Grief is not purely emotional; it also happens in the body. Yet the physical symptoms that come up in the grieving process are not always dealt with as directly as they should be. These symptoms are just as common as mental and emotional ones and require just as much attention in order to help your clients understand that while grief profoundly disrupts normal functioning, it is not an illness and therefore needs no healing. Talk therapy is useful, but too often the body-centered effects of grief get subsumed under the emotional issues being dealt with.
So, how does the body express what the heart and mind are going through? Below is a list you can use to identify your clients’ grief-related body reactivity:
Physical Symptoms of Grief
- Feeling of tightness in the throat
- Feeling of tightness in the chest
- Alterations of breathing patterns (shortness of breath, frequent sighing)
- Fatigue, exhaustion, low energy
- Sleep pattern disruptions (insomnia or excessive sleep)
- Eating pattern disruptions (overeating or anorexia)
- Alterations of cardiac rhythms (bradycardia, tachycardia, arrhythmia)
- Digestive system upset
- Generalized tension
- Restlessness, irritability
- Increased sensitivity to stimuli
- Dry mouth
Offering the list to your clients can help them normalize their physical reactivity, educate them about the grieving process, and reduce highlighted levels of anxiety—a common complaint these days due to COVID-19-related restrictions.
Antonio Sausys, MA, IGT, CMT, RYT, is a somatic psychotherapist and yoga instructor specializing in one-on-one yoga therapy for people with chronic and acute medical conditions, as well as emotional imbalance. He studied with yoga masters and teachers such as Indra Devi, Swami Maitreyananda, and Larry Payne. He has continued his professional development with training in integrative grief therapy with Lyn Prashant, foot reflexology, Swedish therapeutic massage, and Reiki. Antonio teaches and lectures periodically at the University of California, Berkeley; at the California Institute of Integral Studies, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. He is a member of the World Yoga Council, the International Association of Yoga Therapists, and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. He is the founder and executive director of Yoga for Health—the International Yoga Therapy Conference, and television host for YogiViews. For more information, visit yogaforgriefrelief.com.