Physical Effects of Grief

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Information and natural remedies for the treatment of grief.

Tess Thompson

Grieving is a perfectly normal response to the trauma of losing a loved one. Although the emotional distress within oneself depends largely on the culture and personality of an individual, the body undergoes a range of physical symptoms while one grieves. These can broadly be classified as those caused by changes that occur in the central nervous system, immune system, and those that affect physical and emotional health.

Grief is instrumental in setting off the natural stress response in the body. Stress responses are characterized by a state of extra alertness in the autonomic nervous system, caused by the release of steroid hormones that prepare the body for action. Fatigue, general lack of energy, and an increase in pulse and blood pressure in response to increased nervous activity are common.

The mental state of sorrow over a loss causes a fall in the activity of lymphocytes in white blood cells. Since white blood cells are an important component of the body’s self-defense mechanism, the situation may lead to opportunistic infections like colds and other minor infections. People who actually die due to excessive grief fall prey to exactly these increased risks of aggravation of pre-existing conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Aggravation of pain may also be seen in people already suffering from painful and chronic health problems like arthritis.

Psychological problems associated with intense grief may lead to mild depression and anxiety. In some extreme cases, grief can also lead to clinical depression. The mind and the body are intricately linked to each other. Excessive anxiety and depression can lead to a lack of appetite and sleep, hot flushes and a fast pulse rate.

The turmoil that one feels can lead to serious consequences if the grief is not resolved through a proper grief process. Reckless attempts to find shortcut solutions often leads to drug abuse and alcoholism. While prescription drugs do help, their effect is temporary, and once their effect wears off, the sadness and sorrow bounces back with greater intensity. Moreover, the temporary relief provided by antidepressants often leads to addiction, which can be extremely dangerous to overall health.

You need to be your own doctor for a permanent resolution of grief. However, this does not suggest self-medication. It implies that you need to find consolation within yourself by accepting that life is a challenge, and adverse situations need to be overcome in a healthy manner, including proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Natural remedies can greatly assist in supporting mood and facing these challenges.

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