How Does Grief Affect Our Physical Health?
By: Danielle Cantrell
Grief is a normal part of human existence and we all know that it affects us emotionally in both long term and short term. Sorrow and suffering, although painful, are a natural reaction to loss and affect our emotional well-being, but grief can also affect our physical bodies.
Stress response: Grief triggers a significant stress response in the body. Cortisol(stress hormone) and adrenaline are released. This can lead to physiological changes like increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration causing feelings of tension, restlessness, and irritability. Sleep disturbances: Some people experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, while others may sleep excessively. Sleep disturbances can contribute to fatigue, weakness, difficulties with concentration and can increase stress. Weakened immune system: The stress hormones released during grief can suppress immune function, increasing the risk of illnesses and delaying healing processes.
Appetite and digestive issues: Some individuals may experience a loss of appetite, leading to weight loss, while others may turn to food for comfort, resulting in overeating or unhealthy food choices. Grief can also contribute to digestive problems, such as stomachaches, indigestion, and digestive distress. Physical pain: People often report experiencing aches, headaches, muscle tension, and overall body pain. Fatigue and lack of energy: Grieving requires significant emotional and psychological energy, which can result in long term fatigue. Cardiovascular effects: The stress and emotional upheaval can contribute to elevated blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, and even an increased risk of heart attacks or other cardiovascular events.
We are all responsible for taking care of ourselves after a traumatic event and that doesn’t just include our emotional well being. Since grief affects our physical bodies it can be difficult to care for both sides without awareness.
Hope Hospice is here for you during times of distress, grief and loss. Our staff understand the process of grief in its many stages or forms, and offer chaplain services for 13 months after your loved one has passed. It is imperative that we care for ourselves when we experience stressful events.