Grief can cause changes in your heart, immune system, and sleep patterns. But support is available to help you cope during this time.
Far from just sadness, grief can cause physical and mental changes and symptoms. Understanding how grief may affect you and observing changes in your body may help you manage your grief.
For many, the symptoms will go away as you process your grief, but the grieving process looks different for everyone.
Experiencing loss can be difficult, but you’re not alone. There’s no amount of time that’s right or wrong for you to cope with a loss.
This phenomenon isn’t just limited to losing a loved one but can occur whenever a person feels grief.
Some of these changes may be responsible for broken heart syndrome. Broken heart syndrome is also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
People experience broken heart syndrome due to a surge of stress hormones that cause chest pain and heart rhythm changes similar to what you’d see in a heart attack. It can lead to short-term heart muscle failure.
Impaired immune system
Grief can negatively impact your body’s ability to heal and fight infections. Over
- heightened inflammatory response
- lowered antibody response to vaccination
- changes in autoimmune response and sensitivity
They also noted that the potential development of depression could alter the immune system response.
When you grieve the passing of a loved one or other major loss, it may negatively affect your sleep. According to a
You’re not alone. Consider speaking with a mental health professional to support you in regulating your sleep patterns.
Other physical changes
Everyone responds to grief differently, in how they process their emotions and how their body responds to the loss. Some physical changes you may notice include:
- nausea or vomiting
- tight, heavy feeling in the throat or chest
- loss of sensation in the muscles
Other psychiatric issues
Grief can lead to the development of several different psychological conditions. Some potential conditions you may experience include:
You may also experience feelings such as:
Many of these feelings get lumped into the five stages of grief, which provides a basic guide or reference to what you might go through during a loss.
Changes in thoughts
When you go through grief, you will likely experience changes in how you think, remember, and process information. Changes to thoughts you might undergo may include:
- concentration issues
Grief related to other losses can also cause stress. According to the
- heart disease
- changes in appetite
- decreased fertility
- sleep problems
- upset stomach
- anxiety disorders
Depression and grief
Depression and grief share several symptoms and signs.
In most cases, when you grieve, you will experience symptoms similar to depression, such as:
- changes in sleep
- loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- trouble concentrating
You might find it hard to distinguish between grief and depression in yourself or others. Some things to consider to help you determine if grief has turned to depression include:
- no longer can feel pleasure
- noticeable impairment in functioning
- continued isolation from others
- unable to cope with the pain
- thoughts of suicide not related to reuniting with a loved one
If you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing depression, you may consider talking with a doctor or reaching out to friends and loved ones. Depression often requires some form of treatment to feel better, and how you respond to it will be different compared to grief.
Everyone grieves a loss in their own way and in their own time.
Even if you don’t seek professional healthcare, you might find that reaching out to a support network helps. This doesn’t mean you need to talk or process your feelings with someone. A strong support network can help you:
- take care of everyday tasks, like meals or errands
- listen when you need to talk
- help look after the kids
- lend a hand in getting final arrangements in place or other needs
If you need more support or want to talk with a professional, you may find that starting at a trusted doctor’s office and asking for a referral could be a good starting point.
You could look for bereavement counseling in your area. Bereavement counseling
If you feel like your grief is affecting your day-to-day life, you may consider seeking treatment, such as:
- cognitive behavior therapy
- talk therapy
Grief can cause several changes in how you think and feel as well as physical sensations. The changes tend to be temporary and go away as you process your grief.
The changes you experience can include impaired thinking, sadness, increased stress levels, and potentially heart-related issues, such as having a heart attack. You may also experience changes in how you sleep.
When you experience grief, having a strong support network can help. This can include family, friends, and professionals, such as grief counselors or psychiatrists.
If you or a loved one has experienced a grief-triggering loss, you can take one or more of these steps:
- allow yourself time to go through the grieving process
- learn more about what to expect with grief
- reach out to friends and family for emotional as well as other kinds of support
- find a professional to talk with for formal treatment
- learn about the signs of depression and other psychological conditions