Walking the path of death with a loved one and going through the grieving process is not just an emotional experience. Grief affects the entire body. Below are ways our body reacts to grief and stress.
- Heart – traumatic experiences/stresses can lead to an excess of adrenaline and cortisol being released. This can cause Takotsubo’s cardiomyopathy, also known as stress induced cardiomyopathy. The symptoms can mimic a heart attack (chest pain, shortness of breath). In most cases Takosubo’s cardiomyopathy can be reversed and a full recovery can happen. If you feel symptoms of a heart attack call 911 and communicate to your provider about your recent loss.
- Immune System – stress lowers your immune system. Several studies have shown that people who recently had a loved one die also experienced an uptick in colds and the flu. To help prevent this do your best to eat healthy, exercise, and get the sleep you need.
- Alcohol and Substance Abuse – as a way of dealing with grief some will turn to alcohol or other substances. If you or a loved one has increased their alcohol intake or is taking non prescribed medications (or prescribed medicines in an unsafe manner) please get medical help or search out substance support groups. Alcoholics Anonymous is an excellent source of information.
- Physical Pain – stress can affect our joints and overall body. Arthritis can increase, pain from old injuries can reappear, and we can just overall feel sluggish and not well while experiencing grief. It is important to communicate to your doctor any symptoms you have to rule out any underlying issues.
- Depression – this is an obvious one but also one that is ignored. Of course you are sad, but when does it cross the line into depression? If your sleeping and eating habits have changed, things that brought you joy in the past no longer please you, or you are avoiding social settings please make an appointment with your doctor. You may need an antidepressant to help you through this rough patch. You may want to seek out a therapist or support group. GriefShare.org is an excellent source for locating support groups in your area.
Pay attention to your overall health, how your body feels, your sleeping and eating habits. If something is out of place or odd for you, follow up with your doctor. We tend to let things go after the death of loved one. Be conscious of your own health – eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, talk about your feelings, and any physical symptoms that pop should not be ignored.