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The Unseen Scars of Grief: Decoding Grief's Physical Signs and Yoga's Soothing Embrace

Updated: Apr 10

When I started to feel the weight of grief, I began abusing alcohol. At 16, I was trying to not just numb the emotional pain of grief, but also the physical presence. I was trying to find solace. I remember no one talking about the grief encompassing our family. All remember feeling was a tangible heaviness in my chest that made it had to breath. Each breath felt constricted, as if an invisible hand was squeezing my heart. This was my body's way of mirroring the storm inside.

Decoding Grief's Physical Signs and Yoga's Soothing Embrace

Our bodies and minds are not separate entities; they're intertwined, each echoing the sentiments of the other.

The Science Behind Emotions and the Body

Emotions, often seen as abstract feelings, have very real, tangible effects on our bodies. When we grieve, our brain goes into overdrive, processing this intense emotion. This leads to the release of stress hormones like cortisol. In small doses, these hormones help us respond to immediate threats. But when grief lingers, these hormones stay, impacting our physical well-being.

The Tapestry of Grief: More Than Just Sadness

Grief is a complex emotion, a tapestry woven from various threads—sadness, anger, guilt, and even moments of nostalgia. Each emotion, with its unique hue, contributes to the overall picture of grief. And each has its own physical manifestation, its own signature in our bodies.

Common Physical Symptoms of Grief

  • Tightness in the Chest: Beyond the metaphorical heartache, grief often feels like a vice grip around the chest, making the simple life preserving task of breathing one of the hardest things to comfortably do.

  • Tension Headaches: The stress of grief is stored in our bodies until we mindfully release it. If you avoid the pain from grief this can create suppressed anger or frustration, it's as if your mind is rebelling, demanding to be heard.

  • Digestive Issues: Our gut is often called our 'second brain' because this is where the enteric nervous system resides. This system uses the same chemicals and cells as the brain. An upset stomach or loss of appetite can be a direct reflection of emotional turmoil.

  • Fatigue: It's not just physical tiredness but an emotional and mental exhaustion. Days feel longer, and nights, restless. When you are grieving, your body is working overtime to process the stress from grief in addition to all the other stress in your life.

  • Insomnia: The silence of the night amplifies the noise of our thoughts, making sleep elusive. Sleep typically removes the distraction of daily life forcing what we've avoided all day to the surface.

Grieving in the Workplace

Balancing grief with professional responsibilities can feel like juggling fire. I've coached many individuals through this and have personally experienced, wearing a mask of normalcy at work while battling a raging storm inside. Simple tasks become Herculean challenges. But it's also in these moments that the importance of resilience shines through. Recognizing the need for breaks, seeking support, and understanding that it's okay to not be okay are crucial.

The Long-Term Impact of Unprocessed Grief

When we sweep grief under the rug, hoping it'll vanish, we're setting ourselves up for a future reckoning that will happen at the least opportune moment in the least opportune. Unprocessed grief can simmer beneath the surface, leading to chronic health issues, depression, or anxiety disorders. It's like a shadow that grows longer with time, affecting every facet of our lives.

Holistic Approaches to Addressing Physical Manifestations of Grief

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: I often tell my clients/students that healing begins with acknowledgment. You cannot heal what you aren't willing to face. Sitting with your emotions, feeling them without judgment and with unbridled self compassion can be the first step towards healing.

  • Physical Activity: Movement, be it yoga or a simple walk in the park, can be therapeutic. You may think you are already active enough but the exercises that your body's used to may not be what your body needs. Bringing mindful movement into you routine is a way to release pent-up emotions, to find a rhythm amidst the chaos.

  • Diet and Nutrition: When the world feels out of control, nourishing your body becomes an act of self-love and resistance. If you're like me, you may seek comfort in food. It's vital develop a healthy relationship with eating to give your body the nutrients it needs to help your body heal.

  • Therapy and Counseling: There's strength in seeking help, in sharing your story, and in listening to the stories of others. Often times when we are grieving we "don't know what to do" to heal and move forward and that's when it's time to call in a professional. Asking for help is a super power.


Grief, in its overwhelming intensity, is also a testament to our capacity to love, to connect, and to feel deeply. As a yoga for mental health coach, I've been privileged to witness the transformative power of holistic approaches. Our bodies, with their innate wisdom, often lead the way, signaling when it's time to pause, reflect, and heal. We just have to listen.

For those looking for a deeper dive into the mind-body connection and holistic healing, I invite you to join our upcoming webinar, 'Unlock Your Body's Wisdom for Grief Healing.' Together, we'll explore the transformative power of yoga therapy and arm you with practical techniques to navigate your grief journey, both personally and professionally. Sign up here and embark on a journey towards healing and self-discovery. As a gesture of gratitude, attendees will receive our exclusive "Nurturing Resilience: Yoga for Grief Workbook 2." I would love for you to share this opportunity with loved ones. Let's heal, together.


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I'm Dani

I blend the transformative power of therapeutic yoga and career coaching to guide your toward holistic well-being and professional fulfillment. 

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