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Grief and the Body

Grieving is an individual and prolonged event which can take an immense toll on the human body. It is normal for grieving individuals to be focused on their emotions as they learn to live with their loss. It is important that these individuals are monitored for any signs of physical illness or deterioration.

Individuals who are in the grieving process are more susceptible to illness and disease than their peers. When an individual suffers a major loss or shock, the autonomic nervous system goes into stress mode, more commonly known as “flight or fight.” Steroids are produced at higher levels which increase the heart rate and blood pressure. This is a normal response to stress. However, the grief process is not short or brief. When this surge of steroids is prolonged indefinitely, it can diminish one’s health.

While this nervous activity is occurring inside the body, the grieving individual may show signs of lethargy and tiredness. Individuals may be unable to sleep, or have sleep disruption. They may experience shortness of breath, loss of appetite, irritability, and headaches.

Prolonged stress to the nervous system greatly impacts the immune system. It can cause a major decrease in the body’s ability to fight infection. Grieving individuals are more prone to colds and contracting minor illnesses. A grieving individual may find that any pre-existing health conditions they have may go awry. It is important to schedule routine medical checkups during this time.

It is important that grieving individuals have a support system who can step in and urge them to seek medical treatment, if necessary. While each individual grieves in their own way, below is a list of physical conditions which may occur:

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