Changes in our lives can cause us to be stressed. Sometimes the changes are good ones, such as a job promotion or the birth of a child. Sometimes the opposite is true. You may be laid off because the company you work for is downsizing. Instead of the joyful experience of your child’s birth, you have experienced the death of your child. When the death of my son occurred, every facet of my life was changed from the tip of my head down to my toes.

Cognitively or the way my brain thought about things was altered to the point of feeling like I was going crazy at times.  I withdrew into myself not wanting to talk to anyone, for talking made me cry- it made me feel.  I would have given anything not to feel those first few weeks.  At times I couldn’t find my keys when I wanted to go out of the house, or I would leave the house and forget where I was going.

Physically our body responds to grief the same way we do with stress. Changes in our lives can cause us headaches as well as heartaches. Headaches can come from not sleeping enough, from fear that this event will happen again, or tension to resolve the situation. Heartaches or feeling weary due to heaviness in the chest is often experienced as a by-product of this exhaustion and can seem as if one is walking through a fog.

Emotional responses are familiar to anyone who has experienced loss. Those new to grief may be surprised at the many emotions surfacing in those first few weeks and months. I had bouts of crying, being angry at those close to me, and had a short temper. All these emotions can come to the surface as the griever struggles to make sense out of a senseless event.

Socially, the griever may suddenly retreat inward and not want to be around anyone.  The world they knew and trusted to be the same has now changed. The control I thought I had had was a fallacy. Not wanting to experience the hurt I was feeling now, l refused invitations of support and comfort.  This solitude is understandable and even acceptable as the griever licks the wounds this pain has produced. In time, it is important to reach out to others.

How a person has been raised and their faith beliefs at the time of the loss can also be seen in the body. Their spirituality can be a comfort or cause them additional stress. Many have shared that they were angry with God, as they knew him.  For just as many, knowing their loved one was in heaven brought them a sense of calmness that eased some of their pain.

Being aware and accepting that grief affects our body in various ways is important to the healing process and the self care that follows.

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Mary Jane Cronin

Mary Jane Cronin is a licensed counselor with a private practice in Largo, Florida. She began her writing career following the loss of her 16 year old son. Ten years of working for hospice prepared her for helping others over loss. Mary Jane is the mother of four boys and two grand pups. Mary Jane provides counseling and support groups on loss, grief, and unexpected change. She enjoys professional speaking and has been to several The Compassionate Friends conferences to speak and conduct workshops. Mary Jane’s website is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss. (Ordering information for both books may be found on the website as well.) She can be reached at

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