When somebody close to you dies it can leave an emotional gash on your well being that will eventually fade away, but not without leaving scar tissue in its place. The tremendous amount of emotional pain from a tragedy has a nasty way of manifesting itself physically.
This can come in a variety of ways. Stomach discomfort, chest pain, insomnia, disordered eating habits, muscle tension, anxiety, and depression to name a few. The American Heart Association performed a study that showed that people had a 68% increase in chest pain and a 9% increased risk for having a heart attack following an emotionally traumatic event (such as the death of a family member or friend).
You Are Not Alone
In the wake of a death, it can be very hard to keep your head above water. While you’re trying to mentally process the grief, keeping up with your physical well-being can seem impossible. It is important to realize that you are not alone in this struggle. Experiencing physical side effects from a tragedy is, unfortunately, a common problem many people do not even realize.
Linda, 58, from Concord, New Hampshire wrote to me about her struggles with weight gain following the death of her husband.
“I lost control. I stopped doing my morning walk, and ate to distract me from his death. I ended up gaining 35lb in the 5 months following the funeral.”
Bill from Harrisburg Pennsylvania wrote about his health struggles following the death of his daughter.
“My health deteriorated quickly. I hardly left the house. I started eating too much and drinking too much until one morning, I looked in the mirror and almost didn’t recognize myself. I knew I needed help at that point.”
Recognize the Problem
The first step in regaining your health is to recognize that you have been neglecting to take care of your body following the death of a loved one. It really can be easy to lose sight of what is right in front of you. Sometimes the problem is that you know you have been maintaining unhealthy habits but do not want to admit it.
Like many effective recovery programs, once you can honestly admit that you have a problem, only then can you move forward to find a solution. It is difficult, but all it takes is a moment of honest self-reflection. Be honest with yourself, realize that you can make a positive change in your health with even small lifestyle changes. Take accountability for your health, and find ways to improve it through small daily ahbits.
Please do not be afraid to seek support from a therapist or counselor. They have been professionally trained and licensed to deal with the underlying mental roadblocks leading to the unhealthy eating and weight gain. The help you receive to deal with any mental health problems and alleviate physical symptoms far outweighs the undeserved backlash you might get from surrounding family and friends who clearly don’t understand your situation fully. Anybody willing to criticize someone trying to better themselves is not someone who has your best interest in mind.
Deal With the Problem Head On
It’s never easy to tackle difficult problems when you are already dealing with the death of a loved one. At the risk of your own health, it is imperative that you try to stay on a healthy diet. It will be very easy to overeat when dealing with emotionally difficult situations.
It will become very tempting to not want to do much of anything following a funeral of somebody close to you. Getting more exercise can be a great healthy distraction from your anxieties and can help you get your weight back on track. Check out our article on why you should continue hobbies and activities in your life for more useful information on staying active.
Never underestimate the effects small lifestyle changes can have on your overall health. Parking a little bit further away, drinking water instead of soda, taking the stairs. All of these things cumulatively add up. It is never too early to start taking your health more seriously.
If you're interested in a more in-depth look at grief then check out Coping with Grief and Tragedy.