Grief and Your Health

“Love and Death are the great gifts that are given us, mostly they are passed on unopened.” R.M. Rilke, Translation by Joan Halifax

I was recently asked to speak about Grief and Your Health by Mark Sackett ( from The Art of Active Networking, (
where he had started the new San Francisco chapter of The Health and Wellness Network of Commerce(, which meets at his venue, The Box.

I am proud to say that I am a founding member and have been watching this vital Organization continue to grow and flourish. Currently the new President Rae Roth, is building upon its inception and welcoming all involved in the Healthcare industry to join us on this important mission at an extremely important time in the Healthcare industry as we face and address some major changes and issues. 
This month of October, I have chosen to share the presentation that I did because of the impact that Grief has on all our lives and because of the misconceptions. I also have taken on this plight to make everyone aware of the depths of its impact on our lives. Everyone is different and each loss is different, I will grant you that, but it does not diminish the power that Grief holds, nor the capabilities of this often misunderstood process. I use myself as an example because I have been through it and experienced it in my own life. I have found myself in a position of not finding the support that I needed, to make it through or the understanding of what was going on emotionally and Spiritually, because of it. I have worked in Hospice and seen the pattern of families and relationships torn apart by the devastation and the unbearable pain of loss. I have witnessed the inability of our Culture to speak of and address the emotions that choke our words, numb our tongues, clog our tear ducts and tear our beating hearts out of our chests in a single swoop. I have experienced the judgement, impatience, misunderstanding and well-intended comments of those who have grown weary of the process and want nothing more for us than to “move on”, “be strong” and “get a new life.”  Grief is not an exact Science, does not always fit into a pretty little box and is often messy. Yes, two or three years seems about the right amount of time to get over a loss, but there are so many variables and many different kinds of grief. Grief is also something that we continue to experience and live over and over again with lessening degree and in new ways until we are “healed.” Each new loss in our lives can trigger old losses, IF we have not dealt with them properly and thoroughly.

The Basics

What is Grief?  Grief is a reaction to death, divorce, illness, job or home loss, or any other major life changing experience.

7 Stages of Grief
1) Shock or disbelief
2) Denial
3) Bargaining
4) Guilt
5) Anger
6) Depression
7) Acceptance/ Hope

 Physical symptoms that occur in response to major loss are very similar to those of a post-traumatic stress disorder victim or those who have served in combat.
In many ways, major loss is as traumatic as being in a war zone.  If you are one of the lucky ones, you get a week or two off from your job to deal with it.
What are some of the physical and emotional symptoms that we can expect from Grief?
- Difficulty concentrating
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Chest pain
- Breathing is too rapid or too shallow
- Dizzy spells
- Cold feet and hands
- Pale skin
- Dark circles under eyes
- Fatigue
- Feeling detached from others
- Not caring if you live or die
- Being on “auto pilot”
- Emotional Numbness
- Headaches
- Loss of appetite
- Nervous eating
-  Pacing
- Nightmares- especially those in which you relive the loss

- Frequent urination

Some of these symptoms could also signal serious physical illness. See your Doctor if you experience persistent symptoms, any kind of chest pain, or symptoms that are accompanied by fever, cough or vomiting.


Be aware of what your weakest link in your Health Armor is. This is NOT a judgement. Where do you hold stress? Where do you have recurring physical problems? What are some of your emotional issues that arise when overwhelmed or stressed out? This is NOT a sign of weakness, this is just how some people’s symptoms reveal themselves. We are all different and one symptom is better or worse than another.
Be It Physical OR Emotional, some examples and many of which I have experienced myself, include: back, lungs, heart, stomach, knees, depression, anxiety, addictions, insomnia, claustrophobia, agoraphobia etc. There are plenty others specific to one’s own body. The good news is that these are temporary. Once we get through them we can just pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off and move forward. Always have someone to confide in that you are comfortable with and that you trust with the most intimate of details.

There are generally two ways that we as a Culture or Society Deal with Grief:
1) Keep busy
2) Withdraw or Isolate
Neither one is bad because they are both helpful. The solution is to find a delicate balance between the two.

People most often ask “Is this Normal ?”

There is NO Right or Wrong Way to Grieve. In The Game of life, your body keeps score. I call Grief, “life’s shrapnel.” It is always with us and becomes a part of us, just as shrapnel buried in the body and becomes encapsulated by tissue, cells and flesh.

What Can You Do To Get Through?

- Get out in Nature
- Eat Well and Exercise- even just daily walks help
- Express ALL of your emotions and feelings
- Prepare for Holidays and Anniversaries

Keep talking about it and continue to “speak their name out loud.” This keeps them close to you and they also like it!

The End?