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Feeling clumsy in your grief? You and Ashley Judd are in the same boat!

I stumbled across the article “Ashley Judd Breaks Leg Again, Citing 'Clumsiness' After Mom Naomi's Death: 'It Allowed Me to Grieve’ by Vanessa Etienne, published on October 27, 2022 by People magazine. In this article, Ashley Judd revealed she fractured her leg this summer due to grief-associated clumsiness following her mother Naomi Judd’s suicide earlier this year. “The Double Jeopardy star suffered a fracture of the femoral condyle over the summer. She shared that although her injury wasn't severe and she "healed in two months, lickety-split," the incident gave her time to pause and grieve.”. Ashley Judd quotes, "It was what it was," she said. "Clumsiness is associated with grief, and there were other people in our family, after mom died, who fell downstairs and had accidents, and that's just what mine happened to look like. It really allowed me to grieve. It really allowed me to stop what I was working on at that moment and to grieve."

Grief is described by Webster’s dictionary as “deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone's death”. As its definition implies, grief is a strong and overwhelming emotion. People often find themselves numb and mentally removed from their daily life, unable to carry on with regular duties while saddened with their loss.

Not all theoretical approaches to grief are structured as a linear progression through a series of stages. Some, like me as a death doula, prefer to represent grief as a cyclical process, where the grieving individual repeats phases multiple times on a gradual journey to recovery. Grief is the reflection of the connection that you had. Grieving is a natural and virtually unavoidable part of life. You may never “get over” your grief, but you can learn to manage and cope with your grief and go on with your life. Consciously do what people have always done with death- “experience it”.

Clumsiness in grief is real. The loss of a loved one affects our whole being. As part of the physical toll, clumsiness or lack of coordination is a common symptom. It is natural by-product for those adjusting to a heavy loss and are actively grieving.

The good news is the symptoms tend to improve with time and many people tend to start feeling better within six to eight weeks. Studies also show most grief symptoms largely resolve within one to two years—not that the grief is "over," but rather that the physical impact is.

Ashley isn’t the only one to experience such a phenomenon. There is a real physical side to grief. I like to allude this to grief living in the body. As Megan Devine quotes in her book “It’s Ok that You’re Not Ok” on page 117, “Grief affects digestion, appetite, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, muscle fatigue and sleep- basically everything. If it’s in the body, grief affects it.”

In conclusion, honour the link between the mind and the body. All things considered, grief is still centered in our minds and our perception, therefore all healing of the body should coincide with healing of the mind. That includes everything from speaking to a death doula, therapist or grief counselor; leaning on the support of your friends/family; engaging with community supports; and solo activities like exercising and eating properly, walking in nature, mindfulness, meditation and journaling.

(This blog was created in part, using excerpts from my Eventbrite presentation, “Moving in, out, through but never really over grief” from November 5, 2022)

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