Physical Effects of Grief

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It is easy to assume that grief's effects on a person would be mental.

However, this is an impossible position as grief also has physical effects.

In some cases, you might need to address the physical effects of grief to provide grief support to other people.

There are several cardiovascular complications that can manifest from emotional well-being.

Grief can cause or worsen existing heart issues.

It would help to do regular heart rate checkups after dealing with grief.

A weakened immune system is one of the physical symptoms of grief.

This can occur due to hormonal changes in the body or other grief-related activities.

You might notice that you have fallen ill easily since grieving began.

Sleep problems are one of the more likely physical manifestations of grief.

The degree of the sleep problem is a key factor to decide on how to proceed.

In extreme cases such as chronic insomnia, you might need external help.

Find out the physical effects of grief below.

Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

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Pueblo, Colorado
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Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC, NCC, EMDR-Trained

“A cosmic perspective always attenuates tragedy. If we climb high enough, we will reach a height from which tragedy ceases to look tragic.” ― Irvin D. Yalom, When Nietzsche Wept

Susan Taylor, LPCC

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - MA

Vanessa Curran, LPCC

"We can do hard things." -Glennon Doyle

Heart Problems

A common expression is "Close to your heart."

The meaning behind this expression is to have someone or something close to one of the most delicate parts of your body.

Beyond the literary connotations, there is a connection between losing someone close to your heart and your heart.

One of the effects of grief actually manifests in your heart.

There have been thousands of reported cases of higher risk of cardiovascular issues.

This includes cases of strokes and heart attacks which were occasionally fatal.

There are also cases of cardiovascular complications that include irregular heart rhythm.

This rhythmic heart disturbance is known as atrial fibrillation.

Emotional stress or physical stress, which could arise from grief, might also cause "broken heart syndrome" or takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

It appears that the artistic expression of grief through heartbreak is not far off from the truth.

There seems to be a relationship between your heart and heartache.

You could consider monitoring your heart in times of grief. 

Immune Weakness

Grieving people tend to have weaker immune systems than other people.

Some studies have found links between grieving people and impaired immunity against infections.

This establishes a physical connection between grief and weaker immune systems.

It is possible that the cause for the weaker immune system might be because of unhealthy coping mechanisms for grief.

For instance, a person might be less motivated to eat appropriately when grieving.

This could be the cause of a weakened immune response to an infection.

This could also be due to a fluctuation of the stress hormone balance, as a study in 2014 found out.

The immune cells would react to hormonal causes, and this can cause increased inflammation.

The physical effects of grief include a weakened immune system from all the stress.

Fortunately, the immune system of a person will likely recover when the person recovers from the grieving process.

The timeline of recovery could vary across different people.

Factors such as the severity of the grief, age, gender, the person's prior mental state, and history with grief.

Dietary Changes

There is a wide range of dietary issues related to grief.

The stomach is a sensitive organ that could respond to grief with nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, digestive troubles, and extreme weight change.

These dietary changes are an essential part of the physical effects of grief.

The death of a loved one could cause long-term loss of appetite and, consequently, sudden weight loss.

In other cases, the reverse occurs.

Some people might react to grief by consuming their feelings and quickly gaining weight.

The act of weight gain or loss should not be the point of focus.

Instead, it is how the weight changes that could be a cause for concern.

Afterward, weight changes are expected in most cases.

One of the forgotten physical efforts of grief is the listed number of dietary changes.

Sticking with a healthy meal will also help you recover from grief generally. 

Grief & Loss Therapists in Colorado

Rebecca Johnson, LPCC, NCC

Rebecca Johnson, LPCC, NCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Julianna Miller, LPCC

Julianna Miller, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Heather Comensky, LPC

Heather Comensky, LPC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Sarah Lawler, LPC

Sarah Lawler, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021
Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

(719) 345-2424
Melvin Lee, LPCC

Melvin Lee, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Joshua Goldberg, LPCC

Joshua Goldberg, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Sarah Tapia, LPCC

Sarah Tapia, LPCC

(719) 602-1342
Jacquelynne Sils, LPC

Jacquelynne Sils, LPC

(719) 696-3439
Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439

Sleep Problems

Although grief affects each individual differently, sleep problems are one of the most common physical effects of grief.

Many people struggle to gain their necessary sleep after suffering the loss of a loved one.

This can come in excessive sleep, sleep deprivation, sleep break, nightmares, and in severe cases, insomnia.

Sleep is an essential human function.

Getting too little or too much sleep can negatively disrupt a person.

This means that any type of sleep problem will likely disrupt the life of a person with these issues.

The symptoms of sleep problems can appear physically with puffy faces and eyes.

It can also affect cognitive performance, memory functions, and body coordination.

It is important to address sleep problems as certain lifelong conditions, such as high blood pressure, are related to sleep.

For some bereaved people, sleep can be a place to escape the pain of grief.

For some, sleep could be inaccessible.

It is important to note how your sleep patterns change over time and when you need to change them.

Physical Pain

One of the most dominant feelings associated with grief is pain.

Most people are aware that feeling intense emotional pain during grief is natural.

However, it might be shocking to discover this includes physical pain.

It is important now to separate emotional pain from physical pain.

In this case, emotional pain is an internal feeling of discomfort.

On the other hand, physical pain includes headaches, migraines, muscular pain, chest pain, and general body pain.

The body might release the hormone cortisol to respond to stress.

Cortisol is a hormone that can cause body pain and headaches.

You might notice that you feel physical discomfort on the neck, joint, back, or shoulders.

The severity of the pain will likely vary across individuals.

Physical pain is, surprisingly, one of the physical effects of grief.

The pain should be temporary, so consider seeking professional help if you notice the pain persists. 


Although the focus is usually on the psychological effects of grief, the physical effects of grief are also important.

You can help provide support for grief when you are informed about the physical impact of grief, such as heart problems, dietary changes, sleep problems, immune weakness, and physical pain.


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July 13th, 2024

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