We all experience grief at some point in our lives, whether it’s caused by the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a sense of security, grief can have lasting effects on your mind and body. Also called bereavement, grief can be sudden or expected, but a tragic loss is never easy to overcome no matter the circumstance. Grief also negatively impacts your mood and health, and finding natural ways to cope with the loss may benefit you in the long run.
According to Everyday Health, exhaustion is a common symptom that many people experience during the early stages of their grieving process. It’s often physically, emotionally, and mentally draining when you lose someone or something important in your life, which makes it difficult to get back on track after the initial trauma. Fatigue and extreme tiredness can also negatively impact other aspects of your health, like sleep patterns and cognitive functioning.
Grief might increase a person’s susceptibility to illness, as lymphocytes in the immune system can become temporarily suppressed as a result of traumatic loss. When a person grieves, their lymphocytes may not respond in the same way to stimuli, meaning they won’t be as effective in fighting off antigens.
Lack of mental clarity
While experiencing grief, it’s not uncommon for people to struggle with concentration or memory. Whether you’re expectant or blindsided by a sudden loss, the overall stress and emotional sadness makes it difficult to think clearly at times. The Department of Psychology at Southern Illinois University conducted a study that linked poorer memory performance with bereavement, which particularly afflicted men and younger participants.
Depression and loneliness
Grief is a normal process that follows a devastating loss, although it can be especially hard to deal with being alone when a significant other or a close family member is no longer a part of your life. Loneliness may feel debilitating, and sometimes results in depression as a byproduct of complicated grief.
Everyone grieves differently in terms of their emotional and physical behavior, but there are 5 general stages of grief according to the Kübler-Ross model of behavior: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed this model after working with terminally-ill patients, and studying how they responded to death and dying. This thought process originally pertained to the loss of a loved one, and has since been expanded to include a more abstract form of grief, which can arise from any emotional loss and not just a death.
These stages of grief are not linear, and a person may encounter a stage more than once, or skip stages altogether. This also means that reaching acceptance doesn’t mean that you will never feel grief again, as you may experience other stages of the grieving process long after a traumatic loss. For this reason, it’s important to develop healthy coping methods when dealing with grief, making it ultimately easier to move on in the future.
When tragic circumstance leaves you feeling empty, it’s essential to find the proper way to cope with loss and address your grief. You should find natural ways to get yourself back to a normal routine, without trying to avoid your grieving feelings.
Try to cope without drug assistance
Avoid depressants, like alcohol or benzodiazepines, as they may create issues further down the road. These types of substances have a high rate of dependency and addiction, especially for those that are suffering from grief. It’s easy to rely on medication or other alternatives when dealing with loss, but it’s not always as easy to come back from these habits. For this reason, it’s best to use natural coping methods to mitigate the grief and overcome it, rather than trying to speed up the recovery process with mind-altering substances.
Eat well, and take care of yourself
Just as grief affects other aspects of your overall health, it may also contribute to a change in appetite. Some people are more likely to fill the void of a sudden loss by over-eating food, while others may have a decreased appetite. Drastic changes in eating habits may also contribute to other issues like fatigue or mental fogginess, so it’s important to recognize when something is off. If you aren’t consuming food as you normally would, take extra care to ensure that you receive proper calorie intake.
Find a new interest, or return to an old one
Taking up a new hobby has helped many people take their minds off of grieving, and it’s important to explore different options. Find something that works for you, whether it’s meditation or painting, whatever helps you gain a new grasp on life. Frequent exercise is often a good choice for many people who are coping with grief, as it promotes endorphin release and can boost mood and positive thoughts, making the feeling of grief less present.
Try to get some good sleep, but don’t live in your bed
Sleep disturbances are common among bereaved individuals, and may contribute to more negative health effects if not addressed promptly. When grief takes over, it can be hard to fall asleep at night, or challenging to find motivation when it’s time to get out of bed in the morning. Some people turn to over-the-counter sleep aids, which may not be the best option. It’s possible for your body to become dependent on these substances, making it more difficult to naturally fall asleep even after the grief has subsided. Others have found it helpful to enlist the assistance of essential oils for aromatherapy, or perhaps using CBD oil as a way to promote restful sleep. Eating well, staying active, and sticking to a regular sleep schedule can also aid in quality sleep when you are grieving.