Suffering a loss is never easy, and you probably expect to feel sad for some time after. You probably expect to feel some strong emotions, including disbelief, shock, anger, guilt, confusion, and sadness. But there are other effects of grief that you may not be expecting, and if you experience them, you may not realize that they're caused by grief. Knowing that these effects are grief-related may help you tackle them, and mentioning them to a mental health counselor can help the counselor understand how to help you. Take a look at some of the surprising ways that grief may manifest itself and how you can work through these unexpected effects.
1. You May Feel Exhausted
Fatigue is a very common response to grief and loss, but many people don't expect it and don't understand why they feel so tired. You may oversleep or have difficulty completing daily tasks because you're tired. You may have trouble thinking clearly because your mind feels tired. You may seem irritable or erratic to others.
While you may not have been expecting to feel so tired, this kind of fatigue in response to grief is normal. Grief demands a lot from you not just emotionally, but physically as well, even if you don't realize it. Your body is responding to these demands by letting you know that it needs rest.
You may have to adjust your expectations of yourself for a while. Prioritize the tasks that most need attention during the day, and let the rest go so that you can rest. Take good care of yourself by eating well, sleeping when you need to, and exercising when you can. Be patient with yourself – the fatigue won't last forever, but you can't rush through it either.
2. You May Get Sick
Developing a cold or infection on top of dealing with grief and loss may seem like the last straw, but it's also more common than you would think. And there's a reason why you might be feeling sick. You know that grief can affect your body as well as your mind, and those effects extend to your immune system. Scientists say that people who are suffering from emotional stress after losing a loved one may also suffer from a compromised immune system.
This effect is particularly pronounced in seniors and may help explain why some widows and widowers pass away shortly after losing a spouse. Their grief leaves them open to potentially dangerous infections. Younger adults are less vulnerable, but it's still worth taking extra precautions to guard against illness while you're grieving, like washing your hands frequently and avoiding exposure to sick people.
3. Your Appetite May Change
Grief can cause you to lose your appetite for a time, or it can make you feel ravenously hungry. Either response is normal. For some people, the negative feelings associated with grief simply eclipse any interest in food. You may be too overwhelmed to remember to eat. Others reach for food because they find it comforting, or because they're trying to fill the emptiness that accompanies loss with food. You may also simply not feel much like preparing food, which can lead to either skipping meals or turning to unhealthy solutions like fast food.
If you find that your appetite has changed, there are things you can do to make sure that you get the nutrition that you need while you're dealing with the grieving process. If you don't have much of an appetite, you may want to set reminders for mealtimes so that you remember to take care of your body's needs. Treat yourself to food that you really enjoy, or if nothing sounds good, consider using meal shakes, protein bars, or other small, high-nutrition foods that you can consume easily and quickly.
If you find yourself overeating, make it a point to check in with yourself before you reach for food. Are you really hungry? Drink a glass of water or cup of tea, then reevaluate whether you still want something to eat. Are you eating because you're feeling bored or lonely? Try going for a walk, writing in a journal, or calling a friend. When you do eat, eat mindfully. Pick nutritious foods that you enjoy, and take the time to savor the food. You'll eat less when you pay close attention to the food that you're eating, and you'll enjoy it more.
You don't have to deal with your grief alone. A mental health company like Dr Kuris Counseling Centers can help you identify the effects of grief and work through them in a healthy way. Don't be afraid to reach out for help if you're experiencing difficulty processing a loss.