Until you’re forced to experience it and live with it, there is really no way to anticipate what grief feels like. Though most of us expect something of an emotional rollercoaster, the physical (or not-so-emotional) side of grief is something that many of us don’t know to expect until it hits us. Hard. Grief is a natural response to losing someone or something you care about and it’s common for grief to produce physical symptoms. This can be incredibly unsettling if you’re not sure what’s causing the sudden changes in your physical well-being.
The following symptoms are some of the most frequently described by men and women who are grieving: a feeling of hollowness in the stomach, fatigue, aches and pains, headaches, forgetfulness, tightness in the chest or throat, shortness of breath, sensitivity to noise, getting sick more frequently, inability to focus, lack of energy, weight gain, weight loss and bodily exhaustion.
In order to rule out physical illness, it’s always a good idea to speak to your Doctor or another healthcare professional, especially if your worries about your health are causing you to feel anxious. A medical professional can check for any underlying physical issues and help you get support if you need it.
In addition to the physical symptoms listed above, grief can trigger a number of mental health symptoms and issues. These might include anxiety, loneliness and depression. Because the line between grief and a mental health issue may be hard to define, it is important to consult a trusted counsellor or grief support specialist if you are having trouble with grief. Regulating your mind-body connection is integral to navigating your way through loss.
Embracing a healthy routine can be a small first step to lessening some of the physical symptoms of grief. Regular exercise, a nutritious diet and a willingness to rest when the need takes you can help with many of the physical symptoms listed above. Talking about grief with family and friends or a grief support specialist can help you to address your grief directly.
It is important to remember you are not alone. There is no rushing grief – in the same way that the body takes time, energy, attention and self-compassion to physically heal, so does a broken heart. It is essential to recognize that many of these naturally occurring physical symptoms are the direct result of painful emotions and profound loss. It is equally important that you not judge yourself – there is absolutely nothing to be gained by beating yourself up for your very normal, natural and human response to the loss you’ve experienced.