Why Is Grief So Exhausting? Understanding the Impact of Prolonged Grief on Mental and Physical Health

The loss of a loved one is devastating. In the painful aftermath, grief can leave you feeling completely drained, both emotionally and physically. Understanding why grief is so exhausting can help you navigate this difficult time.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Jul 28, 2023
5 min read
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Why Is Grief So Exhausting? Understanding the Impact of Prolonged Grief on Mental and Physical Health

Grief is a natural response to the death of someone close that affects us deeply, right down to our nervous system. The exhaustion it causes is real, stemming from the substantial mental, emotional, and physical toll of the prolonged grieving process. With caring support and self-compassion, you can start to regain strength.

The Emotional Toll of Grief

Losing someone dear is emotionally shattering. Feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and longing can seem relentless, leaving you mentally exhausted. Your mind floods with memories and thoughts of your loved one, making it hard to focus. Coping with the permanence of death is an immense burden. Processing complex grief emotions also saps energy. Feeling intense heartache daily wears you down over time. Unexpected grief pangs triggered by reminders require emotional fortitude. While sadness ebbs and flows, managing it demands constant effort. Grief can also leave you feeling lonely and isolated. Your loved one’s companionship and support is gone, leaving an emotional void. Reaching out for connections amid grief is tiring. Comfort from your usual support system can feel out of reach.

The Mental Drain of Grief

The mental toll of grief is profound. Your mind fixates on details surrounding your loved one’s death. Witnessing a loved one’s death firsthand or making tough end-of-life choices is traumatic. Watching someone’s gradual health decline is also devastating. Ruminating over regrets, guilt, and self-blame is common during grief. You may lie awake thinking, “What if I had done something differently?” This constant rumination is mentally draining, making concentration difficult. Simple tasks become burdensome. Worrying about other loved ones and your ability to cope without the deceased also monopolises mental energy. Overthinking future grief-related changes creates constant unease. With your mind racing, peaceful rest is challenged.

The Physical Toll of Grief

Grief extracts mental, emotional, and physical costs. Stress hormones released during mourning can impair immunity, increasing susceptibility to illness. High blood pressure, fatigue, insomnia, and digestive troubles are common symptoms. Grief can trigger inflammation, potentially damaging blood vessels and raising risks for chronic health issues. Experiencing significant loss at a young age may accelerate cellular ageing. Exhaustion stems from your body being on high alert with elevated stress hormones. Headaches, body aches, and general fatigue result. Self-care is extremely difficult during bereavement, so exhaustion invariably follows.

Coping with the Exhaustion of Grief

When you’re depleted by grief, be patient and take things one small step at a time. Adjust your workload and responsibilities to conserve energy. Ask loved ones for practical help with daily chores and tasks. This lifts some weight off your shoulders. Honour your need for extra rest right now. Naps, earlier bedtimes, and cutting back on exercise can help your weary mind and body recharge. Make sure to hydrate, nourish yourself with regular meals, and take daily deep breaths. Don’t isolate yourself. Staying connected to supportive people boosts your resilience, even if you have to start with brief visits or calls. Consider joining a grief support group. Sharing stories with others experiencing loss can ease emotional exhaustion. Look into grief counselling or therapy. Having someone listen without judgement helps release bottled up thoughts and feelings. A counsellor can teach coping techniques to reduce anxiety and rumination. They can walk alongside you on the long journey through mourning.

Healing Takes Time

Grieving is a marathon, not a sprint. Honour your emotions and allow yourself to rest. Adjusting responsibilities and asking for help can conserve depleted energy. Hydration, nutrition, and deep breathing can also help counter exhaustion. Losing someone forever changes you. But gradually, you can regain emotional and physical strength to carry memories forward. Each step brings you closer to a “new normal,” better equipped to withstand grief. Have patience, be kind to yourself, and know that exhaustion will slowly lift. The death of your loved one has turned your world upside down. In the painful aftermath, grief can leave you feeling broken in body and spirit. But there are ways to care for yourself through this long, winding road. Give yourself permission to mourn. Be gentle with your weary heart and mind. And trust that in time, the exhaustion will begin to ease.

Nurturing Your Grieving Soul

Here are some additional tips for caring for yourself physically and emotionally as you grieve:

  • Get outdoors for fresh air and sunshine when possible. Nature is soothing for weary spirits.
  • Make rest a priority and say no to extra obligations. Listen to your body’s need for sleep.
  • Write in a journal to express and process difficult emotions.
  • Talk to others who knew your loved one to share cherished memories.
  • Create a photo collage or memory book of meaningful moments and milestones.
  • Seek comfort through spiritual practices like prayer, meditation, or attending services.
  • Allow yourself to cry – tears help release accumulated grief.
  • Consider joining a bereavement walking group for gentle exercise and solidarity.
  • Eat small, frequent meals when appetite is low. Choose nutritious, energising foods.
  • Get a massage to relieve pent-up stress and soothe aching muscles.
  • Light candles, play uplifting music, or diffusing calming essential oils creates a soothing ambience.
  • Go at your own pace – there is no timeline for grieving. Respect what you need at the moment.

With gentleness and self-compassion, you can find your way even with grief’s profound exhaustion. Pay attention to what replenishes you. Your spirit is weary, but with time it will grow stronger.