Recently I read a blog post by my favorite woman in the grief community. She is brilliant, amazing, and incredible and her message is spot on for grief recovery. But, when I read her recent blog it made me sad to learn that she is slowly killing herself and she has no idea it’s her grief that’s poisoning her.
Her posts are always beautifully written, and this one openly shared her thoughts on how aging had affected her health and she listed a couple of her most urgent ailments. My heart sunk. For one thing she is younger than me and I’m nowhere near ready to admit that I’m old!!!
Grief vs Aging
What really hit me hard was that the conditions she described were ailments of a lack of self-care – not age. How do I know? Well, after 20+ years in the health & wellness industry and teaching a college level course on Exercise and the Older Adult… I’m pretty well versed on what happens to our bodies when we age and how our health changes as a result. Sadly, her conditions are not aging; they are conditions that would benefit from improved health & wellness choices.
Unlike aging , self care (self love) is 100% in our control!
Grief & Health Problems
Grief makes you feel like you are aging faster than you did before grief struck . It makes you feel like you’ve run over by a truck-daily! Your body aches like you have the flu. You can’t eat or you eat too much. You can’t sleep or you sleep too much. Your thyroid shuts down. You gain weight or lose it. You are more susceptible to colds, your immune function is weak. In short you have no zest for life…
A study involving women who had beenwidowed and was published in ‘Pyschiatric Research’ in 1994 stated, “This study suggests a relationship between impaired immune function and depression in women experiencing the stress of bereavement.”
Another study from 2004 published in the Psychological Bulletin concludes “Chronic stressors (such as loss) were associated with suppression of both cellular and hormonal measures”.
Grief, bereavement, loss all require that we increase and/or improve the level of self care we give ourselves.
If we don’t take care of our health we risk, not just the continued grief for the person we’ve lost, but the subsequent grief of loss of health and quality of life.
Focus On What You Can Control
Grief is a diagnoses that require you to care for your health in the same way you would a disease. It is life-long, unpredictable, and chronic…. But you have 100% control over how it manifests itself in your health.
Not taking care of yourself after loss is akin to being a diabetic and eating lunch at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory every day.
For almost two years after Brandon died I felt like I had an auto-immune disorder. I was fatigued, achy, and forgetful, I gained weight, my sleep was horrible… and so was my self-care. Once I started to focus on my food, sleep and exercise things began to turn around.
Healthy Grief Recovery is not about weight loss, before & after pictures or what you look like on the outside. It’s about loving yourself from the inside out and repairing your broken heart the same way I cared for my patients when I worked in Cardiac Rehab… with compassion and changes in lifestyle.
As for the incredible woman who posted about how aging was tough – I am sending her lots of big love and good juju. I suspect she has poured so much of her heart & soul into healing others that she has forgotten about healing herself.
Her message is so needed in the world I hope she puts her health first and continuing her work in this field. I would dearly miss her wisdom and insight.
If you need some inspiration to get started check out my post on the 5 Best Yoga Poses for Grief
No it’s your turn. Where can you turn up the self-care? What could you do today that would improve your health and how your manage your grief? Tell me in the comments below!
You are so right. I feel 20 years older since our son died and the numerous aches and pains are so tough to bear. I have no energy and the little I do have goes very quickly. I am scattered in my thoughts and don’t see projects through. I thought it was all in my head. Now I understand more. That the grieving I am doing is part of this whole thing. I am starting to make small changes. Saying NO to extra commitments, taking Grief Yoga, just taking time to sit and watch TV without feeling guilty. It has only been 6 months and I hope it will get better.
Well said – I remember many of those same feelings. You are doing an amazing job with your grief and seeking out great support with the Grief Yoga and down time. LOVE IT! 🙂 Paula
Hi there! Thank you for writing this about self care and the effects of grief on the body. However, I wish you’d taken the time to make the distinction that what you’re saying isn’t that letting yourself feel your grief is dangerous. Letting it stay trapped inside of you is what’s dangerous and toxic. Finding a way to allow the feelings to arise and be fully felt so they can pass and no longer be stored in the tissues in your body is imperative if you want to avoid the toxicity of which you speak. I’m a Mind Body Life Coach and have been through much of this myself and have seen many others go through it as well. My father sent this to me to back up his belief that allowing yourself to feel grief is dangerous. I think not allowing yourself to feel it is dangerous, because it keeps you stuck and makes you sick. I would love to see you write about this, about the importance of fully feeling the grief so it doesn’t stay stuck inside your body. Thank you! -Rose
Rose – I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I think our messages are similar. 🙂 I too believe in the importance of feeling our grief, but I think my angle is a bit different. In order for us to fully embrace the process we must consciously care for our body with healthy food, exercise, proper sleep, etc, so that we are healthy enough to embrace the grief process. On some level, you and I are talking about the chicken or the egg debate. Thank you again for commenting, it’s wonderful to get different perspectives. Best wishes to you in your coaching practice. Paula
Love is the great healer. And our beliefs can keep us locked in grief. To free ourselves we need to work through limiting beliefs and allow love in.
Wow! This is me I lost my son 5 years ago in that time I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, had a lite heart attack, and basically went down hill physically I’ve lost 50 lbs and gained it back many time either I can’t eat or I binge on junk. I will sleep 14 hours or not sleep for 48! I know if I don’t make some changes I’m going to die, but the truth is I think I’m trying to, not consciously but somewhere underneath. I don’t know it’s all so jumbled up. He left a son he’s 6.now and he’s my life so u see I know better but can’t seem to do anything about it! He keeps me here but not enough to make a lasting commitment to this world. Maybe someday.
Rae, Thank you for commenting. I am so sorry about your loss and the resulting health problems. I will be running the 28 Day Grief Detox soon, be sure you’ve signed up for my emails so you can join us. I would love to support you! *hugs*
Words so true! Due to me loosing both of my children I now have Polycythemia, a blood disorder out of no where! I have to go to a cancer center now and have infusions to keep my red blood cells normal. No one in my entire family has this one. The best part of what you preach is how to take care of your self when this happens. I only wish I found out about your program sooner. Since I found you, I have been eating healthier, doing yoga and sleeping sounder…
Thanks so much for yet another insightful article! I could not agree more with you on the subject of self love/self care being SO important after the loss of a loved one!
After losing my 23 yr old son Alex 9 months ago I had to be strong for everyone around me – my other children, my ex-husband (who was doing it tough) etc. It came to a point 3-4 months after that I was tired (read EXHAUSTED). I was tired of being strong, tired of supporting everyone, tired of being sad, tired of crying at the drop of a hat, tired of struggling through everyday and trying to keep on keeping on – and tired of being sick all the time! It was then that I turned to self care! I instinctively knew that if I didn’t start looking after ME that it was not going to end well 🙁 I decided to “get my Zen on!” I started to meditate, eat more healthily and get moving again. I learnt that NO is a complete sentence and that I need not feel guilty about using the word, and I learnt to listen to my body and its needs. It has certainly turned my life around and I feel that I am getting the upper hand on my health again!
I urge your readers to take heed of your words and start practicing a little Self Lovin’ themselves <3