Culture & Lifestyle / Part 2: Prolonged Grief Can Affect Your Mental And Physical Health

Part 2: Prolonged Grief Can Affect Your Mental And Physical Health

Culture & Lifestyle Aug 07, 2015

Part two of our three-part series on how grieving can take a toll on your body. We explore the physical and psychological aspects of grieving. 

*Click here to read part one: Grieving The Loss Of A Loved One 

Grief can strike for many reasons; the loss of a loved one or losing something of value can trigger the non-linear stages of grief. The greater the loss, the more intense and the longer the grieving can be and without healthy coping mechanisms and a supportive network, traumatic and/or prolonged grief can affect one’s mental health and physical wellbeing.

According to the study Traumatic Grief as a Risk Factor for Mental and Physical Morbidity, consisting of 150 widows and widowers, the symptoms of traumatic grief are predictors of future physical and mental health outcomes. Survival and regression analyses indicated that the presence of traumatic grief symptoms approximately six months after the death of the spouse predicted negative health outcomes such as cancer, heart trouble, high blood pressure, suicidal ideation and changes in eating habits at the 13- or 25-month follow-up. The study iterates that it is not just the regular stress of grief and bereavement that puts an individual at risk for long-term mental and physical health decline but rather it is those that experience traumatic prolonged grief that are at risk for long-term dysfunction.

If you are experiencing traumatic or prolonged grief here are a few important things to keep in mind: 

1. Be aware of the cyclical thoughts that trigger your grief.

Our thoughts affect our emotions which in turn lead to our actions. Negative thoughts, lead to negative feelings and consequently the prolonged stress leads to negative coping mechanisms such as smoking, overeating or substance abuse to numb the pain and lift your mood. It is important to be aware of the thoughts that bring about your state of grief and seek help from friends or a grief counselor to process the emotions and catch the negative thoughts that spin your mind into a downward spiral.

2. Take care of your physical health.

Only you will know if your grief is prolonged or traumatic to the point that it is affecting your physical and mental wellbeing. So, if you are feeling ill seek advice from a doctor and check if your grief is affecting your health. It is important to take care of your physical health especially when grieving so your immune system is stable and at a normal level. The mind and body are connected. When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally and manage your stress levels. Grieving can be very tiresome for your body so combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising. 

3. Help someone else dealing with similar loss.

It will help you with your own grief if you help someone else navigate and get through their pain. Giving to someone else to reduce and relieve their pain and suffering will not only be rewarding in the short term but will help you through your journey in the long term. There will be a broader perspective on the loss in your life providing relief in the midst of your storm.

Photo Credit:  

Do you need more help?


If you or someone you know is struggling with grief, especially traumatic and prolonged grief, contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association to learn more about support and resources in your area. The Canadian Mental Health Association is a national charity that helps maintain and improve mental health for all Canadians. CMHA helps people access the community resources they need to build resilience and support recovery from mental illness.  


Refer to the recommendations by the National Health Services on how to access mental health services in your area.   


Refer to the American governmental agency:

Main Image Photo Credit: 

Yvonne Sinniah

Yvonne Sinniah


Yvonne Sinniah (@YvonneSinniah) is a Relations Advisor and inspirational speaker focusing on helping individuals achieve success in personal and professional environments.  focusing on helping individuals achieve success in personal and professional environments.  She is on a mission to meet a nee...


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