Sub conscientiously or not grief unfortunately affects the mind and body, for me the symptoms of grief would usually sneak up on me. I usually think I am crazy when I can go from being “fine” to uncontrollably crying and back to fine in 20 minutes and look like I’ve never cried (so I think). Sometimes it’s a reminder (trigger) of my person and sometimes it’s just thoughts and memories that send me into a downward spiral.
I can go from feeling anger, sadness, loneliness in a split second and then right to numbness. I used to get scared of the numb feeling, I thought I was turning into a heartless monster because my future was taken away from me. However, if I was always feeling the sadness, anger and hopelessness nonstop I would crash and burn. Just like a train or a car, they can’t always run without being serviced. Just like grief, it’s an ongoing feeling but temporary in it’s duration because it needs to power up for it’s next attack.
I started to embrace the numbness and sometimes too much when I binged Netflix because I didn’t want to feel or didn’t know what to feel. I definitely felt confusion from little things like what to wear and eat to big things like questioning the existence of a higher power. Confused about what to do with the rest of my life and how to live this new life, or should I just get a dog? But I really like cats. I feel like I have a scattered brain all the time. A few weeks after Jordan’s service I left a plastic cutting board on the stove and almost started a fire. Luckily I was able to put out the fire with a kitchen cloth, it was a scary experience because I wasn’t paying attention and it could have been worse. There was melted plastic everywhere on the stove. I called my parents and they came over right away to help me clean and air out the house.
Especially in the beginning I would just go to bed around 9 because there wasn’t anything to do and I wouldn’t get out of bed until 11 am because there was no point in getting up. My only motivation to get up was coffee. There were a lot of days where I struggled mentally and I still do, but I realized why I was struggling. It was because I didn’t see the point of living and doing anything. What is the point? I didn’t want to tell anyone that I didn’t see a point in living because they would just worry about me and would try to fix it. The truth is, I don’t want that feeling fixed, maybe because it reminds me of how much I love Jordan. One thing I noticed when I realized how I was feeling, I was ok with it. I tried not to judge it, because the truth is no one knows what I am going through every moment, not even myself.
Sleep is the hardest thing for me, I still struggle with waking up throughout the night. Sometimes I wake up in a panic, sometimes I wake up and have to remember Jordan is not beside me and my heart breaks all over again. I find myself laying in bed staring at the clock just thinking and 2 hours will pass. I lay in bed thinking what the hell happened to me and how did I get here? Maybe the lack of sleep led to my confusion, irrational behaviour, and lack of energy.
I notice myself yoyoing very fast, I can be ok one second and in the next second I’m yelling to someone on the phone dealing with Jordan's paperwork. I definitely have a lot of anger, however along with these emotional symptoms came the physical symptoms. I personally started to notice my hair all over my house when I swept the floor. I felt tired all the time, but not so tired that I could fall asleep. I like to call this the purgatory of sleep. I felt like I was always tired because I yoyo’d so much in a day that my body was like nope, not doing it anymore. In addition, I feel like crying takes a lot of energy, I remember by 5 pm I was done with the day and couldn’t get off the couch. For me nothing tasted good (honestly, I still feel like this most of the time), so I only ate to stay alive and for junk food. The level of joy I got from eating decreased a lot, I actually like cooking more than I like eating. I also found myself developing an IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), no matter what I ate I was running to the washroom.
I found myself some days having bad headaches, but I didn’t want to tell anymore because it was a symptom of Covid (I knew I didn’t have it because I never left the house). With the headaches I felt tension in my shoulders and neck, that’s where I keep my stress I guess. There were also times that I have had severe heartburn and nothing would help except for drinking apple cider vinegar and chewing gum.
Trust me when I say this, but I hate playing the victim and complaining about everything I’m going through, and believe me this is just half of it. I’m writing to let people know that they are not alone in their feeling of grief. I used to think grief is just a season and we move on, but grief always stays with us. Grief can cause a lot of other symptoms other than the typical; anger, denial, acceptance, etc.
I think it’s important to pay attention to these symptoms of grief and allow yourself to have the grace to feel these emotions and feelings. Acknowledging your own grief and how it affects you, I’ve heard of people not crying after their loved one passed away, and there is nothing wrong with that. It will come out in different ways, maybe you can’t stop cleaning or eating or maybe it’s looking through old photos and remembering the good times. Grief symptoms are not one size fits all, we’re all unique so why wouldn’t grief be unique to us?
There are many symptoms of grief, given that I am not an expert and I am sharing my own experience with grief. Here is a list the symptoms of grief that I found on the Cross Road Hospice website that I could identify with the most:
Common Feelings for Mourners :
Common Mental Reactions to Grief
Difficulties in concentrating
Continuously thinking about the loss
Difficulty making decisions
Believing you were responsible for the loss
Increased or decreased dreams
Thinking everyone is watching you
Thinking you are different from everyone else
Common Physical Reactions to Grief
Sleeping changes – too little or too much
Weight and appetite changes
Energized: feeling strong/invincible
Headaches and stomach aches
Easily shaken by certain sights and sounds (particularly those that remind you of the loss)
Increased number of colds and infections
Common Spiritual Reactions to Grief
Feeling lost and empty
Feeling abandoned or punished by God
Questioning a reason to go on living
Feeling like you don’t belong
Feeling angry with God
Questioning your religious beliefs
Feeling spiritually connected to the person who died
Feeling spiritually connected to God
Needing to receive forgiveness
Finding hope in prayer/spiritual beliefs
Finding purpose in life
Common Behaviors and Social Interactions When Grieving
Trying to stay constantly active
Changes in work performance
Being preoccupied and forgetful
Being more clumsy
Crying a lot, or more easily
Not caring about things, wanting to drop out
Wanting to spend more time alone
Dropping out of social activities
Pulling away from other’s attempts to touch and comfort you
Wanting more attention and affection
Seeking approval and reassurance from others
Being aggressive, getting more arguments
Showing more creative expression through music, writing, and art
I can unfortunately relate to almost all of these. All I will recommend is that if you want (or need) help, go get it, ask for it, we have so many resources and people to help us. Here are the things that have helped me deal with the symptoms of my grief.
I allow myself to feel the grief symptoms, acknowledge them and accept that they are going to happen whether you like it or not. I think it’s a part of my life now, the little brother (yes, I’ve identified grief with a male!) I never wanted to have. I’ve been told that the little brother gets less annoying (I’m still waiting).
Getting out for a walk and breathing the fresh air. Walking outside and observing the things around me oddly makes me feel better. I would like to think it’s because I am observing the grandness of the world. Just as it gave me so much, it took it away…The darkness aside, I do feel closer to Jordan when I go for walks, I feel like he is always around me and that he is part of me.
Becoming the observer of your thoughts. This one is hard for me, I’ve come to realize that I get crazy thoughts all the time, but I’ve learned to take a step back and not to judge these thoughts. Sometimes it's hard not to act on them, that’s when I’ll go for a walk or meditate. Meditation has helped me to separate myself from my thoughts.
Allow yourself grace and take time. There is no rush through grief and no time pressure to get back up. You get up when you want to, you do what feels good for you that won’t harm you in the long run. I understand that some of us don’t have this luxury of time, but you do what you can and know that it’s ok.
Let me know about your grief symptoms and what helps you to get through it.