People who are grieving a loved one may experience physical symptoms if they don’t properly process their grief.
Michael Dupay, a licensed professional counselor and the director of bereavement and spiritual care at HospiceCare, said unresolved grief can manifest in any number of physical ways, from headaches to hair loss to bowel irritation, stomach issues and “whatever stress does to the body.”
For that reason, Dupay says people have to process their grief.
“You can’t go around it, you can’t go above it, you have to go through it,” he said. “So basically you have to experience and feel all those feelings associated with that loss and what that means to you.”
And grief isn’t simply emotional or physical. Dupay said people experience grief in five dimensions of their lives: physical, emotional, spiritual, cognitive and social.
“Those five dimensions I just mentioned define our humanity and every aspect of who we are,” Dupay said. “So grief is not relegated to the physical aspect or emotional aspect or spiritual. It’s all those combined and they’re happening at the same time, simultaneously.”
Grief has four “tasks,” he said: accepting the reality of the death, experiencing and feeling all the feelings associated with that death, adjusting to a new reality without the deceased physically in it and reinvesting your love energy into a new purpose.
“I like to say reinvest your love energy because that’s really what you’re grieving,” Dupay said. “You’re grieving the love lost. And the formula for grief is the degree to which you love will be the degree to which you grieve.
“We see that with children, with teens, with young adults, with middle-age adults, with every age, really. We like to say if you’re old enough to love, you’re old enough to grieve.”
During the first year after you lose a loved one, Dupay recommends doing things in moderation to stay healthy: getting enough sleep and drinking enough water and doing enough exercise. He advises not to take on complicated tasks during the first year like starting a new job, getting into a new relationship or selling your home.
“Grief is one of the highest stressors on that human stress scale,” he said.
To help people “grieve well,” HospiceCare’s Wallace Grief Support and Education Center offers help in the form of one-on-one grief counseling and support groups that are available to family members of HospiceCare patients and the community at large. Counseling is offered on a donation basis for community members and free to families of HospiceCare patients.
Support groups are offered from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday or 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays.
For more information, call the Wallace Grief Support and Education Center 304-768 8523. The center is located inside Hospice Care’s main administration office at 1606 Kanawha Blvd. West in Charleston.
HospiceCare also hosts a free summer camp for kids called Camp Mend-a-Heart.
“The reason we offer all of these services is to help people grieve well so ultimately they can live well and love well again,” Dupay said. “And I think that’s a big thing.”