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“Open your arms to life! Let it strut into your heart in all its messy glory!”
 
–Deborah Wiles

Taken for Granted

I was shy as a child, very quiet. I found my voice as I grew and realized I liked meeting new people and finding out about them.  As I advanced in my career at Illinois Power, mine was usually the only female voice in the room, so I felt I needed to speak up and be heard.  And my voice served me well in consulting, making presentations to all kinds of audiences.  I was always the one in the room that didn’t need a microphone.

I’ve taken that loud voice for granted.  Recently, my voice has grown raspy and soft and I can’t seem to get my breath.  I went to a specialist and was diagnosed with vocal cord paralysis.  He said they don’t know why it happens, probably a viral infection.  And just like that, my voice, that I’ve taken for granted all these years, is different.

Bill, my husband, does not seem to mind me not talking so much. Ha. But I do.  I feel like I’ve lost a part of me, I’m not the same outgoing, talkative person.  I struggle to be heard.  And, I just can’t sing at all (not that I ever could sing well, but you know what I mean.) There is a surgery that can repair this condition, but the doctor needs to wait for nine months to see if it will heal on its own first.

Now, this is not a big deal.  It’s not cancer or a chronic illness like diabetes or addiction.  It’s not really painful.  But it hurts to feel less than I was.

This change in me from my voice being different is a little one and I’ll adapt.  But it points out the difficulty that changes in us physically can have on one’s happiness.

When someone is grieving there are often many changes that affect a person, both emotional and physical changes. When we are grieving, we may be stressed for long periods.  This stress can become chronic and lead to physical issues.  Research from Independent Age lists these physical symptoms of grief:

  • Exhaustion.
  • Breathlessness.
  • Aches and pains, such as chest pain and headaches.
  • Shaking and increased heart rate.
  • Feeling sick.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Confusion and forgetfulness
  • Oversensitivity to noise and light.
  • Skin problems and sensitivity.
  • Insomnia
  • Lower resistance to illness in general.

I also found a range of studies that reveal the powerful effects grief can have on the body.  The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots.  Intense grief can alter the heart muscle so much that it causes “broken heart syndrome,” a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.  I’ve heard of “dying from a broken heart,” now I understand it can be a real physical condition.

In our recently published book, Heartbroken – Grief and Hope Inside the Opioid Crisis, seven brave parents tell their family’s journey through drug addiction and loss of their child.  They may not have died from “broken heart syndrome” but they clearly felt like they did.  Elaine, the mother of Alaina, describes it this way on page 66:

“I learned from losing Alaina that my heart, it will always be broken.  I will grieve for her until I die.  Her absence is like a physical presence, like an empty chair next to me.”

Let’s use our voices to help those that are traveling the difficult path of grief.  Remember that their physical health may be impacted as well as their emotional health and help them to consult their physician if needed.

In this holiday season, let us be kind and gracious to all, especially those that need our love and patience as they grieve.

Heartlinks Grief Center provides grief support to all ages.  If you are grieving or know someone who could use assistance on their grief journey, please contact Heartlinks Grief Center at 618-277-1800 or email support@myheartlinks.com.

Profits from the sale of We Lost Her and Heartbroken are donated to help support Heartlinks Grief Center.

Be blessed,

Ellen

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