How Grief Can Affect Physiology

Grief is a normal reaction to loss and the experience is natural and reflects the strength and importance of the connection you had with the person you lost. After a loss, there’s no need to worry about whether you’re grieving “correctly” or whether your feelings are “normal”; grief is never a linear process, and it’s different for everyone*.

*Although grief is a complex process, it can become problematic if it interferes with regular, healthy function over a long period of time. It may be necessary to consult with a mental health professional if grief is taking on a primary role in your life.

Our bodies respond to grief in ways that are similar to the response we have to other negative emotions and stressful states.

Emotions are intimately related to our physical conditions. Many strong emotions change our physiology.

To list a few physical symptoms of grief:

  • headaches
  • stomach or intestinal upset
  • difficulty swallowing
  • excessive yawning
  • shortness of breath
  • weakness
  • generalized pain or specific pain in muscles or joints
  • not feeling hungry
  • sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
  • fatigue
  • feeling outside of your body or self
  • difficulty concentrating and sustaining attention

Simply put – physical pain can be a byproduct of emotional pain.

Even though grief is a normal experience, it feels very painful and negative; at times of grief in our lives, it is of prime importance to take care of ourselves. This can include taking care of your body, seeing a therapist or mental health professional, and just spending as much time with others as possible. Being with people you care about and who care about you can help you to feel supported and heard during these challenging times.

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