As we enter the month my husband died, I feel a familiar, heavy ache in my chest. This time of year always brings an overwhelming rush of discomfort, and I’ve come to realize that my body is responding to the deep-seated trauma of losing him. It’s as if my unconscious mind has a calendar all its own, marking this anniversary with physical sensations that catch me off guard.

My husband died of cancer, and his decline was traumatic and devastating. Watching him become so ill so quickly was an experience filled with intense fear, stress, and helplessness. During that time, my body was constantly on high alert, bracing for the worst and enduring immense emotional and physical pain. Now, two years later, my body still carries the weight of that trauma. It’s clear that somewhere deep inside, my unconscious mind remembers and responds to the approaching date with vivid physical reminders of those painful final days.

The mind-body connection in grief is profound and often overlooked. For me, it manifests as a persistent ache in my chest, inability to sleep, and tense muscles—physical echoes of the stress and pain I endured. This bodily response isn’t a setback in healing; it’s a natural part of processing profound loss and trauma.

Understanding these physical manifestations of grief has been an important part of my journey. If you’re experiencing similar reactions, here are some strategies that can help you cope:

Recognize that Your Body Remembers: Our bodies store traumatic experiences and can react strongly to anniversaries or reminders. This is normal and valid.

Honor Your Physical Symptoms: Instead of fighting against them, acknowledge these sensations as part of your grief journey. They reflect the significance of your loss.

Practice Self-Compassion: Be gentle with yourself during these times. Your body and mind are processing complex emotions.

Seek Support: Share your experiences with trusted friends, family, grief counselor or coach. You’re not alone in this.

Engage in Gentle Self-Care: Activities like deep breathing, light exercise, or meditation can help soothe both your mind and body.

Create Meaningful Rituals: Establish personal ways to honor your loved one’s memory, providing a sense of connection and continuity.

To those walking a similar path: your grief journey is uniquely yours, including how your body processes loss. By acknowledging and accepting these physical aspects of grief, we open ourselves to a more holistic healing process. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay for your body to remember. Each breath, each heartbeat, is a step forward in your journey of living with loss and love.