“I remember wondering what was wrong with me.
After my dad died, I struggled. I didn’t understand why others seemed to be moving on, but I wasn’t. How could the rest of the world be going on as though nothing had happened, yet I was stuck and couldn’t seem to move?
Little did I know that it would be an on-going process that I would deal with the rest of my life.”
At 20 years old, Dr. Graves lost his father unexpectedly. Suffering from congestive heart failure, his father was being transported to the Mayo clinic via plane when he suddenly died while in- flight. It was a tragedy that would be etched in his memory forever.
However, this loss would go on to be a catalyst that would transform his life and make him acutely sensitive to how grief affects both our physical and our emotional health.
We won’t lie – this topic is heavy.
It deals with a subject our western culture doesn’t talk about much and when we do – we don’t know what to say many times. But we are here to talk about it – openly and honestly.
We find a copious amount of our clients are dealing with compartmentalized or unexpressed grief that results in odd physical and emotional symptoms. It’s many times the root cause of things we would never imagine – even when we think we’ve dealt with it.
To start out, here are 3 things Dr. Graves has learned about studying and dealing with grief
(both his own and others):
1. Denial reinforces our fears. Death is a part of life. We don’t need to fear it or avoid it. When we embrace it, it can actually help free us.
2. Because grief is not fully understood, grief can be a stunted process in our western culture. In our society, grief is cut short. We don’t put enough framework around it to understand how it affects us – so we ignore it. We are expected to return to work, our daily grind, and our “selves” within a relatively short amount of time. Due to this, we are unable to fully work through our grief process much of the time.
3. Grief is about learning to create space to miss and be sad about our loss. This can include, but is not limited to:
– loved ones
– life goals
When we don’t understand it, fear it, and don’t give it space to be, it’s no wonder that grief can play such a powerful role in our physical and emotional wellbeing.
Let’s explore how, exactly, it can affect us.
Grief is a stress that is unfamiliar to us. We don’t know how to handle it and most of us weren’t taught how to deal with it. It can be scary, confusing, and down right frustrating.
However, unless grief is processed, short-term symptoms can lead to long-term health issues. We can’t ignore it any longer.
Grief and Emotional Health
Grief brings about overwhelming emotions such as:
At first, our brain can’t comprehend what has just happened and we can feel numb and disconnected – from the world around us, our friends and family, and even ourselves. Our minds can’t think clearly and our days can seem sluggish and blurry.
This is normal and to be expected.
However, when we suppress these feelings for an extended period of time without processing them in a healthy manner, they can lead to emotional issues such as:
– unrealistic feelings of being unsafe
– control issues/difficulty dealing with unpredictability
– sleep disturbances
– relationship issues
– obsessive compulsions
– unhealthy addictions
The good news?
Our subconscious is always trying to lead us to healing.
This means that our emotions can be processed at any time – even years later. Our minds want to think through what happened, to put space around it, and to be and honest and open about it.
We just have to listen.
Grief and Physical Health
We all react differently to grief. But there’s no denying it – most of us will live in “survival mode” when we are in shock and some of us will live in this condition for a long time after – just trying to get through the days.
Physically, this can be such things as, but not limited to:
– eating whatever we feel like (or very little at all)
– drinking alcohol
– sleeping very little, having interrupted sleep, or sleeping too much
– no motivation for exercise or exercising too much
– feeling overly tired or too wired
Again, these are normal. It’s when we ignore our grief that these symptoms can get our of hand and lead to other long-term health affects.
Advice on Healthy Grieving
It’s true – there’s no one-way fits all strategy for dealing with grief. We are all different in what we experience and how we process it.
However, we have found the following to be helpful to many of our clients (ourselves included), when dealing with grief:
1. Treat Shock As Soon As Possible. The sooner we can get our minds and bodies out of “survival mode” – the better.
Acupuncture is a wonderful tool for doing just this. It can lower stress hormones and reconnect the mind and body. One of our clients has even told us that immediately following her acupuncture appointments, she would write about her grief as her mind was so clear. It helped her immensely in processing her grief.
2. Support Your Body & Mind. Your nervous system is on overdrive during this time. Support it with extra nutrients and supplements that will help it sustain its job.
Try such supplements as:
NeuroCalm (for a clear and calm mind)
Integrative Therapeutics Cortisol Manager (to reduce stress hormones)
Integrative Therapuetics Lavela WS 1265 (for immediate stress relief)
CBD Oil (for calm)
3. Keep Your Sleep Regulated. Sleep is vital for your body to rest and heal from the trauma you’ve experienced. Try the above supplement recommendations before bed.
4. Be Open and Honest. Grief sucks. Admit it. Being honest with yourself and allowing space for your emotions is one of the best things you can do for processing your grief.
Not a crier? That’s okay! Be honest with yourself about that, too!
The topic of grief is overwhelming – not only for you to read, but also for us to write about. There is so much to discuss, so much to learn about, so much to share. This is just a small fraction of our thoughts on grief. Next, we will be discussing how to continue processing it when the holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, out of the blue moments, roll around and you’re caught off guard.
Are you suffering from grief or wonder if some of your physical or emotional symptoms could be stemming from unresolved grief issues?
Then let our team help you. If you live in Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Parker, Centennial, Highlands Ranch, Larkspur, Monument, Colorado Springs, or the Greater Denver Metro area and are in search of a safe and compassionate place to work through your grief – please contact us here to schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation with Dr. Graves to talk about your experience and symptoms.
May we work together to help you find calm, peace, and space with your grief.