I'm often asked how grief affects health? What are the physical symptoms and how can we look after ourselves when grieving?
When grieving we are told look after our health, but what is good health?
The best definition I know is a feeling of well being.
You can suffer from a chronic illness but still have days of feeling fine. You can have chronic arthritis or Down's syndrome but still suffer emotional highs and lows. You can be suffering a loss or grieving for a loved one, but you still have good days and bad days.
Looking after your health while you are grieving can help you to have more good days than bad. There is a strong link between physical health and mental health. Look after both and you will be well on the way to recovery.
Good health has many facets to consider:
All these factors play a major role in our health and well being. We cannot afford to neglect any if we wish to remain healthy while grieving a loved one.
Here’s a little bit of advice about each one:
Commons symptoms of grief which can affect your health are insomnia, problems with eating, aches and pains and anxiety. Looking after your physical health will help you to combat some of these symptoms and reduce their severity.
Keeping fit will help reduce anxiety and help you sleep.
Do you walk each day? Do you swim or play golf or bowls. Do you do
gardening or housework? Do you play with the children or grandchildren?
You need to find something to stop you being a couch potato and to keep
you active. See our ideas for activities to help with grief
Also have regular checks with your doctor. At least have a yearly blood test. You need to be fit to cope with your grief.
Here are some physical symptoms you may also experience.
Eating is hard when you are in shock, and when you are grieving. When my husband died, my family and I couldn't face anything much except pumpkin soup. This is easily digested and healthy to start with.
Later when the
shock has subsided, it's easy to get into bad habits as you can't be
bothered to cook healthy food. But do try.
Eat fruit and vegetables. The 5 a day rule is good. Avoid too much sugar and salt.
Eat fish, chicken and pork and red meat only in moderation. Ask your doctor to refer you to a dietician if you are concerned about a weight problem.
Overeating when grieving is also common. It is comfort food eating, especially when feeling lonely and bored. So keep lots of fruit and low calorie snacks around for these moments. Because, yes, there will be many.
Watch your weight. You will find getting out and about is easier when not carrying too much excess. Healthy eating is a major part of this.
Let your friends in. Don’t try to hide. Accept all invitations that you can, even if you don’t feel like making an effort.
We are social beings and friends can be a great source of comfort. Enjoying a social event takes your mind away from all those negative thoughts.
Some people seem to think they should not be seen to be enjoying themselves at a social event, but this is essential to your well being. You will be amazed at finding yourself having a good time, your loved one would have been thrilled at this too.
This is paramount too. You will find after the loss of a partner or family member that finances task the brain. There are always bills to pay, tax to sort out. So do continue to do crosswords each day or do Sudoku. Play bridge if you did before or join a chess or computer club.
Keeping the brain active is a major part of keeping yourself in control and more able to cope.
Look after your emotional health. This is traumatically disrupted during the grieving process. You lose confidence, you are numb, acting on auto pilot, you are lonely, you wonder if you can cope alone. There are roller coaster days when emotions go from very high to very low. You make yourself cope for the rest of the family and friends. You can’t sleep. Read about the emotions of grief here.
All these things will be easier to cope with if you look after the other aspects of your loss. Each day does get easier to cope with and who said life was easy? Keeping other health issues of your life on an even keel does help. Good health is made up of many factors.
Try to focus on positive thoughts rather than negative ones. We can choose what we think, so choose to find positive things to dwell on each day.
Meditation can be very useful for this and re-training the mind to focus on the positive.
Recent research also suggests that meditation is good for the immune system. So it will help you fight off those coughs, colds, aches and pains that so commonly attack you when you are down. You can teach yourself with a book, or join a local group. It'll get you out meeting others. Yoga classes usually include some meditation and relaxation, and that will keep you strong too.
These matters can be a huge problem. It is essential to keep on top of
all the paperwork. Get help from other family members, a solicitor or
an accountant if you can’t manage on your own. But don’t just let it
get out of hand.
People think of health as just a physical problem but this is far from the truth. Don’t ignore the other major issues and your coping mechanisms will benefit. We are all in this battle together and we will survive for our loved ones’ sakes.
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The Magnolia is one of the earth's oldest plants, with a spectacular flower which dates back 95 million years. What a beautiful specimen to commemorate a life.
These trees are grown by the foremost magnolia nursery in the country and they will send a variety most suited to the recipient's climate.
The flowers in spring will bring joy to the bereaved and help to heal their heart.
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