Before I experienced my father’s sudden death I had never really thought too much about the physical effects of grief and loss. I mean, I knew that losing a loved one would be awful, but I didn’t ever realize the toll it takes on the body. How would I know? It’s not something you can truly understand unless you’ve been through it. And, since the grieving process is different for everyone, it’s possible that not everyone experiences these physical symptoms.
I’ve spoken with a few people who have experienced the same physical effects from grief that I am going through, and hearing that I am not alone (and that it gets better with time) is a relief. I’m writing this post today for everyone grieving. You are not alone and if you are experiencing physical side effects, it will get better, or at least that’s what I’ve heard.
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Physical Effects of Grief
I started seeing a grief counselor and my biggest question was “how long will the physical effects last?” I feel as if it can’t be normal that after a month, I am still feeling this awful physically. I was told that of course, while it differs for everyone, 1-3 months is fairly typical and that if after 3 months I’m not feeling any better then we will discuss other options. But, for now, unfortunately, I’m right where I need to be.
Right where I need to be.
It sure doesn’t feel that way.
The emotional symptoms of grief? It’s easy to push those aside when I need to. I know it’s important to feel everything in order to properly heal, but when I’m trying to get four-year-old and two-year-old twins out the door to drop the four-year-old off at preschool, there’s just no time for me to sit down and cry.
I basically didn’t sleep for the first two weeks after everything happened. I’d get into bed and relive everything and feel as if I couldn’t breathe. I finally started taking 5 MG of Melatonin and it helped tremendously, much to my surprise. After catching up on sleep, I thought for sure I would feel better, but I didn’t. I was still so tired. It didn’t quite rival my twin pregnancy, but it was close! It’s now been 5 weeks and I still take a nap probably at least 5 days a week. I put the kids down for a nap and absolutely collapse on the couch.
No matter how much I sleep, I am still so tired all of the time. This is normal grief and it is awful.
(I would feel this way forever if I could see my dad give my babies raspberries one last time….)
Aches and Pains
When someone grieves, a tremendous amount of stress hormones are produced. When your body is under this much stress, it is normal to feel aches and pains. There have been many days that I’m convinced I’m coming down with something but as soon as I rest I feel a little bit better.
If this is you- the aches and pains that come with grief, I feel you. I am experiencing the same thing, and it truthfully just sucks. I am clinging to what I’ve been told- that it gets better over time. But for now? For now, my body just hurts.
I have experienced both loss of appetite completely and binge eating (hello, Halloween candy…). Both of these have caused my stomach to be a wreck. During the first few weeks, I had a sour stomach. Anything I consumed, even water, gave me an awful metallic taste in my mouth.
Inability to Focus
I feel as if my brain is still processing everything that happened and it isn’t working quite the way it usually does. One day, my children were playing outside and I was attempting to make scrambled eggs for dinner. It was probably the first time I had cooked and we just couldn’t do takeout or cereal another night in a row. Scrambled eggs… simple, right? I kept finding myself in rooms other than the kitchen and I didn’t know what I was doing there.
I had to talk through the steps of making eggs out loud so that I could just get it done. I was seriously repeating to myself “Open the refrigerator. Take out the eggs. Get a bowl. Shut the fridge. Crack the eggs. Don’t leave the kitchen. You can do this. Keep it freaking together.”
It’s incredibly unnerving to be that scattered.
Weakened Immune System
I have also read that your immune system can become weakened from the stress of grief. The first few days after the funeral I did experience extremely swollen glands and I broke out with several cold sores. Stress. Not sleeping, not eating. It takes a toll on your body.
Related: When Grief Gets Physical
How I’m Doing Now
It’s been 5 weeks. There have definitely been days that have been easier, however, I sometimes feel like an imposter, holding a conversation and going about my life as if everything is normal. I wonder if people look at me and realize the inner turmoil that is happening.
I still have moments that are so hard; moments that I double over in pain, such as when I’m hit with the realization that I don’t need to call my dad and ask him what he wants for Christmas (it would have been books. It was always books. I still would have gotten him something corny with his grandchildren on it and he would have shown it to everyone he saw).
There are also times that I worry that I am going through the grieving process too fast. With small children, it’s hard to take the time for myself.
As we approach the holiday season, I know it’s going to be hard, but I am determined to find joy. I know it’s what my dad would want, I know it’s what I deserve, and I know it’s what my children need.
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