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Before you think, “Well, duh,” we’re not referring to the sadness we feel when someone close to us has died. Grief can involve physical symptoms too. Often, people in mourning describe feeling severe muscle aches, tightness or shortness of breath, and headaches. Digestive issues are also common, and insomnia and exhaustion are also normal. Everyone experiences grief differently, but getting enough sleep, eating well, and having a strong support system can help alleviate physical symptoms of grief.
Unless you come from a culture that has passed down their mourning traditions, most people don’t really know how to be there for someone they care about. They’re often so afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing, they avoid doing anything at all. They may offer platitudes that they think will comfort but aren’t, like “Everything happens for a reason,” or “They’re in a better place now.” They may bring food, when the last thing you want to do is eat. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want to be there for you.
Because most people are uncomfortable with death and grief, they unwittingly try to hurry along the process, expecting the bereaved to “move on” after a while. Unfortunately, this results in many people suppressing their grief for fear of upsetting others. Grief needs to be expressed. And the truth is, there is no end to grief. The loss of a loved one forever alters a person’s life. In time (and everyone’s timeline is different), grief won’t feel as utterly devastating as it does at first. And for some, it may disappear altogether. And that’s ok.
Although death is an inescapable part of life, grief can be alienating, even when the person in mourning has a strong support system. Many people find that the support they received when the loss first occurred tapers off after a few weeks. This is often when people finally feel ready to talk about it and need a shoulder to cry on or someone to listen, but their friends aren’t available. Some people you think will be there for won’t be. And others you never expect will come out of the woodworks. Regardless of your support network, grief counseling from places like the Grief Resource Center www.griefnm.org can make a huge difference.
Even if it’s been years since their death, that first carol of the season on the radio can make you feel as if your loved one just died. Holidays, their birthday and the anniversary of their passing (to name a few) can all drudge up painful memories. By doing things that incorporate your loved one’s memory through new traditions, such as including a place at the table at dinner, cooking their favorite meal, or lighting candles in their name, can help make the holidays easier to bear. And, in time, add joy.