Grief is a natural human response to any kind of loss. You are inundated with overwhelming feelings. Though people often think of it as an emotional response, it can affect you physically too. It can cause physical, cognitive, social as well as behavioural changes in the grieving person. You may grieve over the loss of a loved one due to death. But unemployment, health disorders or the end of a relationship can also cause this emotion. Guilt is another reason why a person might be grieving.
In fact, according to a joint study by researchers in Rice University and Northwestern University, people who have recently lost a spouse are more likely to have sleep disturbances that aggravate inflammation in the body. This increases the risk of cardiovascular illness and even death. This study was published in Psychosomatic Medicine.
GUILT AND GRIEF GO HAND IN HAND
Guilt makes us feel doubt, shame, insecurity, failure, blame and anxiety. Sometimes, our guilt may also be the reason why we are grieving. Or, we may be grieving because we feel so guilty. This is especially true if we are grieving the death of a loved one. you may somehow feel guilty that maybe you have not done enough to save the person. The end of a relationship can also make you feel guilty. You may blame yourself for it and this adds to your grief. In many situations, guilt and grief go hand in hand.
In fact, guilt can complicate your grief. It can hold you back from getting over your grief and moving on. It affects the way we think and act. Your guilt may make you look back and assign meaning to your pain. This will not allow you to process your grief naturally and you may slide into depression and other related disorders.
GRIEVING CAN BE BAD FOR HEALTH
Experts and healthcare professionals say that grief can be acute, or it can be persistent. Acute grief is very common and you can come out of this in about 6 to 12 months. This is usually due to the loss of a loved one. But persistent grief lasts for more than 12 months. This happens when you just cannot accept the loss. You keep thinking about it. This can be made worse by feelings of guilt, in which case it becomes complicated grief.
When you grieve, your body is under chronic stress. This stress can cause many physical and emotional disorders, which, if not resolved in time, can lead to serious health problems. Let us look at some of the most common disorders that persistent grief can cause.
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This affects the way you feel, think and behave. If you don't get help immediately, it can put you at risk of many health disorders. Depression is known to cause inflammation, weight gain or loss, chronic pain, fatigue, loss of libido, diarrhoea or constipation and heart diseases. If you are depressed, your body will secrete cortisol, the stress hormone. Increased levels of cortisol over a long period of time can cause memory problems.
Insomnia can increase blood pressure and cause congestive heart failure. It can also put a person at risk of diabetes and other health disorders.
A grieving person is often angry, and this is especially true if the element of guilt is also present. Besides harming relationships, it can also cause high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders and digestive problems.
Grief can often lead to anxiety if you are not able to deal with it properly. And, this can cause pain, nausea, fatigue and disorientation. If ignored, it can go on to cause heart diseases, chronic respiratory disorders and gastrointestinal problems.
The loss of a loved one can cause grief, depression, and anger. Sometimes, it can also induce a heart attack. According to a study, almost 2,000 heart-attack survivors said that their heart attacks happened soon after the death of a family member or close friend than at other times. But the good news is that the risk of having a heart attack declines as grief subsides. This study was published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
Researchers say that the stress that comes with grief can increase blood pressure and heart rate, raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol, constrict blood vessels and disrupt cholesterol-filled plaques that line arteries. Any one of these changes raises the risk of heart attack.
A FEW TIPS TO COPE WITH GRIEF
A study published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, says that a specially designed 8-week mind-body programme can help reduce stress that comes from acute grieving.
According to researchers, yoga, tai chi, or qigong can reverse the effects of stress and anxiety on a molecular level. You should focus on maintaining a well-balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruits and lean proteins. Also stay hydrated. Following a good sleep hygiene is very important when you are grieving.
Going to bed at regular hours, following a bedtime routine, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening helps with more restful sleep, say researchers. A stroll outdoors can help ease depression, agitation and sorrow related to grief.
When you grieve, you often ignore your health. But it is important that you don't. Taking on a new responsibility can help to take your mind away from your grief. Being social also helps. It is really difficult to meet people when you are grieving. But make the effort. Talk to others. Cry. This will help you to cope with your grief.