The physical side effects of grief & how to cope with them.

The True Physical Effects Of Grief & How To Cope With Them

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed.”

That quote was said by C.S. Lewis. And oh boy is it extremely true.

It’s also true that nobody really talks about the physical side of grief.  When, let’s be real, grief affects way more than just only our emotions. It has physical side effects too.

When I lost my mother, grandmother & uncle all within 9 months of each other I also lost 25 pounds & the ability to speak. While gaining headaches & some major anxiety.

It was crazy & I didn’t understand what was happening to me. All I knew was that I had just lost my mom & then suddenly my body decides to lose its mind as well.

So let’s not only jump into what the physical effects of grief are. Let’s uncover ways to help you cope with the physical symptoms.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Which means I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. This is at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure policy here.


When you have so much on your mind it can be hard to shut your brain down in order to get a restful nights sleep.

Even when you feel tired enough to sleep you may end up just laying there & tossing & turning. Or even start having nightmares.

It’s frustrating & after several nights of not sleeping, it’ll start to wear on you both physically & mentally.

In order to cope with fatigue, check out these coping tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.

Related: How To Start A Grief Journal

How to cope with the physical side of grief

Body Aches

Aches & pains that come from grief are generally temporary but while you’re going through it they feel like they last forever.

Body aches & pain come from the combo of hormones, constant tension, & stress from your grieving process.

These aches & pains include:

  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Back pain
  • Stiffness

Tips for dealing with body aches while grieving:

  • Get a massage
  • Try meditation
  • Cold Compresses applied to the area for 5-10 minutes throughout the day
  • Take a hot bath to relax your muscles
  • Try yoga
  • Consult with a specialist
  • Visit a Chiropractor

Appetite Changes

Grief can even change how you handle eating. For some grief will make you lose your appetite completely. Sometimes to the point that even the thought of food will make you queasy. Or you may even go multiple days without realizing that you haven’t eaten anything.

On the other side, you can also start to binge eat. Especially on junk. Our emotions & memories are linked. So when we’re feeling especially a bit off, its normal to link how we feel to comfort food or to our best memories. That’s generally when foods like pizza, cookies, cakes, & burgers come into play.

And I get binge eating. You think you don’t feel like cooking, it’s already there, you deserve to treat yourself, food makes you feel better, & why does it matter anyway?

I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum & its hard to deal with either way, but you can recover. And it’s very important that you do. Just like sleep, it’s vital that you give your body the (right) nutrients that it needs. Even while you’re grieving you must still live.

Changes in appetite can also produce a change in your digestion. You may have more frequent trips to the bathroom, diarrhea, or constipation.

Tips for dealing with appetite changes:

  • Drink smoothies
  • Have your groceries delivered to you. Places like Amazon Fresh will deliver right to your door.
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Snack on fruit & veggies
  • Pay attention to what triggers you’re eating
  • Start meal prepping meals & snacks so that when you’re ready you can just pop it in the oven.
  • Set reminders in your phone to eat, drink, or snack
  • If eating junk is your problem, try to avoid buying them (I know you’re giving me the side eye, but seriously). That includes cutting out carry-out meals.

Side effects of grief & how to cope.

Fog Brain

Can’t focus, forgetting things, caught up in your memories, missing appointments, mind wandering off in mid sentence. Any of that sound familiar?

While you’re grieving, you may start feeling “fog brain” as I like to call it. This is completely normal. Don’t fret.

This happens because of the influx of stress, fatigue, & hormones within your body. With time, you’re memory will start to get back to normal.

Tips for dealing with fog brain:

  • Create to do lists
  • Set reminders on your phone
  • Shut out distractions
  • Eat breakfast
  • Get up & move
  • Journal
  • Take short breaks
  • Drink water throughout the day

Lowered Immunity

Many people become stressed while they’re grieving. The stress range all over the place from finances to how to move on with your loved one.

This constant stress can lead to weakened immune systems. Which leads to being sick more & more. Especially when combined with fatigue.

Tips for dealing with lowered immunity:

  • One of the best ways to combat your lowered immunity while dealing with grief is to start taking multivitamins. They won’t ward off all illness but it will help to give your body a boost while you’re trying to get back on track.
  • Get back to a good night’s sleep
  • Eat more balanced meals

Breathing Trouble

Shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, & dizziness are all symptoms of breathing trouble. And its normal during grief, especially if your grief process has been causing you anxiety.

Keep a watchful eye on breathing difficulties. Sometimes it is also a sign of heart issues. Don’t be hesitant to consult with a medical profession.

Tips for breathing trouble:

  • Try a relaxation technique
  • Start meditation
  • Learn breathing techniques

Heart Issues

The stress, anxiety, & overwhelm that grief brings can cause many health issues. Especially in the heart. Because of this, heart attacks & increased heart rate are very common for people suffering with grief.

Have you heard of the phrase “they died of a broken heart”? Here’s the thing, it’s not just a phrase or a myth its a real thing. It’s a condition called, takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome”. Which essentially mimics a heart attack. However, this condition can be treated & is very rarely fatal.

It’s important to remember that while it can be annoying & beyond frustrating to deal with this, it is normal, you’re not alone. Please do not self medicate. If the above tips do not help, then consult with a medical professional.

Looking for more ways to cope? Grab the Artist Within E-book filled with over 100 art therapy activities that you can do at home or check out the new art course! Inner Surface!

Pin For Later↓

The physical side effects of grief & how to cope