moving_after_deathA life expectancy calculator developed at the University of Pennsylvania considers how many of the following stresses you have in your life. The more you have had in the past 12 months, the sooner you would be expected to die. (By the way, Doug had none of these. I ran the calculator for him and it said he could expect to live to be 85. He died at age 52.)

  • Serious Illness in a family member (excluding death)
  • Serious concern about a family member (excluding illness)
  • Death of a family member
  • Divorce or separation
  • Forced to move house
  • Forced to change job
  • Been made redundant
  • Feelings of insecurity at work
  • Serious financial trouble
  • Been legally prosecuted

Here's the thing. Death of a family member increases the survivor's risk.The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory (a social readjustment rating scale) rates death aof a spouse as the most stressful life event, significnatly raising susceptibility to a stress-induced health breakdown.

But death of a family member can result in more stresses being added to your list. If your spouse was the primary wage-earner, or an extended illness before death exhausted your finances, you may be forced to move, to change jobs, or end up with financial challenges.

Grieving is not good for your health. While short term stress can stimulate your immune system, the chronic stress often experienced by the bereaved supppresses the immune system. This can leave you more vulnerable to illness. Unfortunately, health practicioners may dismiss illness in a bereaved as being emotional or psychological - i.e., all in your head. They may assume that you are displaying symptoms of "la belle indifference," a 19th century word for hysterical conversion of emotional issues into physical symptoms.

Mourners need to take good care of themselves. You should try to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, not drink too much, etc. - things that can be hard to do under normal circumstances. When possible, you should postpone piling on. For example, if you don't need to move in the first year after being widowed, consider waiting.


The cure for anything is salt water - tears, sweat, or the sea.
~ Isak Dinesen, Seven Gothic Tales



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