With the tragic loss of players, teammates, sons, daughters, friends and family in the Humboldt Broncos bus and tractor trailer accident I have been doing a lot of thinking about the loss of a loved one and how it is a life-shattering experience.
I am sure many who have kids, nieces and nephews, grandkids and other little ones have had thoughts of “what if”. It affects us physically as well as emotionally. I can’t imagine what the parents and families and friends of these young people must be going through, but I think it is important to point out how important it is to take care of our own health in times like these and look out for one another’s health as we heal.
The grief a person experiences is felt on an emotional level. The resulting stress of these emotions can create chaos within our bodies on a physical level too. If we had a physical illness before our loved one died, our grief can worsen the existing illness. It can also open the way for physical illness if we have been previously healthy.
Grief makes us susceptible to common colds, sore throats and other infections. The connection between the mind and body is not always recognized, but there is real scientific evidence that what we think and feel has a direct effect on our biological systems ~ I know full well how what I was thinking and feeling affected my physical wellbeing. This is an especially important issue for bereaved parents because the loss of a child is the ultimate loss and a stress that lasts so very long.
Bodies of all human beings (and animals alike) react to stress in basically the same manner. What happens in the case of grief where the stress continues for many months? The cycle does not operate as it should. Because the stress is continuing, and the adrenal gland produces more and more cortisone.
Changes in eating habits; problems with sleeping: restlessness; lack of physical energy; and various other manifestations, are a normal part of the grieving process. Another point to consider too is that the stress of grief is rarely the only stress we are experiencing at the time of a loved one’s death ~ real life continues.
We must be very aware that our loved one’s death and grief is a genuine reason for physical illness. We must do whatever we can to lessen our susceptibility. Heading directly into our grief and allowing ourselves to face our painful emotions is the most helpful thing we can do. Talking about our child and the circumstances of the death crying when we need to and talking with someone who will listen non-judgmentally to our anger and guilt is the only way to successfully resolve our grief—and ultimately resolve the stress that is caused by the grief.
Grief is a powerful emotion, one of the deepest emotions I have ever felt and I don’t pretend to be a grief counsellor but in my own experience in times of loss, I realized I needed to take care of myself first to be there for others. Parents get so used to putting the kids first that they sometimes view the business of meeting needs as a me/or them scenario. What is often overlooked is that prioritizing your own needs is not different to taking care of the kids, it is actually a prerequisite in being able to provide them the most safe and loving environment possible.
I know it is hard to be concerned about yourself physically when you hurt so badly emotionally. Always remember that you will forever cherish all your memories and those memories will become treasures.
Take care good care of yourself and everyone you love.
Thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.