in a way that feels comfortable for you.
Engaging In Physical Activity
A brisk walk or run may be just what you need to clear your head and reduce stress levels, which will help improve overall health.
Grief is normal, and it can affect your health in different ways. But remember, everyone grieves differently and has different reactions to grief. Some people may have trouble sleeping, while others might experience physical pain and discomfort. Whatever symptom you’re feeling, it’s important to address and work through your grief with appropriate support and resources to mitigate its potential impact on your overall health and well-being.