This overview of Grief is presented in recognition of May being Mental Health Awareness Month. There were so many losses due to the deaths in our society’s recent past, it seemed appropriate to allow for the possibility that some of us are still reflecting on this difficult time---and other times since then.

“Most people understand that a significant loss will impact them emotionally. The physical symptoms of grief can catch people off guard,” said Liz Kelly, a licensed independent clinical social worker and a therapist in private practice in the Washington, DC, area. She wrote This Book Is Cheaper Than Therapy: A No-Nonsense Guide to Improving Your Mental Health.


Some of the symptoms following may be more classic than others. However, each person’s grief is different and resolves at varying rates.  It is important to check with a medical provider to verify there are no underlying conditions that may need to be treated. So, we should not make any assumptions that because we have experienced a loss, that our symptoms must be related to our grief. Conversely, if we do have symptoms that may be related to an underlying condition –we would be wise not to assume that the condition is the exclusive cause. There is a high likelihood that the grief is an impacting factor.


Sleep Problems-whether the issue is trouble going to sleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much

Fatigue-grief drains energy and is helped by eating and light exercise, like going for a walk can help, and staying connected with friends, (even when we don’t feel like it) relatives or a mental health professional.

Inflammation- is often caused by our immune system seeing something as a threat. Grief can aggravate inflammation.

Anxiety- is sometimes a reaction to fear of losing someone else, feeling out of control of your life, financial worry. If the worry starts to interfere with your life, it’s time to get an assessment of the relationship to grief.

Digestion problems that won’t go away- persistent gastrointestinal problems lasting longer than 6 months should be investigated and the information shared should include the loss you’ve experienced.

Aches and pains-these can be related to the stress hormones (cortisol) the body is releasing often showing as joint pain, back pain and headaches.

Broken Heart Syndrome-which can feel like a heart attack, but usually there is no heart damage