The Physical and Mental Effects of Grief
When you first lose someone very important to you, it is often difficult to believe. This person could be a friend, a sister, a parent, or even a grandparent. When it is a parent or grandparent, the loss has a double meaning. As you watch the older members of your family pass on and fade to memory, it can remind you of your mortality.
The Aftermath of Loss
For those who live a considerable distance from their family and are unable to get to the funeral, the loss may be harder to grasp. It may not even seem real. All that you might feel is the numbness of the situation and wonder when you will be able to get home. You are unable to support those closes to the one who passed or lacking in support for yourself. The full extent of the situation may not hit you until you go to a family gathering and your loved one is not there.
For others, you may wonder how you are going to pass their home or places they frequented without crying. You could be reminded every day of your loss. Memories become overwhelming no matter where you look. Neither situation is easy.
The Stages of Grief
Most people experience grief in five stages. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. As much as you want these stages to come and go in a neat and orderly progression only to be experienced once, it rarely works that way. Each stage may come when you least expect it and last for varying amounts of time. You may even experience the same stage multiple times.
These stages can make an individual feel like they have boarded an unstable emotional rollercoaster that never seems to stop. One day you may wake up feeling like you've accepted the loss only to become angry later that day or depressed hours later when a small detail floats back into your memory, releasing a flood gate of other memories and whole new emotions. While this process is difficult, it is normal and to be expected as you cope with your loss.
Engaging in Unhealthy Coping Methods
Losing a loved one is difficult, but you get to choose how you handle your loss. The sadness and depression that are caused by grief can cause you to throw all rational decision-making skills out the window. Heartbreak is real, but it should not be used as an excuse to engage in self-destruction.
Whatever you choose to self-medicate with, be it substances, alcohol, food, or other people, the pain of your loss will still be there and will likely only fade with time. The danger is that the pain has the potential to be amplified depending on what form of coping mechanisms you choose to engage in. Substance abuse, overeating, or undereating can all have negative side effects, which can prolong or worsen grief. When dealing with loss and grief, it is best to find healthy outlets for your emotions to prevent yourself from slipping into a darker place than you may already feel you are. Contact friends and family that will help prevent you from engaging in any form of self-harm or seek professional help if you feel it's necessary.
Physical Repercussions of Grief
When traumatic events happen in our lives, some people don't break down. They don't cry or process their feelings and may act like the loss does not bother them. They are there for everyone else. Later, they may begin experiencing emotions and pain they had not noticed before as their repressed emotions build up and wreak havoc on their bodies.
Grief and the resulting stress can cause physical symptoms like increased blood pressure. In some studies, research has shown that emotional pain lights up the same parts of the brain as physical pain. Have you ever heard of people dying from a broken heart? Yes, intense grief can alter the muscles of the heart to the extent that an individual may feel as if they have a heart attack. Grief can result in other issues such as back pains, headaches, and stiff joints. It can also disrupt your eating habits. You may either not eat, overeat, or eat very rarely.
Grief fatigue is another result. The depression that comes from grief can work one of two ways: either someone will sleep all the time, or they won't sleep at all. The fatigue that comes from grief can cause irritability, poor concentration, and apathy.
What to Do About Grief
Before you fall into unhealthy coping mechanisms, seek help for the sadness you feel. Try to keep yourself busy and keep up with your normal routines. Talk to friends and have them help you make a plan for if you get to a dark place. If you are having a hard time dealing with your loss or feel you would benefit from professional help, seek a counselor or therapist. Grief does not have to define you or your life. You can overcome it and learn to live your life again.
Losing a loved one can be devastating. You may not feel that anyone could understand that pain and heartbreak you are dealing with. You may try to explain to your friends and family the pain you are feeling because of your loss, but there are no words to convey your meaning. It is okay to reach out and ask for help. Sometimes, your friends and family must deal with their grief in their own way and are unable to hold space for you. That is okay. Everyone deals with grief differently. Grief can cause you to put up barriers that will prevent you from returning to anything that once gave you joy, but that there is help and there is hope. Achieve Medical Center offers support for grieving individuals. Achieve also offers a safe space for you to express your feelings in a judgment-free place. Call us at (619) 375-3977.