Many Milwaukeeans who have lost someone they love find themselves neglecting their health in the days, weeks, and months following the death.
Whether it’s skipping doctor visits, spending extra time on the couch due to fatigue, or forgetting to take medications, the reality is that grief can have a profound impact on physical and mental health. The stress involved often causes cravings for caffeine, alcohol, and foods high in sugar and fat. Perhaps you can relate to reaching for something sweet or salty when feeling sad or tired.
Here at Krause Funeral Homes, we meet with families every day to help plan funerals, cremations, burials, and receptions. We see how death affects people; the way it can turn life upside down. From sleep troubles to increased amounts of time in front of the TV to relying on a diet of convenience foods, grief is exhausting and catches many people off guard. Even those who have prioritized their health in the past can see their eating habits and workout routines fall by the wayside.
The question, then, is this: How can you stay healthy while going through a difficult time in life? When you don’t feel you have strength or energy to spare, how can you make sure to maintain your health? Here are a few points to ponder:
How do you feel from day to day? Stressful events impact the body. In one study, older adults who had lost a loved one had weakened immune systems compared with those who had not suffered a loss. Another study showed that a person’s risk of having a heart attack was 21 times more likely in the first 24 hours after the death of a significant other. If you’re experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, or abdominal pain don’t ignore it. And be sure to tell your doctor about your loss. It’s important that your physician is aware of your circumstances and any changes in your health.
How’s your diet? Are you relying on convenience foods to get you through the day? Have you started drinking more alcohol in the evenings as a way to numb your pain? Think about what habits you can alter, like drinking more water throughout the day and incorporating more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins into your diet. This might mean spending more time in the kitchen rather than eating out and preparing menus ahead of time. But trust us when we say your body and immune system will thank you.
How physically active are you? A short walk every day can help ease depression, agitation, and sorrow related to grief. If you lack motivation, ask a friend to walk with you.
Are you sleeping well? Studies show that people dealing with grief not only have trouble falling asleep but staying asleep. For many, this means extra time in front of the TV or computer, which impairs sleep even more. Other people spend too much time in bed and the lack of energy builds on itself. Try going to bed at regular hours and following a bedtime routine. As much as you may want to indulge in a glass of wine or a sweet treat in the evenings, alcohol, sugar, and caffeine are known sleep disruptors. A healthy choice may be in order.
Are you connected with others who can support you? No one grieves well alone. Whether you’re meeting regularly with friends or attending a grief support group, it’s important to be around those who can offer perspective and hope during a sad time.
Remember that our Krause team is here for your family long after the funeral service is over. Even if we didn’t serve your family, our grief resources are available to you. You can access our list of local partners that specialize in grief and loss, and if you need immediate help, be sure to check out our interactive, online grief support program. Our professional staff is always available and we encourage you to reach out any time you could use a helping hand.