How does Stress Affect Grief?

How does Stress Affect GriefAll of us have ways we deal with the stress in our lives. Some ways are positive and others are  not. The death of a loved one is considered one of the most stressful life events a person faces. Bereavement adds complexity to the stress of our daily lives. Coping with daily life during and after the immediate death of a loved one is something all of us have experienced or will experience in our lives.  There are ways to help deal with the added stress bereavement adds to our already stressful lives. Many of the following ideas may be familiar as stress reducing ideas and a few may be new ideas for you.

What is Stress?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, stress is the physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. Stress can definitely hurt your health.  An increase in stress can cause bowel upsets, headaches, and hypertension and more in your body over the long-term.

Short-term more immediate stress responses are related to the “fight or flight” adaptive response our bodies give when demands on us reach overload. Adrenaline rushes into our circulatory system and can create:

  • an increased heart rate.

  • muscle tenseness.

  • dry mouth.

  • increased sweating.

  • rapid breathing.


Ways to Reduce Stress

Getting exercise and restorative sleep, meditation, journaling, and scheduling time to eat at a leisurely pace are all ways to help manage stress. Below is a list of activities found to help people grieving to reduce their stress:

Go for a walk.
Engage in your favorite sport.
Meditation and Positive Affirmations.
Eat healthy foods.
Write in a journal.
Ask for help when you need it.
Listen to your favorite music.
Practice progressive relaxation techniques.
Do Yoga or Tai Chi.
Get a massage.
Play with your pet.
Create a work of art.
Practice self-hypnosis.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to consciously schedule stress-reducing activities into your day. It is human nature to let ourselves cope by getting busy with our “back-to-life” schedules and just try to forget or ignore the loss.  If we take the time to plan stress-reducing activities into our lives we avoid this common negative coping strategy. Remind yourself it is okay to say no so that your calendar does not get so full you have no time for relaxation. Scheduling these times to workout, go for a walk, write in a journal, etc., are critical to reduce stress.

Be gentle with yourself during your bereavement period. Sometimes a person grieves, mourns, and is ready to move on within a very short time frame. However, for most people the bereavement period stretches into months and for some years. The loss of a loved one causes the added stresses of figuring out life without that person and accepting that loss. Stress management and relaxation activities will help you cope as you move into the future without your loved one.