I’m writing this blog on Remembrance Sunday. Today we remember our loved ones that are no longer with us – at least in their physical form, depending on our belief system. We each have our individual rituals of remembrance, we light a candle, take a minute of silence, or walk in nature to name a few. No matter what rituals we adopt, they can conjure joyful memories and lift our hearts or bring back the pain of our loss or both.
Two years ago, I lost my love to cancer. He had been emotionally and physically resilient and took his illness in his stride. He was convinced that he would be able to live with it for many years. So was I. It was therefore seemingly out of the blue when, one day, he could no longer keep his food down and became very disorientated. At the end of the day he collapsed and was brought to hospital in an ambulance. Two days later he was gone. Life as I knew it had come to an end and the heartache was unbearable.
The weeks and months that followed were disorientating. I felt I was living a parallel life and the one that I knew was no longer available to me. I was anxious all the time; the only time I didn’t feel anxious was when I was working and was completely focused on my job. I had lost my rock, my companion, my life had been completely upended. In addition to feeling continuously anxious, my blood sugar levels were out of balance, my digestive system was upset and I had become a chronic insomniac. It took me a while to realise that I was living in continuous fight-or-flight mode. My cortisol levels had gone through the roof and played havoc with my hormones. I was constantly on edge. I needed to do something.
So I started to build my inner and outer support team. I enlisted professional help in various forms of therapy (including nutritional – yes, it is difficult to be your own nutritional therapist!) and reached out to friends and family who listened and provided encouragement. They held me accountable to maintain a regular yoga and meditation practice. They made sure that I took a walk every day and ate nutritious food at regular intervals. I started to do breathing exercises before going to bed and when I got up in the morning. Very slowly I began to sleep through the night again. My blood sugar levels began to stabilise and my anxiety levels came down. I had learned how to love and look after myself.
In her article “My husband walked out. This is what heartbreak did to my body”, published in January 2022, science writer Florence Williams describes how her nervous system reacted to a life changing event which caused her immense grief. She had expected a mental health crisis but was surprised at how the extreme emotional pain impacted her heart, her immune system, her digestive system and more.
Studies have shown that the most common causes of grief are:
- Loss of a loved one
- Divorce or relationship breakdown
- Loss of a job
- Loss of a pet
- Moving home
- Empty nesting
Not always do we experience only one event at a time which can complicate things further. Sometimes we are at different stages of grieving different life events.
What kind of ending are you processing at the moment and are you allowing yourself to pause to notice how your body is reacting? Have you thought about practicing self-care by setting up your inner and outer support system? Are you eating nutritiously and regularly, prioritising sleep, exercising and relaxing so you can be your best self again? I am here to help and invite you to get in touch.