Physical Healing through Grief

Grieving takes a huge toll on your body. I never considered this. I never realized there was science behind it. (So I guess I’m not crazy after all).

It started with the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. I’ve turned to medication to escape my life for at least five hours a night, if I am lucky. However, the medication causes warped dreams, usually about my grief and my fears. But its sleep, even if it’s torturous sleep.

The body aches followed very quickly. It feels like I have been hit by a semi every.single.morning. My muscles are so tight. It hurts to try to stretch. Bending even the slightest wrong way has caused torn muscles.Young woman in pain

Then my stomach. Wow. I was convinced I had a bucket of gallstones sitting in my gallbladder from the spontaneous and often pain attacks. It was ruled out. But the attacks still exist.

And the worst of all-anxiety. Anxiety has hit me like no other symptom. It’s as if I am in a constant state of fight-or-flight. And my mind can’t decide which one to do so it does both, leading to a pounding heart, jittery stomach, shaking hands and the latest, frequent panic attacks. Medication helps tremendously. Praise God for the gift of medicine. Even though I am a naturalist at heart, I recognize I needed and still need help with some of these symptoms. At least for now.

“Grieving is hard work and takes a huge toll on our bodies. When we are responding to a loss, the part of our brain where responses are integrated increases the production of CRH, a hormone that produces anxiety-like symptoms. Emergency-mobilizing chemicals are released. As our stress increases, the chemical levels increase; and our central nervous system becomes highly stimulated. Our breathing may become defective. Biological rhythms of sleeping and eating are disturbed. Our digestion, metabolism, circulation and respiration change. Our ability to concentrate and pay attention decreases.

Grieving can actually change the environment in the belly, intestines and bowels. “I feel as if I’ve been hit in the stomach,” we might say. “My stomach is in knots,” someone else may offer as a description of the physical stress triggered by a loss. These reactions can actually rearrange the muscles and sometimes even our body’s skeleton, in particular patterns for particular lengths of time. We may make sounds, like a moan or a growl. Our brain produces pictures that upset us even more.

Often the physical stress of grieving will cause us to lose coordination. We fall more easily. We don’t run our daily lives as smoothly as we did. Even simple things seem hard to do. Our brain and our eyes don’t coordinate the way they did before the loss. We are prone to have more accidents. We get more colds. Our immune system is compromised. We tire easily.” -Elizabeth Harper Need, PhD.

Yes, I tire very easily. But I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of feeling out of control of my own body. I’m tired of the aches, the pains, the insomnia, the nightmares, the lack of concentration and restlessness. I’m tired of the anxiety and truthfully, I’m tired of the medication. I refused antidepressants because I honestly feel I can’t heal if I masque my ability to feel. I need to feel, I need to grieve. I miss my baby(ies) and an antidepressant won’t ever take that away. And besides, I’m not depressed. I’m GRIEVING. Similar yes, but also very different.

I’ve decided it’s time to allow my body to heal a bit. Without physical healing, I will never heal emotionally, cognitively, socially or spiritually. There’s only room for so much healing at once. My therapist says to find several times a day to “be still”. This is hard, but I am trying. I’m realizing that filling my schedule to the max is simply my tactic to avoid feeling. I need more time to rest. My body needs more time to rest. I need to give myself more time to sit, to feel and to grieve.

I’ve decided my body is as only good as what goes into it. I’ve started a 10 day herbal cleanse. I’ll keep you posted on that one. I feel a detox is pretty imperative at this point. Did you know that grief literally causes toxins to build in your body? Not cool.

I am (and have been) getting weekly Bowen Therapy (which is a form of soft tissue therapy) by an amazing Bowen Practitioner. I lie still for one hour every Tuesday. It typically offers me an emotional release at some point during the session and is very soothing to my soul and my body.

Massages. Need I say more? Love. However, massages during grief are painful. The knots that accumulate in every muscle of your body are ridiculous. We found a knot in my hand last week. Yes, my hand. I’ve always been prone to knots during stress but since losing Jake I am simply covered. 90 minute sessions only scratch the surface these days.

Exercise. Never been a fan to be honest but this is a new goal. I’ve joined the YMCA and am more eager than ever to prove to myself what my body is capable of. I need your prayers for endurance on this one.

Prayer. Praying is different for me these days. But for physical healing I simply lie my hand over my aching body part and pray for healing.

Yoga. This is very emotional for me. I used to be quite the “Yogi” and practiced all during my pregnancy with Jake. I felt so connected to him during yoga. After I lost him, my yoga group held a silent candlelit practice in honor of him where we all cried together through every pose. I never went back. But I’m ready. I miss it. I need it. I deserve it.

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It’s been a long seven months. My body is in desperate need of restoration and I’m going to honor that need. For anyone who needs encouragement through this process I urge you to check “A Crazy Good Grief”. Paula is a bereaved Mama who turned to wellness to help guide her journey and is a huge encouragement to others struggling through deep loss.

“When you are in mourning, you need to slow down, to turn inward, to embrace feelings of loss, and to seek and accept support. No, it is not always easy to care for your physical being in a mourning-avoidant culture. Without doubt, physical self-care takes time, mindfulness, and discernment.”- Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

This is my journey and I’m choosing to decide what it will look like.

Slow down.

Breathe.

Keep breathing.

Keep fighting.

Keep believing.

You can do this brave Mama.

“For I will restore health unto you, and I will heal you of your wounds, saith the Lord.”  Jeremiah 30:17

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