Grief is the response to any loss and is therefore a common human experience! A common but often unrecognised part of life cycle changes; often seen as interfering with life, rather than being intrinsic to life.
In essence, grief is your brain trying to recover from the shock and disorientation that comes with loss and extreme change; in other words, your brain is trying to look out for you.
Then your body gets involved too, it has biological responses to the pain, the physical, the psychological and emotional pains. Your body releases hormones and chemicals in response to good times and not so good times. Everything shifts to adjust to your outside circumstances and triggers.
The brain is the hub of information that kick starts this process.
Emotions are in the Brain?
Yes. The brain has special areas responsible for processing physical pain and emotions. This does not always work in favour of your recovery from grief.
In the case of prolonged grief, pain actually accompanies the brain’s reward-process centres, meaning it reinforces (in a sense) the yearning for the lost loved one, almost creating an “addiction.” This is seen when grief persists and even disrupts everyday life.
When you understand this, it is easier to ‘believe’ that you can get help to recover, to travel forward with grief but not to allow it to consume you.
The effects of grief can also be seen in increased cortisol levels, a hormone mainly released in times of stress–a major part of the grief response. As a result of excessive cortisol, the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which regulates emotions and memories, appears to shrink.
This can affect your ability to concentrate, recall things, and articulate or express feelings. Instead, expressing one’s feelings or desires in times of mourning can become difficult or even exhausting. Maintaining a normal level of this hormone is essential to human health, but if it remains high, it can take grief to a more prolonged or serious condition, like depression or anxiety.
Another reason to seek support and focus on self help during times of grief.
Feeding the Body and the Mind
While grief has its place in the brain, it also has its place in the body and mind. It all comes down to stress. Stress responses require attention to aid in healthy healing. Through the grieving process, make your physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual health top priorities.
During the grieving process, it’s common to lose one’s appetite, overeat in pursuit of comfort, or even experience digestion issues as a result of grief’s major stressors. In this time, it’s very important to help yourself eat food that nourishes the body, actually helps it to heal. Not comfort foods that will only comfort you for a while but do nothing to heal your body or strengthen communication between brain cells.
Accompanied with adopting healthy eating habits, exercise (even if mild) is a major help in healing from grief. Being active in some way, especially out in nature, can release neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and more, which are central to mood control and may help you fight feelings of depression and stress. Meanwhile, it also helps relieve other symptoms of grief, such as anxiety, pain, lack of sleep, fatigue, and more. This can come in the form of a brief 10-minute walk, if that’s all a person can manage–any bit of movement helps.
Grief: The Sleep Thief
That might mean setting some daily routines or practices for yourself, such as no napping in the late afternoon or evening; developing a bedtime routine, in which you read a book or wind down with a bath; keep your bedroom at the right temperature, not too hot or cold; try to avoid electronic devices right before bed; use low lighting in the evenings; exercise at regular times each day (again, even if it’s a 15-minute stroll); stay away from caffeine late in the day; and try to avoid alcohol, for it may actually make it more difficult to stay asleep and can also destroy brain cells (you really need those).
Social Support as You Grieve
In times of grief, you can become emotionally exhausted. It can be difficult to express what you need to others. This is when social interaction and support crucially become important.
Surround yourself with people who care about you, who know you well and will encourage your healing. Take your time but keep moving forward, baby steps is the way. You need supporters to hold your hand on your journey, not people who will keep you trapped in your grief or who might enjoy creating drama.
This doesn’t mean forcing yourself to be social; it means simply having people you can connect with who understand and are there for you. Find a group of women who are open to healing from grief, open minded to change and ready to embrace the new life and all the opportunities that might present.
Healing takes time: How much time, depends on you.
Recover in your own time, what -ever that means but consider what has been said in this article. Prolonged grief may lead you into long term depression and even an unconscious addiction to the feelings of grief.
You can do things to help yourself recover, good nourishment, movement, focusing on nature, good people around you. All these things are the medicine you need to heal while you go forward with your grief.
No forcing is necessary but a willingness to move into acceptance and acknowledgement that your life is precious and worth living to the full will help the healing process.
Never feel selfish for grieving. As mentioned, grief is your body and brain’s natural approach to healing from something incredibly painful; let them do their job for you. Then, do ‘your’ job in aiding your body and brain to heal by loving yourself, getting the sleep you need, eating as well as you can, and seeking support from others around you to combat any feelings of loneliness or ruminating thoughts
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