The Physical Pain Grief Leaves Behind

Lauryl Iversby Lauryl Ivers, chaplain

Grief touches every part of us. We feel it in relationships with our families, friends, co-workers and in our hearts and minds—even in our bodies.

My mother died under the care of Hospice of the Red River Valley a few years ago. The Hospice team was so helpful for me and my family. I am thankful I didn’t have to be the professional during that time; I could just be the daughter.

I vividly remember the time I woke up one morning from a deep sleep a few months after my mother died, and I felt like I’d been through a major surgery. It felt like something had been physically cut out of the center of my body. Something important was missing. As I shook myself awake, I started to wonder if this was another way I was experiencing grief for my mom. It truly felt like part of me was gone, like I had a hole in the center of my body.

I’ve heard other people talk about the physical effects of grief: the fatigue, the real heartache, the susceptibility to disease because of decreased immunity.

Recently, the BBC Newsletter published an article by Jon Kelly, where he reported, “People often say they experience grief as concrete physical sensations … churning stomach, racing heart, shaking and hypersensitivity to noise are all physical experiences of bereavement. There is a ‘broken heart syndrome’ that follows significant emotional or physical stress … the heart muscle becomes weakened, and the heart’s chambers change shape.”

In some faith traditions, there is Jacob’s story, a man who “wrestled with God” all night long. In the morning, Jacob discovered that his hip was now “out of joint.” In my own grief, I have “wrestled with God” during dark nights.

Maybe you have, too, with feelings of guilt and questions of “Why? What could I have done differently?” These questions can leave a person with a disjointed feeling, a deep pain for things that cannot be made right.

Since my mother’s passing, I have learned I’m not alone in these feelings. Losing someone I love changed me, emotionally, spiritually—and even physically. But I am still me, and when I reach out to others, I realize I am still loved and learning. I have some precious “holes of grief,” and some parts of me that are “out of joint,” but these things remind me of the people I’ve connected with, and whose place deep within me no one else can fill or fix, for now.

As I share stories of my grief with family and friends, I have found it helps me. Working with Hospice of the Red River Valley as a chaplain has also provided solace to me because of the care Hospice so lovingly extended to my mother and father.

May you find the blessings you need.

Rev. Lauryl Ivers is a chaplain with Hospice of the Red River Valley.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, nonprofit hospice serving more than 30 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email or visit


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