The death of a loved one is a tragic experience. According to CDC statistics, nearly 2.5 million people die in the U.S. each year. Millions of mourning family members and friends experience grief emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually. According to WebMD, these individuals often experience grief stress symptoms like sadness, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and social and spiritual detachment. Over time these symptoms normally ease away and people are able to move forward with their lives. However, sometimes an individual experiences intense sadness known as complicated grief.
According to a study published in a 2009 issue of World Psychiatry, 10 percent of bereaved people experience complicated grief. This disorder occurs when an individual’s feelings of loss and sadness are so overwhelming and long lasting that they have trouble moving passed the incident and resuming their lives. Individuals with complicated grief usually experience similar, typical grief symptoms in the beginning, but as months past their symptoms become worse. Some symptoms of complicated grief include a sudden lack of trust in others, irritability, inability to enjoy life, bitterness, intense longing, and numbness.
The stress of prolonged and intense grief heightens your cortisol (stress) levels, which can take a toll on your physical and mental health. If not treated complicated stress can lead to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse. The stress from grief can also weaken your immune system, increase your blood pressure, increase your heart rate, and lead to major heart health problems. In fact, in a heart attack study published in the American Heart Association journal, 14 percent of 2,000 heart attack survivors had lost someone close to them within the previous six months.
Finding a healthy way to let go of your grief is important for your health and your stress levels. Listed below are healthy options for you to consider.
Know When to Visit a Doctor
Everyone grieves differently and should be allowed the opportunity to grieve in a way that feels natural to them. However, sometimes the mourning symptoms become too severe. Professional help should be considered if you are experiencing complicated grief. If your frequent thoughts of the deceased keep you from properly functioning in your daily life then you are likely experiencing complicated grief. Seek help from a doctor if you feel increasinly numb as time passes or if you are in a constant state of shock.
The treatment you receive for your prolonged or complicated grief can vary. For instance, a study featured in a 2012 issue of Current Psychiatry, found that cognitive-behavioral therapy principles help promote natural grief healing. This psychotherapy treatment comes in two parts: the loss-oriented process and the restoration-oriented process. The loss-oriented process helps you come to terms with your loss. And the restoration process helps you come up with personal goals for the future, encouraging you to work past your grief and into a place of acceptance.
Take Care of Yourself
People who mourn a loss can become overwhelmed by grief and slowly give up caring for themselves. This can definitely impact your health and increase your stress levels. To prevent this remember to take better care of yourself. Physical activity and healthy eating habits are important for relieving anxiety and increasing endorphins. Spending time with loved ones and going to support group meetings can also help you connect with others, relieve tension, and naturally move forward with your life. To learn more about the benefits see: Grief Helps Us Grow.
Stressful trauma can also impact your health in many other ways. Stress cardiomyopathy is a sudden, temporary heart condition that weakens the heart muscle. This condition usually occurs after an emotional or physical stressful event.
Additional Grief Resources
Dr. Hall's Book Signing
A special “thank you” to Dr. Kathleen Hall who spent time in the Batesville booth signing her latest book at the 80th NFDMA Exposition.