Physical Symptoms of Grief

You know the emotional stages of grief. As you prepare to enter end-of-life care or admit a loved one to a
hospice program, you may begin to develop coping mechanisms for the standard symptoms of grief.

However, many individuals fail to realize that grief can affect you physically as well as emotionally.
Dealing with these physical symptoms as they arise can help you process your grief in a healthy way and
optimize your energy during the end-of-life process.

In this blog, we discuss three ways grief may manifest physically and how you can deal with these physical

1. Appetite Changes

One of the ways your body may respond to stressors of any kind is a change in appetite. For most people,
these changes consist of either lack of appetite or compulsive overeating. However, some people may fluctuate
between these two extremes.

Appetite changes can prevent you from getting the nutrition and energy you need to deal with your everyday
life, which can contribute to other issues over time, including weight changes.

If you notice a loss of appetite or distinct increase in appetite, make a meal plan. Set specific times
and amounts to eat to ensure you get the nutrition you need.

2. Chest Pressure

Some grieving people literally become “heartsore.” You may begin to experience chest tightness, pressure
in the throat and chest, or chest pain. These symptoms result from your body’s reaction to stress, which can
result from any stage of the grieving process.

In the long run, untreated cardiac health problems can increase your risk of heart disease and heart
attack. A doctor can help you reduce this risk.

Remember, chest pain can indicate a serious problem. If your issues appear suddenly, become very intense,
or persist for a prolonged period, seek emergency medical health.

3. Fatigue

While processing grief, many individuals begin to feel fatigued and exhausted. Initially, this exhaustion
results from your body producing the same physical effects you would feel if you were in immediate danger.
These reactions include muscle tenseness and periods of extreme focus.

As time goes on, however, you may experience sleep disruptions or insomnia related to your grief. Lack of
quality sleep can contribute to overall fatigue. Fatigue can have a wide range of secondary symptoms,

  • Aches and pains: When you don’t get enough sleep, your body cannot heal from injury, even
    minor ones. As a result, you may feel achy throughout the day.
  • Depression or anxiety: Depression and fatigue can contribute to each other, causing a
    cycle of tiredness and clinical feelings of exhaustion. Exhaustion can also reduce your ability to deal with
    fundamental tasks, which can create feelings of anxiety and stress.
  • Distraction or absent-mindedness: Lack of sleep can decrease mental acuity and may also
    cause headaches, lack of motivation, and an inability to concentrate.

An over-the-counter sleep aid may help you get higher-quality sleep. If you still experience sleep
problems and fatigue, seek help from a sleep therapist.


If you are under regular medical care, whether as part of a palliative care program or a routine medical
regimen, discuss any physical symptoms with your doctor. Your doctor can recommend additional measures to
those listed here to help you deal with physical elements of grief.

In addition to medical and physical measures, you may need to deal with the emotional signs of grief in
order to alleviate your physical symptoms. Consider seeking out help from a licensed mental health
professional. He or she can help you find traditional or alternative methods of therapy to get you through
the difficulties that come with the grieving process.

For more information on end-of-life care, visit our blog