Grief's Many Physical Effects and Ways to Cope

Grief does not just affect the mental health of those who experience the loss of a loved one. Understand the physical and emotional effects and ways to cope for yourself or your loved one who is experiencing grief.

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Grief's Many Physical Effects and Ways to Cope
4 Min Read October 12th, 2020 Updated:July 5th, 2022

Grief is a natural response to losing a loved one. Many people are aware of the many ways that grief can affect one's mental health following a bereavement. However, grief does not just affect one's mental state; it can also have numerous physical consequences on those who experience it. 

Below, you will discover some of the most common health issues that can occur after a loss of a loved one.

Weakened Immune System

Studies have shown that large amounts of stress can weaken the immune system. Due to the high level of stress that the body undergoes during the grieving process, it is common for the person to experience lowered immunity following a loss. As a result, there is a potential for coming down with infections or illnesses such as the cold or flu generally increases.

Digestive Issues

In some cases, grief can manifest itself in digestive problems. When the body experiences a significant amount of stress, the digestive tract can become sensitive, resulting in nausea and queasiness.

People tend to change their eating habits when grieving by seeking comfort food, overeating, or undereating, which can cause further stress on the digestive tract, resulting in digestive problems. In addition to nausea, digestive problems linked to grief may include diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach pain, and constipation.


Insomnia is another common physical manifestation of grief. To fall asleep, a person's mind and body must relax. Accomplishing this task while painful memories and thoughts are running through one's mind can be extremely challenging and keep one up at night. Even if a grieving person can fall asleep, they may experience upsetting dreams or nightmares about their deceased loved one as their brain tries to process their grief during the REM stage.

Such a lack of sleep can lead to numerous other physical health effects, such as high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of diabetes, and weight gain. 

As a result of bereavement, those experiencing sleep deprivation should consult a doctor or mental health professional about ways to manage sleep while grieving.

Loss of Energy

Some people experience a loss of energy often as a result of the other physical health and emotional problems due to their grief. This mental and physical toll that grief places on a person often causes them to experience low energy levels, muscle weakness, and fatigue. 

If you were the caregiver for your loved one, the energy level drops because your body was physically depleted. Being a full or part-time caregiver is physically and emotionally draining. It is not uncommon for your body to remain depleted once your loved one has passed.

Fatigue can also set in due to the depression and anxiety that a person's grief can cause. 

Coping with the Consequences of Grief

It is important to remember that grief is a normal and necessary response to a loved one's death. The passage of time is the best remedy for the physical and emotional effects of grief. How much time? That will vary depending on the person. Speeding up a person's grief is often not emotionally healthy. There are ways, however, to address some of the consequences that grief places on our body.

1. Get Your Sleep

It is easier said than done, but adequate sleep will solve many health issues from the stress from your grief. Try to develop a regular bedtime schedule and minimize the distractions that come from watching TV and looking at your iPad, for example.

2. Drink Plenty of Water

Stay hydrated is essential to maintain your health and ease some of the physical ailments caused by grief. Be sure to avoid excessive alcohol. Alcohol can dehydrate you, and over-consumption will not be good for your health or your emotions. 

3. Eat Well

Don't avoid meals but don't overeat either. Some people feel better if they eat smaller but more frequent meals. Do not overdo the comfort food either. If someone offers to make you a fresh dinner - say yes. It will make them feel good, and it’s good for you as well. 

4. Keep Active

You may not feel like being active, but the last thing you should you is just sit in your chair or lie on your couch all day. Get up, walk around, and try simple exercises based on your physical ability. Walking is always a good idea.

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

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