The Physical and Emotional Effects of Grief
Grief StepsFor those confronting loss in their lives
The loss of someone close to us can quickly turn our world into an unfamiliar place. Coping with what used to be routine becomes exhausting. The simplest task may seem daunting. Grief affects us not only emotionally, but also physically.
When we can understand how grief affects us, we are better equipped to deal with its grip. While we wish we never had to learn or understand these emotions, being aware of them may offer us comfort in our own times of sorrow.
A common feeling of people dealing with loss, is the feeling of going crazy. The emotions are so strong and intense; those grieving often think they are the only ones to feel that way or that their feelings are wrong. You're not crazy, and you're not alone. By understanding these emotions, we take the first step toward realization and thus our first step on the pathway of healing.
In her book, A Journey Through Grief: Gentle, Specific Help to Get You Through The Most Difficult Stages of Grief, Alla Reneé Bozarth, Ph.D. writes, "While you are grieving, your emotional life may be unpredictable and unstable. You may feel that there are gaps in your remembered experience . You may alternate between depression and euphoria, between wailing rage and passive resignation.... If you've experienced loss and are hurting, it's reasonable that your responses will be unreasonable."
In this article, we examine the levels on which grief affects us. Some grievers report feeling many of these pains early on, while others report experiencing them later and still some report few of these experiences. Your relationship to the loved one will make your individual dance with grief different.
Little things we used to do without thinking, like mailing a letter, can easily become an all day task. Getting a gallon of milk can seem monumental. The thought of getting dressed, driving a car, getting money, paying a cashier, carrying the gallon, driving home-just these thoughts alone, can leave a griever hungry for sleep.
There are many remedies for exhaustion. People may prescribe vitamin combinations, exercise, eating well, staying busy and more. You are in recovery. Give yourself some time to grieve and let the emotions work through you. If you jump to stay busy now, or sidetrack part of the grieving process, it will only resurface down the road. It's all right to be exhausted and to rest. Take your time to heal.
Days of Distraction
Grief Knows No Schedule
There is so little of life we control. Grief's timing is among the uncontrollable. Expect experiences, similar to these, frequently over the first three to six months (the frequency is often based on how close you were to the deceased). Over the course of a year, they will lessen, but they may still happen from time to time.
A Time to Withdraw
Some people spend a relatively short time in this numb state, as short as a few days, while others find it lingers. This is part of how our bodies help to protect us from the overwhelming emotions caused by our loved one's death. We become numb and filter through information as we are able, instead of all at once. The feelings will come back, but it will take time.
Hand-in-hand with exhaustion, performing our day-to-day activities, even if they are ones we used to enjoy, may seem overwhelming. Most people are not able to maintain a variety of interests immediately after this shock. Do not make expectations for yourself to do everything. Instead, look at your commitments and try to minimize. Contact event or group coordinators to let them know that you will be taking some time off, indefinitely.
It's imperative to carefully monitor your behavior during the first year. Do not make impulsive decisions. Do not sell your house, change locations, divorce a partner, etc. Wait until the fog has lifted and you can clearly see the options available to you.
The World Becomes Dreamlike
Days are measured by: one day after he died, two days after he died...all standard concepts fade away. Some have described it as slogging through molasses, a slow motion movie, a feeling like they are not in their body. Perhaps this is nature's way of slowing us down to heal.
Helen Fitzgerald, author of The Mourning Handbook writes, "During this initial period of grief, you will feel a numbness and a disassociation with the world around you. People who are going through this often tell me that they feel as if they are watching a play in which they are but spectators.
Others feel that what has happened is only a bad dream from which they will wake up to find everything back to normal." Know that this is part of the body coping with tragic loss. Our bodies and minds know better than to dump us back into reality after such an intense blow. Therefore we are nudged slowly, step-by-step, back into day-to-day life. Much of the world will remain out of focus, allowing us to gather our bearings one step at a time.