Grief and exhaustion go hand in hand. The grieving process can use up incredible amounts of energy and may also leave you exhausted beyond belief. Sometimes, it may feel as if you can barely keep your head above water to face the reality of your loss.
Every breath you take can seem like your drowning in sorrow, but you’re too tired to react. You feel immobilized and unable to take any action - even when necessary.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Why Does Grief Make You Feel So Tired?
- How to Handle Grief and Exhaustion
- How to Help a Loved One Who’s Experiencing Exhaustion While Grieving
Trying to cope with grief when you're exhausted can be debilitating. However, it is good to know that chronic fatigue is a common and natural response to profound sorrow. Every day can feel like a new wave of pain hitting you like a ton of bricks. Grief is incredibly draining on you mentally, physically, and emotionally.
When grief and exhaustion overtake you, there are ways for you to push through even the most challenging days.
Why Does Grief Make You Feel So Tired?
The physical and mental effects of grief are so overpowering at points that it can be hard to function even in day-to-day life. The emotional ups and downs that you’ll experience, coupled with lack of sleep and an erratic eating schedule can all contribute to feeling tired and unable to function at your normal levels. Finding ways to balance your grief responses with proper rest is crucial as you try to deal with your loss.
The following suggestions may help you as you navigate the natural grief responses following a significant loss.
How to Handle Grief and Exhaustion
Grief fatigue is a real thing. There are many different types of grief that affect someone who’s in mourning. Feeling tired and exhausted are some of the more overwhelming grief responses a person experiences following a loss of another significant setback.
1. Prioritize self-care
The physical manifestation of grief-related fatigue is feeling imbalanced. Knowing how you can practice self care while you’re grieving is essential in getting through the grief journey as whole as possible.
Self care starts off with the small things in life, such as waking up every day, getting up out of bed, and getting dressed. These are some of the most essential things you can do to get you back on track following the death of a loved one or another type of major loss.
Rather than attempting to get it back together all at once, practice taking care of yourself one small act at a time. You can start with ensuring that your exercise and nutrition get back in balance.
Begin by planning and preparing at least one nutritionally balanced meal a day, and try to get moving a few minutes each day. Consider meal-prepping for the week and going out for a walk every day around the block, the park, or other convenient outdoor areas available to you.
2. Downgrade your expectations
Narrow down your responsibilities and your to-do list. Every day, some people plan to accomplish an impressive list of things before the end of the day. This works well for those who are super motivated and live a life relatively free from emotional pain and suffering. It becomes more difficult for those suffering through grief, if not impossible, to get through such an ardent list of tasks every day.
When you’re grieving a loss, consider limiting your to-do list to no more than three things. They can range anywhere from “must do” to “if time permits.”
Tackle the most important things first, and leave the smaller, less important tasks for last. Prioritizing your tasks helps in the event your energy resources get depleted before the end of the day.
3. Be patient with yourself and others
It takes time to heal from grief. Don’t rush through the experience or assume that others can do so as well. There is no timeline for the grief process. Everyone will suffer through grief in their own way.
For some, healing will take place sooner than for others. Some of the intervening factors are a person’s personality, emotional strength, stability, overall maturity level, and ability to handle stressful situations.
Rushing through the grief process may leave some of your grief unresolved, only to resurface later as a complication in your healing process. Take as much time as is needed to work through your emotions. There’s no rush to the finish line when it comes to healing from grief.
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4. Take things one day at a time
Taking things day by day will help you to take control of your life sooner rather than later. Whenever a person who’s grieving tries to take on too much way too soon, they’re left feeling defeated and out of control. One of the best ways to handle the debilitating exhaustion resulting from grief is to go slow and not try to do too much.
Permit yourself to slack on the everyday chores and routines. Only do as much as you want and feel able to. No one should be keeping score of what you’re accomplishing each day. And, indeed, you shouldn’t be competing against yourself.
5. Get plenty of rest
Rest and sleep are two very different things. Aim for getting rest throughout the day, even when you’re not sleepy. Resting both the mind and body will help you to feel less stressed and more refreshed. For those times when exhaustion gets the better of you, and you’re unable to either rest or sleep, consider taking up meditation.
Meditation helps you live in the present and set aside from your mind the things that make getting sleep impossible. Rest and sleep are both an essential part of getting back to feeling back to your old self again.
A person who’s grieving won’t necessarily be able to get the recommended eight hours of rest. Planning and forcing yourself to rest will give you the opportunity to better combat physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion throughout the day.
How to Help a Loved One Who’s Experiencing Exhaustion While Grieving
Knowing how to help someone with their grief-related exhaustion can do wonders. Before attempting to offer your assistance, consider taking a few minutes to learn about what causes grief-related exhaustion, how long grief lasts, and what are some of the most effective ways to combat its effects. Knowing a few of the basics will help you as you help others.
Here are a few basics on how to help someone experiencing this type of grief-related exhaustion.
6. Offer support
A person who's grieving is often most in need of someone to listen. They don't typically solicit advice, nor do they need you to step in and fix things for them. Supporting someone who's grieving takes some effort and know-how. Remember that the emotions that they're feeling are a normal part of the grief process.
How long grief lasts for them is highly individualized and can't be compared to someone else's grief journey. One of the best ways to support someone who is grieving is to allow them to go through the process in their own way and on their terms.
7. Acknowledge your awareness
A person who's experiencing inhibited grief may not show any outward signs of distress. Instead of allowing for the release of their feelings and emotions, they bottle up what they're feeling. Later on, these pent-up emotions can lead to other forms of more complicated grief.
You can help someone trying to cope with grief-related physical symptoms by acknowledging your awareness of their grief. Let them know that while you may not fully understand their pain and suffering, you are aware of what they're going through.
Mention their loss and offer your condolences and your help in getting them through their suffering. Even if they do not externally express their gratitude, showing that you're aware of their grief can help a person cope with loss.
8. Listen to them
A person who's suffering a significant loss will need to share their story again and again. Talking about their loss is a natural and normal part of grieving.
Listening to someone as they describe their loss, pain, and suffering as many times as they need will help them heal. Listening without judgment or comparing your past losses is one of the most important ways you can help someone who's grieving.
9. Offer practical help
The grief process takes a lot of energy out of anyone who's experiencing a significant loss. Grieving adds to daily life demands, making even the small things seem like overwhelming or impossible tasks.
You can help a loved one through their grief-related exhaustion by undertaking specific essential tasks such as meal preparation, cleaning, and caring for children and pets. Don't wait for them to ask for help. Take a proactive approach by letting them know when and how you're going to help, then by doing it.
10. Encourage them to seek help
Someone who's experiencing intense grief can face depression when grief symptoms go untreated. A physically and mentally exhausted person may not have the energy to get themselves out of their suffering. They may find it easier to live with their grief than to muster up the needed energy to seek outside professional help when they need it.
A person who's unusually depressed or has withdrawn from others may be facing grief-related depression and may need added support. Encourage them to find grief counseling or therapy to help them overcome their grief.
Helping Someone Cope with Grief Exhaustion
Grieving is a long process that leaves a person physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. There are many ways for you to help someone who's feeling exhausted from their grief. While many people may not want to reach out for help for various reasons, anticipating their needs enables you to be a better source of support for them even when they're not explicitly asking for it.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.