"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

How the body reacts to grief and what that may mean

April 4, 2024 – Fatigue, headaches, stomach pains and an increased risk of heart disease. Although this stuff may not make you think that Sorrow Many individuals who experience significant loss initially experience these and other physical symptoms.

People may expect the emotional and psychological one-two punch that grief can trigger. Anger, numbness, running around on “autopilot,” and/or feelings of depression after the death of a loved one or close friend should not surprising.

What could be “normal” for one person might be an indication of deeper problems for one more. So how do you realize when it's time to hunt skilled help?

“The answer for me is: If after a period of time you are still impaired in important social roles or suffering from depression,” it is best to seek the advice of knowledgeable, said Kenneth Doka, PhD, senior vp of bereavement programs on the Hospice Foundation of America .

For many individuals, grief subsides over time. However, if you could have physical symptoms of grief, you should definitely prioritize sleep and rest, hydration, regular meals, physical activity, and little or no alcohol and other mind-altering substances, Doka said.

The comparison to a roller coaster might be helpful. Dealing with grief over time means going through multiple ups and downs. If the lows don't come as often or don't last as long, that's a positive sign, said Doka, who can be a professor emeritus on the graduate school on the College of New Rochelle in New York.

One reason to hunt medical help for grief that doesn't improve, generally inside 6 months in adults or 1 12 months in children and adolescents, is “there are good treatment options,” said M. Katherine Shear, MD, professor of Psychiatry and Psychiatry the founding director of the Center for Prolonged Grief on the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City.

“They are simple, short-term and work,” she said.

When the grief doesn't recover

The experience of grief varies from individual to individual, so not everyone goes through it Stages of grief in the identical way. For example, some people sleep an excessive amount of or too little, eat kind of than usual, feel forgetful, or have difficulty concentrating.

If the grief doesn't recover with time, perhaps that is the case persistent grief disorder. When people have this, “grief is the conductor that leads the orchestra. “Basically, grief runs your life,” Shear said.

How the death happened also matters. “The more sudden and unexpected the death, including violent deaths such as suicide, murder, or a sudden accident,” the more severe the grief might be. COVID-19 deaths fall into that category, Shear said.

People with prolonged grief may feel like they live like a robot, doing the whole lot because they should work or care for family, Shear said.

“You never really get the person who died out of your mind. Maybe there are moments when they are distracted, but more or less the loss is still the main reason for their mental performance.”

Beyond the psychological meanings, death often has practical considerations. These might be “very profound,” Shear said. “You can lose the breadwinner of the family. Let's say in a traditional family it is left to the woman to support the family. That adds to the stress.”

“Every loss includes what we call secondary losses,” Doka said. For example, if someone loses a toddler, they're more likely to lose contact with among the parents they interacted with across the child.

And it doesn't necessarily should be the lack of an individual. Some people grieve after losing a job or the death of a pet. “Any loss of someone or something that is important to us or that we care about is going to produce some sort of grief response,” Shear said.

Why grief becomes physical

“Most people understand that a major loss will have an emotional impact on them. “The physical symptoms of grief can take people by surprise,” Liz Kelly, a licensed independent clinical social employee and therapist in private practice within the Washington, D.C. area, said This book is cheaper than therapy: a no-nonsense guide to improving your mental health.

Grief may cause inflammation within the body, which is linked to a better risk of digestive and heart disease. It may increase your heart rate for as much as 6 months and “Broken heart syndrome after the death of a spouse.

Why does grief cause physical symptoms for some people? “Honestly, the best explanation is that your head and brain are physical entities and are connected to the rest of your body,” Shear said.

Doka cited a woman who experienced back pain after her husband died and another woman in the same situation who developed tremors. Grief can also affect the immune system, increasing the risk of infections and illnesses.

“That’s because we’re whole people,” Doka said. Current grief research indicates that individuals can experience emotional reactions starting from anger to relief, cognitive changes, and physical symptoms. “You know, grief affects the whole person.”