What Makes Grief So Painful

by | Trauma Recovery

Everyone experiences grief at least once in their life. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a pet, or even a job or living situation, grief takes its toll. No matter how often you go through a time of loss, it never seems to get easier — or less painful. 

But why is that? What makes grief so painful, and why can’t you “control” that pain, especially if you’ve gone through the grieving process more than once? 

There’s actually quite a bit of science behind the pain of grief. Let’s take a closer look at why it hurts so much to lose someone (or something) you love. 

The Full-Body Experience of Grief

We don’t always think of grief as something that impacts the whole body, but it does. It can cause everything from aches and pains to digestive issues. Obviously, it can also take a toll on your mental health, contributing to things like depression and anxiety. 

Intense grief can often feel like it’s taking over nearly every aspect of your life. You might have a difficult time finding any sort of peace or comfort. 

Unfortunately, the mental and physical side effects of grief are likely to make matters worse, creating a vicious cycle of pain and discomfort that causes even more stress. 

The Body’s Response

Speaking of more stress, that’s a major component when it comes to the pain of grief. When you’re going through the grieving process, your mind and body are both under a lot of stress. When you’re stressed, your body releases specific hormones (including cortisol) that can have a negative impact on the way you feel. 

These stress hormones can overwhelm the body and cause your muscles to feel “stunned,” leading to aches and pains. Some people call this “broken heart syndrome,” but that typically means the aches and pains only last for a short time. If you’re experiencing extreme grief, that pain won’t subside quickly. 

An Unfortunate Cycle

One of the biggest issues with grief and pain is that it can be cyclical. When you’re not feeling well, mentally or physically, it’s hard to keep moving forward. You might turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol. Or, you might isolate yourself from friends and family and withdraw from your normal life.

Unfortunately, those methods of coping often make things worse. You’re more likely to feel stuck in your grief and the pain that goes with it, which will undoubtedly lead to more suffering and potentially more mental or physical health conditions. 

What Can You Do? 

There’s not an ideal timeline when it comes to the grieving process. Some people are able to work through their grief faster than others, but the pace doesn’t really matter as long as you’re moving forward in healthy ways. 

However, if you’re feeling stuck because of the physical or emotional pain of your loss, you don’t have to work through it on your own. 

As difficult as it might be to reach out for help, talk to your family members and friends. They might be struggling, too, and it’s important to be able to lean on each other for support. 

You can also connect with grief support groups. Hearing from others who have experienced loss and how they’re dealing with it can make a big difference, and can help you find the hope you deserve. 

Finally, consider talking to a mental health professional. A therapist can help you dig deeper into the root cause of your grief, and provide you with healthy coping strategies you can start putting into place right away. While that doesn’t mean the pain will immediately subside, it will put you on the right track as you move forward. 

Contact Valued Living Therapy for more information about starting therapy.

Valued Living Therapy

We are a dynamic, trauma-informed, multi-specialty group practice of mental health professionals offering therapy in the heart of Edina, MN and online throughout Minnesota.

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