The Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends, Alan Pederson, joins the president of the Open to Hope Foundation, Dr. Gloria Horsley, to discuss the importance of health while in the grieving process. Grief is a natural response to loss, but it can be devastating. Special guest Dr. Coralease Ruff is featured, a registered nurse, professor, and international grieving consultant. When grieving, your heart rate can go up and your blood pressure increases. You may have digestive issues, respiratory system problems, heart issues, and your musculoskeletal system can be affected, says Dr. Ruff. Physical symptoms are common, and can be dangerous.
Emotionally, you may feel guilt or anger, towards the person you lost, yourself, caregivers, and others. Crying, of course, is a natural response but it can be accompanied by depression, death wishes, and confusion. There’s a thin line between grief and depression, and treating depression is critical for self-care. The cognitive changes from grief can include memory loss, changes in decision making, and trouble with complex activities. Your concentration may suffer.
When grieving, your body is exposed to adrenaline on a continuous basis, which can traumatize the body and generally drain your health and energy. The goal of true health is to stop the fight or flight instinct, which your body naturally goes to when there’s a loss. Start with the goal of sleeping “your” right amount of hours (usually seven to ten) and stick to regular bedtime hours.
Total care of physical health includes nutrition, hydration, and perhaps supplements if approved by your doctor. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and drugs. Exercise is another critical component. Rest and relaxation are just as important, as is scheduling time each day to relax with a variety of techniques. Your health matters most in urgent situations, including grief.