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In addition to the emotional toll of grief, parents often experience a variety of mental, physical, and spiritual effects. Grief can make it hard to do even the simplest task. Parents may find it almost impossible to take care of themselves in the midst of grief. But, finding small ways to fight the effects of grief is important for moving forward and gaining strength.
Grief can also affect cognitive function, or the ability to think, remember, and process information. Cognitive symptoms of grief often arise immediately following loss. Parents say that they are in a “mental fog” in the early days and weeks of grief. Cognitive symptoms common during the grieving process include:
Many of these symptoms will go away on their own. When possible, parents may want to avoid making major decisions during this period. Take care when driving a car, operating any heavy machinery, or doing other potentially dangerous activities that require concentration. Find ways to help memory by using lists and reminders. Break up tasks into smaller steps to make it easier to focus. Ask for help from friends and family.
Grief also can manifest itself physically in the body. While grieving, it is common to experience a variety of physical symptoms such as:
There are a number of ways to counteract some of the physical symptoms of grief:
During grief, it's also common to experience spiritual challenges including:
Parents can address spiritual concerns in a variety of ways. Some people may choose to seek religious or spiritual counsel from a spiritual leader or mentor. Writing in a journal, prayer, meditation, music, and art can also offer an outlet for spiritual issues. Books on grief that incorporate faith can also be helpful to give parents a perspective from others who have been through a similar experience.
Grief touches every aspect of life. Coping day to day is challenging, and small steps are key. Finding practical, doable ways to take care of oneself provides hope and healing, little by little.
Here are some ideas for self-care that parents have found helpful:
No one should go through grief alone. While time helps many of the symptoms of grief, the support of another person provides additional strength. It can help to talk with a trusted family member or friend about the symptoms of grief and ways to manage them. Mental health professionals are also available to listen and provide encouragement and resources.
Reviewed: June 2018