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How Grief Can Impact Your Mental Health

Category: Grieving

Loss is an experience peppered with many emotions; sadness, shock, confusion, pain. Often grieving is seen as a checklist we need to go through, but in fact, it is a whole-body reaction. It involves physical feelings and changes, which then, in turn, can impact our mental health.

The reaction to losing someone close is different for each individual. Sudden death or suicide will often be a tremendous shock to someone, coupled with intense emotions. It may not be until later, after the shock has eased, that grief then appears.

Those who discover they will lose someone in a certain amount of time, perhaps to an illness, may start to grieve whilst that person is still alive. Others may find they are so focused on helping those close to them through grief that they don’t experience bereavement until later in life. This can be incredibly confusing, as it is difficult to know how normal these feelings are.

In any of these cases, the pain is no less agonising and the need to heal mentally is vital. Just as you would with a physical injury, it is important to find ways to soothe yourself after this psychological and emotional injury.

How it may impact you

Each person experiences different feelings, some of with may include:

As the mind and body are connected, the physical effects of grief directly impact your mental health. It is therefore extremely important to take care of yourself physically through times of loss. This can be challenging as often feelings of sadness and pain can prevent us from making the effort to look after our bodies. Being disciplined with yourself and pushing yourself to complete small tasks focused on health can be key for your healing process, however.

  • Feeling numb and unable to express your emotions

  • Feeling tearful for most of the time – or possibly not being able to cry at all

  • Feelings of guilt – blaming yourself, wishing you could have resolved a situation or regretting conversations.

  • Anger – with yourself, with your friends, family, or other people you are in contact with, or even with the person who has died

  • Believing no one else can understand how you feel - finding it hard to talk to your friends or family

  • Panic and agitation – not being able to sleep, to concentrate or to take decisions; a loss of interest in food/no appetite

What can help?

  • Eating regularly – even if meals are smaller at first. The chemical messengers in your brain that help you to feel able to cope must have adequate nutrition to actually work.

  • Taking a walk in nature – movement has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and boost your mood. Getting out in nature has added calming benefits.

  • Give plenty of time for sleep – even if you don’t feel tired, try to go to bed and wake with a regular pattern.

  • Try to talk to someone once a day – feelings of isolation can exacerbate mental health issues.

  • Tell someone if you feel unwell or that you can’t cope –this could be someone in your family, a friend or your GP.

  • Take some regular quiet reflection time – it’s ok to feel sad, hurt or lost. Crying or sitting with your emotions is an important step in healing. Suppressing your emotions may cause greater issues further down the line.