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June 27, 2011

And some changes are physical ....

Flowers for the Heart by Ysabel de la Rosa
I have found much more material on the emotional side of grieving and grief recovery than I have found regarding the physical side. And, yes, there is definitely a physical side to grief.  I was reminded of this today when talking with a friend who lived through losing her son in a sudden accident.

"You feel sick at your stomach," she said, noting that this was one of her major grief symptoms.  I know it's true. My first sensations at my mother's funeral service were all sheer physical nausea--not thoughts or emotions.  And I know many people, myself included, who have suffered hard-to-cure respiratory infections after a loved one has died, or suffered infections on or near the anniversary of that person's death.

It makes perfect sense. Our body has to respond to the physical absence, too. It has to adjust. It, too, has to grieve, through its cells, organs, and molecules.

When coping with loss, it's a good idea to increase our awareness of our physical being--and to be more gentle with it than we might be under other circumstances.  If your body asks for a nap, take one. If your body feels washed out and depleted, and a steak for dinner sounds good, eat one. Sometimes, though, even simple solutions are not so simple. Take sleep, for example. One of the toughest physical ordeals we can go through while grieving is not being able to sleep.  If you become truly sleep-deprived, it's imperative that you talk to your doctor about this.

Passion Flower by t.light of iStockPhoto
Here are some physical "remedies" I have found to be safe and helpful when my body has been stressed during grieving:

B Vitamins:  I take either Twin Lab's or Bluebonnet's B-100 complex.  Not many foods contain B-Vitamins, and our bodies excrete these rapidly under stress. Also, grief time is a time when our sugar consumption can easily go up, and this further depletes our levels of B vitamins in our system.

Vitamin D:  Are you getting enough? A simple blood test ordered by your physician can tell you. If your Vitamin D level is low, this can have an influence on depression and your overall health.

Calcium:  You need calcium not only for your brain, but also for your nerves. Talk to your doctor or health care provider or nutrionist about what kind of calcium is best for your situation for the long term. Short-term, I have found that Bluebonnet's liquid calcium magnesium blend is great. It has a very calming effect and tastes great.  Important:  To absorb calcium well, you need to take calcium with magnesium in a 2:1 ratio, 2 parts calcium to 1 part magnesium.

Going to sleep:  This has probably been the hardest physical symptom for me.  I have used, with some success:  Mid-Nite, a chewable tablet with passion flower and melatonin; Bach Flower Sleep Remedy in a spray bottle, GABA (an amino acid that helps to calm the brain), and L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps to stabilize cortisol levels. I have also used the Bach Flower Remedy Star of Bethlehem, which is specific for grief. The effect is subtle, but it truly has helped me.

Another physical "symptom" that can occur is that we can become more accident-prone than usual.  It sounds basic and silly, but one of the best pieces of advice a doctor ever gave me is: "Be sure that everything is picked up off the floor." Throw it in a chair, if you're tired--but get things off the floor, so you do away with the chance of tripping or falling.

Last in today's list, but certainly not least, I have found that keeping a journal can help with physical and emotional symptoms.  The page (or the screen) is a long-standing and patient friend. Unload on it, it hurts no one and may turn out to be a greater help than you would think. A journal makes a very nice gift to a friend or family member during a time of loss.

So, remember:  The body also grieves. It is the temple of our mind and soul and inextricably connected to them.  Whatever you do for your health and your physical being during a time of loss--be gentle with your body and your Self.

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