Medical Q&As

Bereavement - ill ever since?

I am a 34 year old woman. Three years ago I lost my father quite suddenly. For the last two and a half years I have been feeling run down and generally lacking my usual high energy. I also suffer frequently from swollen glands and have noticed that when I am feeling run down that the skin becomes paler under the eyes and I develop either diarrhoea or constipation. I have been to several GPs and have undergone tests including a colonoscopy. I was told that my illness was stress related. I changed my job to try to ease the symptoms. I now work part-time and get a lot of sleep (sometimes 9 hours) but still I am suffering. I am now on antibiotics as my glands are even more swollen than normal and my eyes seem to be over sensitive to bright lights. I also feel quite numb on the area above my left ear up to the top of my head. Please advise, many thanks.

I would seriously question the extent to which your current difficulty could be related to your fatherís sudden death. Unresolved grief can have a significant effect on mental and physical health and it would not be unusual for such difficulties to persist for several years after the loss. You say that your father died suddenly, which suggests to me that you were unprepared for what happened to him. The shock of an unanticipated death is far greater than would be the case if the illness had been prolonged over an extended period of time. For example, if your father had been suffering from a prolonged terminal illness his death would at least have been anticipated and some of the work of personal grieving would have been done before he died. In the case of a sudden unexpected death none of that anticipatory grieving can take place, which leaves the bereaved person extremely vulnerable. I note that you have been to see several GPs since your father died, which suggests to me that you have yet to find a doctor whom you trust. I would suggest that you be re-assessed medically. Perhaps your illness is a result of depression or maybe you have an undiagnosed medical condition. Having undergone such re-assessment I would seriously consider the option of attending for bereavement counselling.