August 30th is National Grief Awareness Day. This is a great time to shine a light on what grief is and some of the effects of loss.
Grief is defined by the Webster dictionary as “a deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death to which a bond or affection was formed.” It is also defined as “a cause of suffering, a trouble or an unfortunate outcome: a disaster.”
No matter how you define it, most people have experienced the effects of grief. These effects are complicated and ripple out into many areas of our life. Experiencing deep grief can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health.
According to Dr. Malin as cited in health.harvard.edu, grieving takes a toll on the body in the form of stress. “That affects the whole body and all organ systems, and especially the immune system,” Dr. Malin says. Evidence suggests that immune cell function falls and inflammatory responses rise in people who are grieving. That may be why people often get sick more often and use more health care resources during this period.”
Intense sadness is normal for a person experiencing a severe loss, but some people suffer from depressive symptoms for months and even years afterwards. These symptoms include:
loss of appetite
persistent feelings of worthlessness
marked mental and physical sluggishness
“Dr. Malin says people who are depressed often isolate themselves and withdraw from social connections, and they often stop taking care of themselves properly. “You’re not as interested in life. You fall down on the job, miss doctor appointments, stop exercising, stop eating properly. All of these things put your health at risk,” she explains.”
It may seem impossible to focus on your health when it’s difficult to simply breath. You may have to go through the motions at first. This may feel like you are faking it, but that’s ok. You may not be hungry but force yourself to eat 3 healthy meals a day. You may not feel like getting out of bed but force yourself to take a walk for just 5 minutes and you can slowly increase the time you exercise.
During this time, you probably won't feel like talking or being with anyone. Relationships and social connections are crucial. You may not feel strong enough to even pray. Let your friends and family members pray for you and walk alongside side you during this difficult time.
You are not alone. If you feel particularly overwhelmed by grief, you can text or call the 988 Lifeline to get connected with a trained support staff who may be able to help you navigate through the pain.