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How grief affects your health

Illustration: Shruti Mathur/The Quint

How Grief Can Affect Your Health

Grief can cause affect a person both physically and emotionally. Find out how grief shows up on your body.

4 min read

We may think of grief as just an emotional experience, but grief can be surprisingly physical. Your heart aches, literally. You can experience fatigue, stomach ache, dehydration, food aversion, sleep disorders and many more symptoms. More and more experts now believe that grief can have powerful effects on your body, some of which can last upto a year.

What causes these physical symptoms?

Research suggests that stress links both the emotional and physical aspects of grief. The part of our brain that is activated by emotional pain, is also activated by physical pain. This overlap means that emotional stress can activate the nervous systems in our body, as easily as physical threats can.

Therefore, when we often experience intense physical distressing when we are grieving, ranging from fatigue, headache, chest pain, nausea and inflammation to indigestion, sleep disorders, reduced immunity and more.

Broken Heart Syndrome

When you are grieving your heart feels heavy and like it is aching. Chances are, it really is, physically aching, because of a condition called ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’. It is a short-term medical condition, where the heart doesn’t pump blood normally. Symptoms of this condition, while often feels similar to a mild heart-attack and includes sudden, intense chest pain, is usually treatable

What is complicated grief?

Researchers have also started talking about ‘complicated grief’, which they says is when feeling that naturally occur with acute grief, end up persisting for much longer than usual and starts interfering with the ability to cope and accept the loss. This can further increase the risk of physical and mental problems caused to the human body, when one is grieving.

Most of us who experience grief, may also experience some form of sadness, in bouts during the period. While this may feel like depression, researchers now say that depression is not a normal part of grief, but a complication caused by it. Sadness, if not depression, eventually gets better naturally, with time. Depression is that all pervasive, persistent grief that doesn’t get better over time and often hinders day to day functioning. If you are feeling depressed or have any of the symptoms, do seek help.

Loss of a loved one, end of a relationship even a loss of job, can often leave us feeling without any control over our life or our future. This is anxiety and it is a normal part of grief. The panic and excessive worry can often lead to a loss of sleep, appetite and fatigue. If you feel like this and think it interferes with your normal functioning and routine, do reach out to someone for help.

Researchers advice that the best way to cope with grief, is to lean into and accept the emotions that you maybe feeling. Grief is a natural response to loss and it usually fades away with time, but do watch out for signs that may show that you need medical advice or help.

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