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Grief: Effects on Body and Mind

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

Grief and loss are very personal; yet, there are things we can all be mindful of.


"Her stomach hurt; she was upset. She didn't feel like crying as they pulled up to the grave site. Instead, she felt like throwing up. She couldn't stomach the thought of burying her Papa."



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Body


I read an interesting blog recently about six effects of grief of the body. One of the things mentioned was digestive issues. How many times have you experienced not being able to eat when nervous, anxious, or depressed? How many of you have experience having runny bowel movements when you are worried about a speech, game, performance, or at the thought of getting in front of a crowd? Who among you has thrown up or became nauseated when your stress was too high? Grief and loss react this way in the body as we as humans grapple with ways to move with and through feelings. And, it comes and goes, like waves, being more prominent at times and weaker at other times.


I recently lost my dad; he died May 3, 2021. I had thought about how I would feel, what I would do, how I would "handle" it when that day came. I prepared myself by telling my dad everything I wanted to tell him, each time I saw him in the last couple of years. And yet, all the best preparation in the world did not stop feelings from moving around on my insides. I'm human after all, and he was my dad.


I am aware enough to know that if I am more tired that usual, less energetic, less interested in eating, or some other shift in my body, that I need to first look at the grief that I am carrying. Carrying the grief, instead of looking at it, feeling it, and allowing it to move me to tears (or silence or stillness), will weigh me down. It will also cause physical gut problems, headaches, heart aches and other pains, and going on like that for long periods of time will contribute to long standing problems.


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Mind


Our thoughts can really be destructive if we let them. Our thoughts contribute to feeling worse than we already feel when we let negative thoughts stream through our minds. The mind can create issues and scenarios that do not really exist, but they make us feel a certain way none-the-less. Even benign rattling of things that need to get done in our minds can create avoidance of underlying feelings. Learning to "shut off" or "shut-up" the mind for brief time periods, even moments, allows us to notice what we feel or notice what exists. Often, we will notice the sadness, or notice relief, or whatever we feel. We will notice without the influence of our minds. Then, we can allow the feelings to be felt and to move on. This is important in healing.


Our thoughts can also be helpful, once we allow ourselves to learn to notice what is going on - once we get in touch with how we feel. There are many ways to learn to stop the thoughts temporarily allowing you to make space to notice and be mindful. Some people swear by a mind clearing meditation. Some people take a walk in nature with no agenda other than to look around. Some will sit still while focusing on a mantra to give the mind something to do while it stops the bombardment of other thoughts. Yoga helps some and exercise helps others, but the most important thing is to be intentional regarding not letting your mind run rampant like a chicken with its head cut off.


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Please contact this writer at thecenterofloveandacceptance.org if you would like help with grief and loss, or read a previous blog of mine discussing things to consider when choosing a therapist.

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