Physical Effects of Grief

March 20, 2023

Grief impacts people differently and can affect us on an emotional level but also physically. Here, we explain the physical effects of grief  

Issues with Sleep

Having trouble sleeping is a common effect of grief. Some people may find it frightening to go to sleep as they are experiencing nightmares or worried about dreaming about the person who has died. It can be heartbreaking and painful to wake up and remember your loved one is no longer here. Others may find it difficult to fall asleep in the first place as their minds are racing.  

It is important to establish a nighttime routine as this can help make sleep easier. Having baths with lavender oil and bath salts can help the body relax. Also, ensure you are staying active as exercise can help tire your body out. Once you are in bed try listening to relaxing music or try a sleep podcast that is specifically designed to help send you to sleep. 

Read our full guide on grief and sleeplessness here.


A lot of people find it difficult to east after a loss, especially if the death is recent. Some people forget to eat, feel sick at the prospect of food, think food tastes strange, and can even find it difficult to swallow. The thought of cooking may seem too much for them, or they may turn to overeating unhealthy foods. All of these behaviours are common so make sure you are not too hard on yourself if your diet is not how you want it at the moment. 

There are a few things you can try to help with your appetite. If you are finding it difficult to cook, try getting some ready meals in for ease. If you don’t want to eat, start with smaller portions as this will be more manageable and you can build up from there. The important thing is to know that it may take time to get your appetite back to what it was. If it is an ongoing issue and you have concerns, do not hesitate to get in touch with your GP. 

Physical Pain

Grief can affect your entire body and can lead to physical pain. This can feel crippling and can lead your immune system to weaken and can make it difficult to fight off infections. In these scenarios, you must get enough rest and listen to what your body needs. Head to your GP if the pain lasts a prolonged period. 


Anxiety is a common effect of grief and can vary immensely from person to person. From breathlessness to heart palpitations or panic attacks, the physical effects of anxiety can be severe. It is important to relax to help reduce the tension. Going for a gentle walk and getting fresh air can help many people. Anxiety can be scary and whilst it can be a one-off occurrence, panic attacks, and heart palpitations can be an ongoing issue. If this is the case, you should seek medical advice 

It is important that the physical effects of grief vary significantly and there is no one “normal” way to grieve. If you are experiencing any of the physical effects we have mentioned in these articles then remember that you are not alone. These are all common things to experience however this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek help.