How Do The Physical Symptoms of Grief Affect Your Body?

Last Update on June 23, 2023 : Published on June 25, 2023
Physical Symptoms of Grief Affect Your Body

The odd lump in your throat and the heaviness in your chest when you mourn the loss of a loved one might be brushed off as odd occurrences, but what you may not know is that the heartache, the fatigue, the tightness in your chest, and the stomach cramps that you feel when grieving can all be physical symptoms of grief.

Grief might be a complex emotional response to loss but it can manifest in physical aches and pains too. The stress and sadness that you feel along with grief can impact your physical health too.

Often, we focus on the emotional and psychological aspects of grief, but it’s important to accept the physical signs of grief as well. Our minds and bodies are interconnected and what we experience in our hearts can manifest in our physical health as well.

In this article, we’re exploring the physical symptoms of grief, how they manifest in your body, and how you can navigate through these physical manifestations of grief and bereavement.

Emotional Symptoms of Grief:

  • Feeling teary
  • Experiencing profound sadness
  • Feeling numbness or emptiness
  • Unable to sleep

Grief can also trigger psychological responses such as;

  • Symptoms of depression
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Symptoms of prolonged grief disorder
  • Symptoms of chronic stress

The Physical Symptoms Of Grief

Physical Symptoms

1.Fatigue and Exhaustion

One of the most common physical symptoms of grief is fatigue and constant exhaustion. When you’re grieving, it takes a toll on your emotional health as well as mental health, causing physical tiredness. The body’s response to grief also causes a surge in stress hormones, making you lose sleep and energy.

You may constantly feel on edge, nervous, and anxious, causing you little to no time to relax and let the parasympathetic system work. When you’re exhausted, it could manifest in ways such as feeling listless, having eyes drooping, wanting to sleep but being unable to rest, and more.

2.Sleep Struggles

Another common physical symptom that grief manifests is in our sleeping patterns. When you’re grieving, it can result in trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. Sometimes, the grief can manifest as racing thoughts, vivid dreams, and intrusive memories and all of this can make it challenging for you to rest properly.

Lack of sleep can show in the puffiness of your eyes, poor coordination, and poor cognitive function. Lack of sleep can also make you feel lethargic, adding to the physical fatigue you experience.

3.Appetite and Digestive Changes

Grief can also impact your appetite and digestive system. Many people find it hard to eat when they are grieving a loss, causing significant weight loss whereas others may find comfort in food. If you make food your coping mechanism, then it may result in emotional eating and weight gain, causing physical health problems.

Grief can also cause digestive issues such as stomach cramps, nausea, and gastrointestinal problems.

4.Weakened Immune System

The stress of grief and bereavement can also weaken your immune system, making you more likely to catch infections and illnesses. Your body naturally responds to grief by releasing stress hormones and these hormones can suppress your immune response, leaving you vulnerable to diseases and infections.

If you already have an existing illness, then grief can make you more susceptible to infections due to your already lowered immunity. There have also been studies that say that grief can increase inflammation in the body.

5.Physical Aches and Pains

Another physical manifestation of grief can take the form of physical aches and pains throughout your body. You may experience severe headaches, lower back pain, or just physical discomfort due to grief. These physical symptoms can be a physiological response to stress and emotional distress that commonly occurs when you’re grieving.

The lump you feel in your throat, nausea you feel in your stomach, and the heaviness you feel in your chest can all be signs of physical aches and pains that grief brings.

6.Cardiac Symptoms

Another physical manifestation of grief takes form through cardiovascular symptoms. Grief can cause symptoms such as increased heart rate, tightness in the chest, or even shortness of breath. The emotional toll of grief can take the physical form of chest pain.

In a research, it was found that most people with poor cardiovascular health are more prone to heart attacks or heart-related issues in the days after the loss.

Tips to Cope With The Physical Symptoms of Grief

Physical Symptoms of Grief

To cope with the physical symptoms of grief, you can try these ways;

1. Practice Relaxation Techniques: You can engage in deep breathing exercises such as PMR, box breathing, or mindfulness breathing to cope with the distress.

2. Get Enough Sleep: Create a consistent sleep routine that you follow regularly. Getting enough sleep can also help you cope with physical and emotional distress. It can help you take care of excessive fatigue and exhaustion as well.

3. Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eat nourishing foods and a well-balanced diet to ensure physical health. It can be hard to find an appetite when you’re grieving but try to eat regular meals, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods.

4. Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can also worsen your physical health and symptoms of grief, so make sure you stay hydrated so that you don’t suffer headaches, fatigue, and indigestion.

5. Try Self-Care: Engage in gentle self-care. You can take warm baths, practice yoga, or engage in creative self-expression to help express your feelings and emotions that are too difficult to process emotionally.

6. Try Alternative Therapies: Acupuncture, aromatherapy, and massage therapy are types of alternative therapies you can consider to help ease the physical symptoms of grief. These therapies can reduce muscle tension, improve blood circulation, and promote relaxation.

7. Seek Professional Support: If your physical symptoms are not easy to overcome and are impacting your everyday life, then consider seeking professional help and guidance. You can seek grief counseling or join grief support groups for help.


Grief is a complex response to loss and it can not only affect your emotions but also your physical well-being. Understanding the physical symptoms of grief and acknowledging the way grief can manifest physically can help you cope with them and process grief. When you’re grieving, try to remain compassionate and patient with yourself. Remember, you can contact your loved ones and therapist for support and help.

If your physical symptoms of grief are interfering with your everyday life and affecting how you feel, accept, and process your loss, then do not hesitate to reach out for help and support. While many of the physical signs and symptoms may heal with time, some can leave a lasting impact if left unaddressed.

“Ain’t no shame in holding on to grief… as long as you make room for other things too.”

I hope this article helped you understand how grief can affect our bodies. Let me know what you think about this article in the comments below.

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.


  1. Nelia Adione
    Nelia Adione

    This article has really helped me.. since loss of my Dad. I've been having health issues from fever to pains, back aches, stomach cramps and I don't who to talk to.. my mum? My brothers? I don't guess they are feeling it too.. I'm learning to take care of myself and handle it... I know it won't go away but i just have learn to live through this... I'm glad i came across this.. Thanks

    1. CS Team
      CS Team

      Hello Neila, We hope you are doing well. We are grateful this blog helped you. Be Hopeful and Keep thriving. Team Calmsage

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

As Seen On