How Long Grief Exhaustion Lasts & How to Cope
Grief has a way of exacting a heavy toll on our lives. It’s not enough that we have to endure life without our departed loved one. We also have to take on several new responsibilities after their death. Rising to meet all of the challenges takes a considerable amount of effort. Grief can leave us feeling depleted in ways we never thought possible. While memorial services and keepsakes can help bring comfort and closure, the exhaustion associated with grief can maintain its grip for quite some time.
What is Grief Exhaustion?
Grief exhaustion is the accumulation of physical, mental, and emotional stress experienced by grief-stricken individuals. When a person first learns about a significant loss, shock and confusion overwhelm the mind. With so many signals firing, the brain has to raise the white flag and shut down the stress. That’s why many people react with denial when they hear the news. It’s simply too much to bear. Life as they know it gets turned upside down. New and unexpected demands present themselves, especially for those who have lost a close family member and need to manage an unending list of logistical issues. From funeral arrangements to notifying family, friends, and co-workers to facilitating everyday routines, grief can cause great fatigue. Once the adrenaline wears off and supporters fade away into their lives, the bereaved can be left alone and with little energy to face their grief process.
How Long Does Grief Exhaustion Last?
There’s no telling how long grief exhaustion can last. It depends on each person and how much support they have when managing their lives and their grief process. Losing a loved one means that life is irrevocably changed for the bereaved. Adapting to their new life can feel like climbing a mountain with no end in sight.
Signs of Grief Fatigue
Normal routines such as taking a shower, engaging in conversations, or making meals can feel overwhelming. Things you usually manage in your day take a lot of effort. Sometimes, getting out of bed in the morning can feel like running a long-distance race.
Sleep patterns can be all over the place. Some may experience insomnia, while others barely get out of bed. There may even be a combination of both over periods. In any case, those suffering from grief fatigue rarely wake up refreshed or well-rested.
Super-charged Nervous System
The shock of a loss can catapult the nervous system into overdrive. Stress and anxiety can become the new norm for their daily life. It eventually wears you out in all areas—physically, emotionally, and mentally.
After taking on all the practical matters associated with a loss, very little energy is left over to move forward with life. People experiencing grief fatigue may withdraw from the world at large. Phone calls, emails, and texts may go unanswered.
How to Deal with Grief Exhaustion
There are several ways to manage grief exhaustion. Everyone experiences grief differently, so what may work for one person may not work for another. Here are 5 suggestions to help you through your grief exhaustion:
Engage in Self-Care
Facing grief is hard work. Taking time out of your day is important to look after yourself. Some people may feel guilt, shame, or any other number of emotions when it comes to their grief. Making yourself a priority is crucial when dealing with grief. Even if it’s just a few simple things like taking a shower, going for a walk, or eating a nice meal, each act of self-care can help bring you out of grief exhaustion one small step at a time.
It can be tempting to shut out the world; however, you’ll only be left with negative thoughts and feelings. Reach out to family and friends. Just talking to another human being can be enough to help erode the exhaustion. It doesn’t even have to be about grief. Any topic is fair game.
Throw Out Timelines
For many, there may be an expectation on how long their grief exhaustion should last. Since each person is different and each loss is unique, there is no right answer to how long grief fatigue or grief should last. Be gentle with yourself and allow the process to unfold naturally. Removing timeline expectations eliminates the stress of trying to heal grief quickly.
Feel the Feels
The best way to process grief is to look it square in the eye. Any feelings that arise should be honored and acknowledged. Allowing yourself to “feel all the feels” can bring great comfort and relief. The more you try to bury your feelings, the more they fester and keep you in an endless cycle of pain and suffering.
Invite New Routines
Your life has become significantly altered in the wake of a loss. Many areas of your new life will be unchartered territory. To help you adjust, find new routines and habits to serve you. Breaking away from old patterns can help signal your system to accept the loss and embrace life again.
Facing grief is a “one day at a time” endeavor. There’s no need to force your healing or place high demands on your process. Just by showing up to the process and treating yourself with kindness and patience, it's possible to shine a light on the darkness and enjoy the best that life has to offer.
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