Grief Can Make You Sick (Literally). Grief does not follow a set schedule. There are recognizable stages, most famously the five by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Grief is not a tidy process. Most of us move through denial, anger, bargaining, denial, and acceptance out of order and more than once. But universally, grief-stricken individuals are more vulnerable to the health risks of high-stress situations.
According to clinical psychologist Regina Josell, PsyD with the Cleveland Clinic notes, “The stress of living with grief can certainly exacerbate physical symptoms that we may have already been experiencing, and it can trigger some new effects out of the blue.”
The most common physical manifestations of grief include:
- Aches, pains, and muscle tension
- Chest pain or palpitations
- High blood pressure
- Changes in sleep patterns (insomnia, exhaustion, or sleeping too much)
- Dizziness and feeling “out of it”
- Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, mainly when sleeping
- Upset stomach or digestive problems
If your symptoms worsen or linger, visiting your doctor or healthcare provider might be a good idea.
Why Self-Care Is Extra Important When Grieving
Dr. Josell advises grieving individuals to focus on their physical well-being. “Get back to the basics,” she says. “If you think of life as a house, the foundation of your house is taking care of your body. Without a solid base, the rest of the house isn’t going to hold up.”
- Eat healthy and nutritious foods
- Get regular sleep
- Stay hydrated
Here are additional simple ways to give yourself a break and relax.
Take a Walk
Step outside and go for a short walk. Engaging with nature, breathing fresh air, and getting light exercise can help clear your mind and provide a mental break.
Listen to Music
Put on some soothing music or your favorite tunes, and let the melodies relax you. Close your eyes and immerse yourself in the sounds, allowing your mind to unwind.
Disconnect from Screens
Take a break from electronic devices like phones, tablets, and computers. Constant screen time can be mentally exhausting. Disconnecting for a while helps reduce eye strain and allows you to focus on other activities.
Talk to a Professional
Talking can ease the depression and anxiety that often accompany grief. Ask your primary physician for recommendations for licensed mental health counselors near you. Or check out these online therapy and counseling resources.
Read a Book
Pick up a book that interests you and indulge in a good read. Escaping into a different world through literature can be a great way to relax and shift your focus away from everyday stressors.
Engage in Mindful Eating
Instead of rushing through meals, take the time to savor and appreciate each bite. Pay attention to the flavors, textures, and aromas of your food. This mindful approach to eating can also help if you have been skipping meals or overeating, two common side effects of grief.
Practice Mindfulness or Meditation
Find a quiet place, sit comfortably, and focus on the present moment. You can use guided meditation apps or observe your thoughts and sensations without judgment. This practice helps reduce stress and promotes relaxation.
Enjoy a Hobby
Spend some time doing something you enjoy. It could be painting, playing an instrument, gardening, knitting, or any other activity that brings you joy and allows you to unwind.
Deep Breathing Breaks
Take a few minutes each day to focus on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this several times to help calm your mind and relax your body.
Stand and Stretch
Many of us spend a lot of time sitting. Take regular breaks to stand up and stretch your body. Reach your arms overhead, stretch your legs, and gently roll your neck and shoulders. Stretching helps relieve tension and promote blood circulation.
Know You’re Not Alone
Sadly, grief is a journey that awaits us all, whether we lose a spouse, a sibling, or a best friend. Dr. Josell recommends allowing yourself to experience and absorb your feelings fully: “Getting back engaged in your life with chores and work or whatever it can help you recover. But you have to also be gentle with yourself right now.”
Your ShareLife funeral provider is here to support you before, during, and after the service with online resources and community outreach programs.