The overwhelming sadness associated with grief can not only affect your emotional health but may also have extreme negative effects on your physical health. Here are a few examples of how grief can make you ill:
Changes in sleep patterns—when we do not get enough sleep, we become more prone to sickness as well as experience a limited ability to concentrate during the day.
Heart problems—stressful situations can cause our hearts to not pump normally. This can happen to a person who has never had heart problems prior to a traumatic event. Hence, an irregular heart can cause intense chest pain.
Weakened immune system—our immune system protects us from getting sick. Factoring in the change in our sleep patterns and the overwhelming stress from our loss, it is not surprising that our immune system would weaken, leaving us at risk for illnesses, the most frequent being colds, flus, headaches, anxiety and depression.
Alcohol and substance abuse—it is not uncommon for grievers to want to numb the pain they feel from their loss. This is often done through alcohol and recreational drugs. If not monitored, this usage can easily turn into abuse. Substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy has specifically found a greater risk of alcohol-related problems among bereaved men.
Mental and medical health professionals strongly encourage self-care, which comes in the form of eating right, getting enough rest and finding a grief specialist to help manage all grief symptoms. Healing your heart is one of the hardest things you will ever do, but the overall consequences of not addressing your grief are far greater.