Loss can wound deeply. It literally changes our minds and, for a time, confuses our senses. It makes no difference if you experienced a sudden tragedy or witness the slow demise of a long-ill loved one. Either way, the pain can bring up a wellspring of emotions that take time to accept, think through, and embrace emotionally as part of the process.
But what about your body through all of this? Does your grief manifest physically? It certainly does.
On the surface, you might notice bodily changes and chalk it up to shock or stress. However, the mind-body connection is powerful and deserving of attention. It’s wise to be mindful and self-compassionate for the sake of total recovery and complete well-being.
Common Physical Signs of Grief
Many bereaved people will complain of the same ailments after a loss. Sleep and nutritional habits are disrupted. Tension in the body can lead to aches and pains. You might experience the following discomfort:
- Digestive disruption
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Sore muscles and cramps
- Chest pain and back pain
- Shortness of breath
- Migraines, neck pain, and tension headaches
Beyond these general symptoms, grief can show up in several ways that can exacerbate anxiety and foster depression if they aren’t addressed and resolved effectively.
Bone tired exhaustion
An extreme sense of tiredness is linked to grief. Sometimes the feeling goes beyond fatigue. You might fight it difficult to move from the couch or get out of your bed. Functioning in a normal way might feel impossible. Your sleep might be so disrupted that it feels like you cannot catch up on your rest. The sluggishness and slow-motion sensibility can make you feel as if you are actually coming down with an illness. All told, you are “bone-tired” and fragile, further driving down your mood and ability to cope.
Compromised cognitive function
Some grieving people call it brain fog. Some say they feel like they are in a dreamy, cotton-thick state of mind. Regardless, try as you might, you may feel simply unable to gain much mental clarity. You may actually feel as if you can’t see clearly. The ability to hear and track conversations with people feels compromised as well. The cognitive impact of loss can even compromise short-term memory. You may find yourself forgetting who you were talking to or what you were doing. As a result, you may find yourself distancing from others instead of drawing close for conversation and support.
Panic attacks and disorientation
Prolonged grief may exacerbate anxiety to the point where your anxiety feels visceral. Fear and worry about an unfamiliar future feel physically scary. So much so, that you might experience choking, nausea, and dizziness. It might take some effort to ground yourself and ride out the feeling. However, you may find yourself unproductively avoiding processing your grief for fear of triggering another panic attack. Excessive fear and worry surrounding the loss can sometimes result in nervous, restless energy that you can’t discharge on your own.
Compromised immunity and cardiac function
When your heart is broken, your actual heart may actually be affected. There is evidence to suggest that grief-stricken people experience a release of stress hormones that can impair normal heart functioning. Unresolved or prolonged stress has a detrimental impact on the heart and immune system. Some people can have vulnerable cardiovascular and immune systems when grieving, leading to increased rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Acute stress can also cause cardiomyopathy, a form of cardiac illness.
Grief Support Can Help You Heal
It’s important to remember that, generally, feeling grief physically is perfectly normal. Grief is upsetting. It hurts. It throws you off balance. Allow yourself to go through your changes. Self-compassion is a big part of getting through your loss.
So is support. The goal is not to get over the loss. The goal is to live with it productively and grow. If you find that the physical signs of grief worsen or stick around for months without lessening at all, it’s time to consider therapy. Taking care of yourself needn’t be your job alone. Aside from returning to your core routines, healthy nutrition, exercise, and fresh air; open your mind and heart to guidance and sharing. All of these soothe the body and soul.
We are here to help you cope with the loss of a loved one. Please read more about grief therapy and contact us soon to start healing your mind and body.