By Cindy Trillo
Protecting Your Health During A Time Of Grief
Losing a loved one is officially the most stressful life event, according to the renowned Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory. When we are called upon to face a big loss, especially when it is unexpected, it can suddenly make us feel vulnerable and seriously affect our sense of purpose. In addition to facing the pain of loss, we are often called upon to make big changes – sometimes, the change of a job, residence, or even hometown. If you have just lost a partner, family member or close friend, be aware of the effect it can have on your health, and make sure to take proactive steps to keep your body and mind strong, despite the sadness.
What Risks Can Grief Pose For Your Health?
Grieving has a plethora of physiological effects, including changes in blood pressure, stress hormone levels, and even blood clotting. In one study published in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, scientists note that bereavement can also cause altered sleep, immune imbalance, inflammation, and many other alterations, especially in the months after death. If you have lost your partner or a close friend or family member, grief specialists recommend therapy, especially if sleep disturbance becomes the norm for you. This is because poor sleep itself is associated with everything from heart disease to an increased risk of accidents.
Finding Strength In Others
A 2017 University of Oxford study made a finding that human beings can perhaps learn from. When birds lose a flockmate, they come closer together and strengthen the intensity of their relationships. Other studies show that baboons do the same. Studies on humans who have lost loved ones have found that people find solace by gathering together. If you’re sad and need someone to talk to, ask your friends or family members to come over, and don’t be shy to ask for help if you need it – especially if you have children and need to rest or simply enjoy a bit of ‘alone’ time to sort your thoughts.
Natural Stress Relief Methods
Because it’s important to keep stress hormone levels down, consider adopting methods which have been proven in various studies to successfully battle stress. These include mindfulness practices (such as meditation, yoga, and pranayamic or controlled breathing), spending time in nature, and journaling. Embracing the practice of self-compassion is also important: this involves being as kind to oneself as you are others, and avoiding self-judgement at a time when you need all the strength you can muster.
Therapy For Complicated Grief
If you find that your grief is not subsiding or is getting worse as the months go by, see a grief therapist to help you progress and find meaning once again from life. Therapy for complicated grief is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, but it centers on loss, and has specific aims – including helping you understand what complicated grief is, helping you reduce emotions like guilt, and enlightening you about the vital link between how you think and feel about grief and the behaviors you display. The therapist will often give you little goals to fulfil. They may suggest that you make small behavioral changes in an attempt to positively change the way you think and feel about your loss.
If you have just lost someone you love, be aware that it can impact your health. Take steps to stay heart-healthy, by consuming healthy food, trying to stay active, and availing of the support of friends and loved ones. Finally, if you find that grief is overwhelming, seek professional help from a qualified grief therapist, who can help you find a vital sense of purpose.