Monday, November 2, 2020

Physical Effects of Grief

There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.  ~ Laurel K. Hamilton

A reader writes: I am a member of your discussion group...it is a supportive place..thank you.

I lost my best friend 11 months ago and am experiencing the "out of sync" feelings in my body. I've had all kinds of bloodwork, because I was worried...I'm healthier than I've ever been..somehow.

So...I'm guessing this is my body's way of grieving...I go to move my arm, leg or any body part and I feel like I'm moving in slow motion or my limbs don't feel like I have precise control over them.

I feel like a rag doll...is this something you've heard from other people and how long does it last? I have your book..it is wonderful...I bought a few for anyone in the future who needs the comfort. For now, it's me, I have never experienced grievous loss..it has turned me inside out. I've experienced a spiritual awakening and so many other things that are new to me. I am just afraid of the weird physical stuff and anything you feel compelled to share with me will be appreciated!

My response: Thank you so much for your kind words about our Discussion Groups ~ I'm so pleased to know that you find it supportive in your grief, and I'm so very sorry that you've lost your best friend to death. I don't know if you've checked out the Death of a Friend page of my Grief Healing website, but it has links to some resources listed that you may find quite helpful. 

It's good to know that you've had yourself checked out by your doctor, in order to rule out any sort of disease that may be causing your symptoms. Since you have done that, I think it's safe to say that your hunch is correct: This is indeed your body's way of grieving. You say you've read my book, so I'm assuming you're familiar with what I've said about the physical reactions to loss (on pages 13-16), and nothing you've said in your message to me (about feeling like a rag doll) sounds unusual. I think it's still your body communicating with you about the grief-stress you are experiencing. In most cases, physical symptoms are normal and temporary. Still, good self-care is very important. As grief expert Alan Wolfelt says, 

"Your body is the house you live in. Just as your house requires care and maintenance to protect you from the outside elements, your body requires that you honor it and treat it with respect. The quality of your life depends on how you take care of your body today. The 'lethargy of grief' you are probably experiencing is a natural mechanism intended to slow you down and encourage you to care for your body." 

I encourage you to take very seriously the suggestions I've listed here regarding nutrition, exercise, rest, and contact with others. Of course, if your symptoms persist even after adhering to all these suggestions, please don't hesitate to discuss them with your primary care physician. Finding and making use of a good doctor who knows how to keep you healthy can be one of the most practical things you can do for yourself, now and into the future.

Above all, make sure you continue to "talk out" your grief with trusted others, including those you've "met" in our online "family." If you avoid or suppress talking about this significant loss in your life, your body will continue finding ways to express your grief for you.

Afterword: Marty..thank you so much for your comforting reply. I had no idea that my body could express in such ways. On the forum I write in when I feel compelled and have a few friends who have lost husbands and sisters...so I try to talk as much as I can. I think I keep forgetting that this is a longer process than I expected, plus my grief has been complicated by a physical injury I sustained while lifting my dying friend repeatedly. We were on a cruise for 10 days, she wanted to give us this gift...long story....she declined rapidly on day 6...went unconscious and we were waiting for her to die while we were in the middle of the ocean...she woke up late that night...we got her home and she died 3 days later on her 48th b'day. Meanwhile, I had to lift her several times during the day and ended up with a mass of myofascial trigger points across my back and neck...which gave me vertigo. I am still working them out and and have had to live with the pain of grief, my first experience, as well as vertigo and loss of normal functioning to a degree. This was one of the reasons I went for alot of bloodwork..amazingly, my bloodwork looks better than it ever has. I have been taking good care of myself and trying to keep focused on what is grief, what is trigger point pain, what is my frustration from having to rehab physically. This has been a living hell and I pray daily for the courage and determination to keep moving. 

My massage therapist says we've eliminated 90% of the trigger points and that it's a slow process. I've been working on it for about 6 months...I spent the first 5 months after the cruise being told I had water in my ears and that's why I was dizzy....so in that time the trigger points got worse and activated more in other muscles. I guess I'm telling all of this because I feel it has complicated my grief...somehow I have managed to feel the depths of loss and love for my friend...I have been processing the grief all along while trying to stay calm and deal with the grief from rehabing my body. It has been so hard to part out the physical stuff...heaviness from grief, off balance from trigger points, chest palpitations..grief...I think we've decided that there is no parting it out..it's to just keep walking, processing and praying. No matter where what physical or emotional symptom comes from, the task is the same...I create the healthiest environment I can, breathe, talk, pray and keep moving. Thanks for listening and being a safe touchstone for me.

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