It is a well known fact that grief can be felt in the body. When I ask clients to tune into their grief and scan their body for physical sensations, I get a range of answers. Some report feeling a weight on their chest. Others experience ache in their heart. These are some of the most common responses, there are no set physical symptoms linked to the physical expression of grief.
Numbness in one of your limbs, your stomach feeling tight or headaches can all result from your grief manifesting in the body. Research carried out by the University of Birmingham has shown that bereavement can cause your body to produce less white blood cells, which can make you prone to infections. Difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, irregular menstrual cycle or occasional difficulties in breathing, can all be signs that your body is trying to express grief in more than your words can possibly convey.
Here is a list of symptoms to get a clearer overview
- aches/ pains which include but are not limited chest pain, back pain, headaches or neck pain
- high level of exhaustion
- constantly feeling tired
- struggling to breath
- anxiety/ panic attacks
- finding it hard to concentrate
- struggling to feel asleep or fear of sleeping (need light on or TV/ radio in the background)
- lack of appetite
- comfort eating
- problems with digestion
- sore muscles
The reason why your grief manifests in your body is that the part of the brain processing physical pain is also involved in processing emotional pain. It seems as if the wiser part in you knows that verbal expression alone is not enough when it comes to expressing acute agony like what you might feel when your loved one has left you for good.
Grief manifesting in the body can be very painful and is likely to make you feel out of control as it is more difficult to rationalise. If you walk into a lamp post and bang your head against it, then you will feel a lot of pain in your head and you will know exactly why. On the other hand, if you start to experience palpitations in the aftermath of a bereavement, you might start to wonder what the heck is wrong with you. No doubt your first port of call will be, as it always should, to see your GP to confirm that you are in good health. If your doctor confirms that you are in good health then you might benefit from working with a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you release the grief that is trapped in your body.
If you are going through a bereavement at present and you can repeatedly feel your grief manifest in the body then you might slowly start to think that your body is turning into your worse enemy. But here is the kicker: the body can actually be used as a source of healing. As a Psychosynthesis therapist, I combine talking therapies with body awareness to help you release the grief that is manifesting in your body. These techniques work by harnessing the body’s natural ability to balance the natural flow of feelings that got stuck in one or several parts of your body in the aftermath of a bereavement.