Your Whole Person Grieves - Physically

One mom said to me “I never knew you could hurt this much!” That’s how painful it was, greater than she had ever experienced before.  I have always thought this statement was not quite complete. I think the rest of it is: “… and live to tell about it.” There is pain and a heaviness in the chest, as if a truck were parked on it. There is the deep breathing and sighing, because of that heaviness. It feels like you can’t catch your breath. There is the GI upset, the tightness in the gut and the loss of appetite. You may have to make adjustments in how you eat. I ate kinder gentler foods, easier to digest foods, comfort foods.

There is the emptiness in your arms. The need to touch your child didn’t die when they did. To stroke their hair, to hold their hand. There is the need to hug your child, to smell their skin, to feel their lashes in butterfly kisses. There is the need to hear their voice. All this need to physically connect with them leads to physical pain in your body since none of these things can be accomplished.

There is fatigue too, because of all this constant pain and all the work to catch your breath. It takes energy and determination to think a thought, and after that, you are physically fatigued. Grief messes with your sleep patterns and with your eating habits. So of course you are fatigued after not sleeping enough. Each of us will experience some sleep issues. For some it’s laying down that is most difficult. Your mind runs and you can’t stop thinking about the one who died, or your loss, or your grief. For others, it’s hardest when they wake in the morning. Sleep has been an escape but all the pain and loss come rushing back when the mind starts waking up. Job describes the hoped for blessings of sleep in Job 7:13-15  “When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine.” What he found were the curses of sleep. Sleep is sometimes the one and at other times the other.

Regarding eating, there are 2 kinds of people when under stress: those who eat and those who can’t eat. I’m an eater; anyone who can see me knows that. But I know there truly are people who can’t eat when their heart is broken. For both kinds of people, you need to determine in your own mind to eat at least one healthy thing each day. Small baby steps along the way help with the healing.

This weekend I met a young husband whose wife died of breast cancer. Just 6 weeks passed from diagnosis to her death. He mentioned that he is surprised how much physical pain his emotions produce. Like I mentioned, the categories are invented conveniences but you are one whole being. The pain of grief is in every cell.

So, there is pain in the skin and in the bones and in the heart. The Lord knows this. In His word, He records some of these same physical expressions of grief:   “my bones are in agony, my soul is in anguish… I am worn out from groaning, all night long I flood my bed with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow…“ (Psalm 6:2-3,6-7) This Lord, who invites you to pour out your heart, knows the pain in your grief too. He is not surprised and He does care.