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  • Writer's pictureGrief Specialists

The Hidden Toll of Grief: 10 Ways It Can Impact Your Health

Recognising and becoming aware of the impact

10 Ways Grief Can Impact Your Health

Grief can affect us through the death of someone we care about, the end of a significant relationship, change, pet loss, and more. It can leave an indelible mark on our emotional and physical well-being.

While many of us are aware of the emotional rollercoaster that accompanies grief, its impacts on our health can be surprising and far-reaching. Here are ten ways grief can affect your health:

1. Immune System Suppression

Grieving can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses. The stress and emotional turmoil of grief can lower the body’s ability to fight off common colds, flu, and other infections, leaving you feeling physically vulnerable.

2. Cardiovascular Issues

The intense emotional strain of grief can lead to serious heart problems. Known as "broken heart syndrome" or stress-induced cardiomyopathy, this condition mimics the symptoms of a heart attack and can be life-threatening. It's a stark reminder of how deeply our emotions are connected to our physical health.

3. Sleep Disturbances

Grief often disrupts normal sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or restless nights. The inability to sleep well can exacerbate other health issues, creating a vicious cycle of fatigue and emotional distress.

4. Weight Fluctuations

Grief can significantly alter your appetite, leading to unexpected weight loss or gain. Some people may turn to food for comfort, while others might lose interest in eating altogether. These changes in eating habits can have long-term effects on your health.

5. Digestive Problems

The stress and anxiety associated with grief can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Symptoms like nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, and stomachaches are common, as your body reacts to the emotional strain.

6. Fatigue

The emotional and physical demands of grieving can result in persistent tiredness and low energy levels. This pervasive fatigue can make it difficult to carry out daily activities and responsibilities, compounding the sense of loss and helplessness.

7. Chronic Pain

Grief can amplify chronic pain conditions. Those who suffer from headaches, back pain, or joint pain may find that their symptoms worsen during periods of intense grief. This is often due to increased muscle tension and stress.

8. Mental Ill Health

Grief can be a catalyst for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The overwhelming sadness and anxiety can be debilitating, requiring professional intervention to manage effectively.

9. Cognitive Impairment

The brain can struggle under the weight of grief, leading to difficulties with concentration, memory, and decision-making. This cognitive fog can interfere with work, personal relationships, and day-to-day tasks, adding to the stress of the grieving process.

10. Behavioural Changes

In an attempt to cope with grief, some individuals may turn to unhealthy behaviours such as substance abuse, smoking, neglecting personal hygiene and healthcare, gambling, over eating or drinking, reckless or risk-taking behaviour, or spending too much. These behaviours can have serious long-term consequences for physical and mental health.

Recognising and becoming aware of the impact of grief on your health will help you to know when it’s time to get support from friends, family, or professionals who can provide care and guidance. If you recognise any of these health changes in yourself, take a look at our grief specialists who are ready to work through your grief with you.


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