Grief often comes as an uncontrollable response that people experience after the occurrence of a personal traumatic or painful event, such as the death of a loved one. However, many may misunderstand grief and presume it as a single emotion. Grief isn’t just about crying during the funeral service. It can manifest in various forms, and affect us mentally and physically.
This loss can feel overwhelming and inescapable – and physical symptoms or grief responses can actually show up. It is good to know what it is that you are experiencing, so you can be patient and take care of yourself through the grieving process. Here are some of the physical tell-tell signs of grief and tips on how you can cope.
1. Loss of energy
One of the symptoms of heavy grief can be chronic fatigue or exhaustion. Waking up in the morning can seem like an impossible task. Grievers often experience feelings of fatigue and low energy levels, so even trying to attempt their daily routine can take a toll on their bodies. The stress of grieving impacts more than just your mind – it is often accompanied by stress responses like disrupted sleeping patterns and poor eating habits, which make you feel even weaker physically.
2. Sleeping disorders
To continue from the previous point, energy loss while grieving could be due to sleeping disorders. This can range from extreme insomnia to sleeping in for too many hours at once. Having trouble in falling asleep at night can prevent you from gaining the essential recuperative benefits provided by a good night’s sleep.
The lack of sleep can be visible through their appearance, such as dark circles under the eyes and dull skin. It can also affect your physical coordination, blood pressure and cognitive response. On the other hand, sleeping also offers a “refuge” to help mourners escape the pain of grief temporarily – but long hours of sleep can actually make you feel exhausted and lethargic instead.
3. Discomfort and nervousness
Anxiety and unease from grief can manifest itself in physical ways. For example, if you are noticing that you are constantly pacing back and forth, tapping your fingers, experiencing clammy hands/feet and being fidgety, these may be caused by feelings of restlessness and nervousness.
In addition, the experience of grieving a death can bring about feelings of discomfort or pain in your body, such as migraines or headaches, heaviness in the limbs or overall muscular pain. One study found that mourners have increased risk of suffering from a heart attack following the loss of a loved one.
How to cope
While it is difficult and challenging, grief is a normal and necessary response to the death of a loved one. Most will see less of the physical effects associated with grief over time. If it does not subside in time or it feels unbearable, consult with your healthcare provider – especially for any physical discomfort, illness, digestive problems or worsening of existing chronic health issues.
Reach out to someone close to you for support, so you can feel less lonely from your grief. Take care of yourself and your needs including staying hydrated, eating properly and getting enough exercise.