In the wake of the passing of a relative or friend, funeral homes are often a place of discussion of the state of their health before passing. A way of mourning is discussing whether it was their time, without much deliberation on the effect of the grieving on their own health. The tragic irony behind grief for a lost loved one is that the same grief can create more loss and sorrow. Grief has an impact so strong on the psyche that it impacts human physiology. This leads to more than just muscle tensions and insomnia. Loved ones in our life often act as an attachment to life itself and when that attachment is gone, one can struggle to stay alive in more ways than one.
The stress that accumulates after a traumatic encounter with loss can manifest itself in more mental symptoms like depression and anxiety to life threatening conditions like risk of heart attack or a weak immune system. Traumatic grief was found to raise the risk of cancer and heart trouble in a sample of widows and widowers. High blood pressure and suicidal ideation were also found as a result of grief. Stress and cortisol inhibit osteoblasts, which in turn lowers bone density and may lead to osteoporosis, which can be deadly for the elderly. Another risk for the elderly as well as children is the immunodeficiency that comes with stress, which leaves them vulnerable to infections. Gastrointestinal issues may arise from stress, affecting digestion and nutrition absorbed in the body.
There’s truth in the phrase “heartbreak”, because grief can have the worst effects on the heart and blood flow. As the stress hormones cause the heart to pump faster and harder, the arteries and blood vessels become tighter and more constricted, causing high blood pressure, damaging those arteries and raising risk of heart attack. Heart troubles may be intensified by lack of sleep as this affects the circadian rhythm. As depression sets in and the body becomes sedentary, this increases risk that some physical activity may prompt heart troubles. The respiratory irregularities like hyperventilation that is prompted by stress damages the heart further through inefficient breathing, putting even more pressure on the heart to pump oxygen to the rest of the body. Anxiety causes by traumatic grief furthers the stress response in the body and prevents the nervous system from returning to normal, keeping the body in perpetual fight or flight mode.
Grief and mourning are a part of life, it means you had or even still have a connection to those loved ones who have passed, but loving people and connecting to them doesn’t have to be a health hazard. Funeral homes bring more loved ones together, they provide an opportunity to connect with those we still have and a chance to celebrate the ones recently lost. The mourning process can involve laughter and joy, which are themselves stress relievers. Love opens the doors to grief and joy alike, and those emotions are powerful enough to be felt in your very bones.
May & Son funeral home has helped families and loved ones through the grieving process for more than a century. We have locations in Columbia, Boonville, Sedalia and serve the Fayette Missouri area. To find out about how to plan ahead, contact us today.