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Grief and Your Health

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

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Grief occurs when there is a loss. While the death of a loved one is at the top of the list of things people grieve over, it is not the only cause of grief. Grief can also be caused by the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, and the loss of something that will be missed.

Whatever the loss, people experience physical and mental changes throughout their bodies. They might dismiss the changes and contribute them to something else, but most of the time grief is definitely the reason.

It has been documented that people experience aches, pains, and some illnesses while going through the grieving process. Below is an alphabetical list of ways grief is linked to emotional and physical discomfort.

grief-and-your-health

Aches and Pains

During a period of grief, people might have joint pain in places they never had them before. It could be back pain, neck pain, leg pain, stiffness, and any place where there is a joint. People might also experience unexplained headaches. Those aches, pains, and headaches are the results of muscle tension caused by stress hormones the body releases when a person is grieving.

Those discomforts are more noticeable at the onset of grief. The situation will eventually get better over time. If not, see your primary physician.

Anxiety

Grief makes people feel anxious. They might be having a good day, and anxiety seems to happen out of the blue for no apparent reason. However, anxiety is the body's response to grief.

People might become anxious when they think about their own mortality as well as losing someone or something else. Know that some anxiety is normal and expected. However, if anxiety begins to affect the quality of your life, then seek medical advice from your primary physician or from a mental health professional.

Digestion

Grief alters people's eating pattern in one or two ways. Either they lose their appetite and will stop eating, or they will binge eat hoping to find comfort from food. Neither way is healthy in the long run because both ways will affect the digestive system.

A digestive system is out of order when there are stomach issues in the form of cramps, constipation, or diarrhea.

Fatigue

Even though you have done nothing physical, you might find yourself tired and lack of energy. The best remedy for fatigue is to move around even when you don't feel like it. You can take a short walk or do some light exercises.

The Heart

Grief affects the heart in several ways. Heart rates can remain high for as long as six months after experiencing grief, and even longer if a person already had heart issues before the grieving process began.

In the first days of grief, the chances of having a heart attack are higher than normal. Chances may begin to decrease during the first week, but chances may stay high for the entire first month. Pay attention to chest pain, stomach pain, cold sweats, dizziness, and nausea.

There is such as thing as a "broken heart syndrome." Grief may be so intense that it stops blood from being pumped to one section of the heart. That leads to a sharp pain in the chest along and shortness of breath. A person might think he is having a heart attack because of emotional stress on the heart. In most cases, a "broken heart syndrome" is only temporary that lasts only for a few days. However, it could last for weeks or months, depending on what else is going on in a person's life.

Immune System

Grief can and does affect the immune system. It compromises the immune system in people with underlying conditions that include arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, liver disease, lung disease, and issues with the heart.

At the time of grief, people are more susceptible to colds, flu, and other illnesses. If that is happening to you, see your doctor or mental health professional.

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Inflammation

Some studies show that grief is linked to inflammation in the body. Long-term grief causes serious inflammation.

Inflammation occurs when tissues in the body swell. Healthy eating and regular exercise can help people who experience inflammation.

grief-and-your-health

Sleep

Grief affects most people's sleeping patterns. Either they will not get enough sleep, or they will sleep too much hoping to forget the reason for the event that caused them to grieve.

There are some simple things to do to treat yourself to a good night's sleep. Take a hot bath before going to bed, read a good book, do breathing exercises, and try to go to bed around the same time every night.

Stress

Grief can cause stress, and stress can interfere with the grieving process. It is because of cortisol, the stress hormone. Your body releases more cortisol than usual when you are grieving. It gets into your bloodstream up to six months after a person begins to grieve.

When an excessive amount of cortisol stays in the bloodstream over a long period of time, there is a greater chance of high blood pressure and heart disease. During times of grief, make sure you check your blood pressure often. If you are already on blood pressure medicine, be sure to take it as prescribed by your doctor.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Sometimes when people are grieving, they engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms. Some of them might be harmful to their health. Grieving people may turn to cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs. Long-term usage may have adverse effects on the brain, liver, and lungs.

Contact a licensed professional for help if you find yourself indulging in unhealthy coping mechanisms. You will be provided with healthier coping choices.

References

How Grief Can Affect Your Health

When Loss Hurts: 6 Physical Effects of Grief

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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