Extreme Exhaustion: 5 Tips for Relief

Jul 10, 2020

If we automatically received an owner’s manual for profound loss, it would have an entire chapter on exhaustion. Not your garden variety exhaustion, but unprecedented, debilitating exhaustion, so deep and intense that every cell in the body is impacted.

Extreme exhaustion is the evil twin of grief. It moves into our lives and attaches itself so firmly to our entire being that we are sure we will never break free.

Keeping up with the day-to-day tasks is exhausting.

Taking a shower is exhausting.

The simple act of chewing food was, for me, exhausting.

At month 5, I remember thinking, I’ve never been so exhausted in my life. And that was only the beginning.  

Profound loss is so life altering that we must draw deep breaths just to feel that we’re not suffocating. We must will our heart to beat. The normally automatic body functions don’t happen so automatically anymore.

Just existing is incredibly exhausting.

It’s not the type of exhaustion that a few good nights of sleep can fix. Not that many widowed people are great sleepers, anyway. Insomnia is extra cruel when we’re grieving and depleted, yet it is extremely common.

Our bodies are indeed physically exhausted from carrying the weight of our loss, from the lack of sleep, lack of proper nutrition and the incredible stress of the situation.

Our traumatized brains are looping on our loss, trying to analyze it from every angle, determining what we could have done differently, searching the past for a similar situation to compare this to and spinning in an effort to figure out what happened.

It’s no wonder our car keys end up in the refrigerator.

Even deeper than physical and mental exhaustion is the exhaustion which settles in our soul. We question our loss, wonder why we’re still here, search for our new purpose in life and try to find the reasons to keep going.

While there is no magic wand to erase exhaustion, the following 5 tips may provide some relief:

  1. Judging your journey creates more exhaustion. Instead of Why am I still crying? and Shouldn’t I be further along by now? we can choose to think, This is what we’ve got today.
  2. Guilt is a common emotion that adds to the exhaustion. When your brain offers you proof that you weren’t a good enough spouse, remind yourself that you’re human and you’ve done your best.
  3. Avoiding the feelings that come with grief only postpones them and adds to the fatigue. Feelings wait patiently and while they wait, they grow. Processing emotion is one of the superpowers within us that we can tap.
  4. Be “on to” your brain and recognize that it is very likely operating out of fear.
  5. Make self-care a priority. Figure out what brings a glimmer of peace to you and seek it out regularly with no regret.


Teresa Amaral Beshwate, MPH, The Sudden Widow Coach, helps widows who have experienced the sudden loss of their spouse or significant other learn to live and love their life again. Her coaching program is exclusively for widowed people and offers the perfect mix of private and group coaching along with the most life changing tools for the uniquely challenging widowed journey. 

Learn more about Life Reconstructed.

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