How Grief Affects Us
When we grieve, emotionally we can feel sad, depressed, lonely, angry, fearful, guilty, overwhelmed, and even happy. Our bodies are not designed to feel every emotion all the time. Therefore, we can take “breaks” from our grief and be happy at times. This is normal. These are just a few of the major emotions we can experience but it does not mean we will experience all of them or that there will not be some that we experience that have not been mentioned. Grief is individual. Putting our emotions on paper through writing, drawing, painting, or photography can be useful for ways of coping with our grief emotions.
Physically, we can have a change in eating and/or sleeping patterns. We can have headaches, stomach aches, and body aches. Grief is a form of stress, and stress reduces our immune system. Therefore, we may become more susceptible to illness such as colds and the flu. Drinking plenty of fluids, getting rest (even if it is not sleep), and exercising are some ways to help with the physical side of grief.
Cognitively we can be impacted by grief, which affects the way we think. Studies have found short-term memory is affected by grief. Making lists of what we need to accomplish throughout the day is a good way to compensate for this memory loss. We can also have a lack of motivation and a lack of concentration. This is one reason why it is recommended not to make any major decisions during our most intense grief. We are not always thinking clearly during this time.
Spiritual, we can begin to question the meaning of life, the purpose of our own life, and take on new perspectives. Some of us may question our faith or grow in our faith. Once again, we are all individuals and each one of us will experience grief in our own unique way.
Socially, we are also impacted by grief. When a loved one dies, we no longer feel like the same person we were when they were alive. Therefore, we don’t always relate to the same people in the same way. This could create a social shift in our friends, family, and acquaintances. We may even go through a period where we don’t want to be social with anyone. This is a good time to allow ourselves to grieve and the opportunity to figure out who we are in life.
These are all normal reaction to grief and not all of us will experience all symptoms. How we experience grief will be determine on who we are, our relationship with our loved one, past grief experiences, and how the death occurred. There is no right or wrong way to grieve but rather healthy and unhealthy.