Losing a loved one is stressful, heart breaking

Losing a loved one is stressful, heart breaking


The loss of Michael Jackson a few years ago, has had a profound affect on many people around the world. Some may wonder how this could be since people did not know him well; yet he was in the hearts and minds of many because they felt as if they knew him. They had watched him grow up from a young child to an adult.

Most people had heard his music and many, many had seen him perform on television or even in person. Even the recent loss of American pop star Whitney Houston, who also started singing at a young age and has been in the American spotlight during the 80s and 90s for her ability to sustain a note and sign in amazing pitch caused people to grieve. They regretted that one so talented and young could die. Like it or not, famous people enter our consciousness.

So, when they die, we may feel as if we have lost someone that we’ve known very well. Unfortunately, when we do this, we grieve and this, as with any type of loss, can hurt our health. According to Dr. Neeld who wrote an online article entitled, “Physical Stress of Grieving” for the Legacy Connect of the Legacy. com, website, when we feel loss, we may feel stress because the hormones in our system can increase and when they do, as Dr Neeld says, “our central nervous system becomes highly stimulated.

Our breathing may become  defective. Biological rhythms of sleeping and eating are disturbed. Our digestion, metabolism, circulation and respiration change. Our ability to concentrate and pay attention decreases.” This can be upsetting. If one does not remember or are unable to pay attention because of grief, it can add more problems for our health. In fact, we can physically be affected by this grieve or stress.

Again, as Dr.  Neeld states, “Grieving can actually change the environment in the belly,  intestines and bowels. “I feel as if I’ve been hit in the stomach,” we might say. “My stomach is in knots,” someone else may offer as a description of the physical stress triggered by a loss. These reactions can actually rearrange the muscles and sometimes even our body’s skeleton, in particular patterns for particular lengths of time.

We may make sounds, like a moan or a growl. Our brain produces pictures that upset us even more. Often the physical stress of grieving will cause us to lose coordination. We fall more easily. We don’t run our daily lives as smoothly as we did. Even simple things seem hard to do. Our brain and our eyes don’t coordinate the way they did before the loss. We are prone to have more accidents. We get more colds. Our immune system is compromised. We tire easily.

More over, as the World Health Organizations notes, in times of crisis, such as natural disasters, those who are not there, but close to those who are, may also feel that affect. In other words, they grieve and their health is affected. Throughout their response to the disaster, the WHO’s task force has attempted to base its decisions on what is a normal response to tragedy and its is psychological effect on others would be.

However, the grief process is not normal. People become affected differently by each case. The main issue to consider is how to understand what grief can do to one’s health and to try to address this, particularly one’s mental health as well as physical health. The book, Tanzania Women in their Own Words: Stories of Disability and Illness by Sheryl Feinstein and Nicole D’Errico, is a good book to review to consider what grieve through illness can do.

It is also an action oriented book, encouraging culture to help heal and for others to speak out about situations in which they find themselves, through physical loss or  illness. Through reading and then speaking, it is helping one to move through grief. In fact, the authors encourage all to read, to speak and to share their problems.

The author’s perspective is that “speaking is the first” step to healing or as they say, the first public or “political” act. By engaging in such an act one begins to take a stand. One also recognizes that others may be there as supports or who are also experiencing similar situations and can grow together in deciding upon a remedy or moving to the next level. It can be healthy to do this and your health matters.

Author: Dr Robin Mjasiri

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