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Grief Can Make Us Clumsy


"I trip. I bump into walls. I'm an old athlete and pride myself of my physique and coordination. Suddenly I feel like a clumsy oaf," Barbara said.

Barbara's son Thomas was an intelligent, sensitive, and creative kid. He took to art right away and pursued it passionately through college. Thomas was good, perhaps even great. His work began to be noticed.

Thomas was thrilled and excited, but also felt the pressure to perform and produce. That pressure increased over time. Anxiety and depression set in. Late one Sunday evening, Thomas took his own life. He was 29.

"I miss him. I can't even look at his art right now," Barbara sighed. "I'll never understand why. Never. Ever."


Grief can make us clumsy

The loss of a loved one every nook and cranny of our being. Our minds, hearts, bodies, work, and relationships are all impacted. As part of the physical toll, many report clumsiness or lack of coordination.

Like Barbara, we can find ourselves bumping into things and people. We can trip over our own two feet. Something feels a little "off" physically. We're no longer in sync with our bodies. 

We stumble. We fall. We burn ourselves while cooking. We have a car accident, or some near misses. We go through red lights and stop signs without even seeing them. We slip in the bathroom. We turn too quickly and twist a knee. We slip off the treadmill or drop a weight on our foot. We break things.

Grief is sucking much of our energy. Our jobs, tasks, and relationships get at best a distracted and fatigued version of ourselves. This trickles down to our coordination, depth perception, and sense of personal space. 

We wonder what's happening to us. Is something wrong? Have we contracted a disease? Do we have a tumor? Probably not. When grief affects our bodies, our coordination often takes a hit. 

"I'm getting clumsy. I stumble around, missing you."


Suggestions to consider:

As you move through the grieving process, this new clumsiness should diminish over time.  In the meantime, do what you know to do to process things well.

  • Breathe. Keep practicing this, at least once a day. Practice makes permanent, and when deep breathing becomes a habit, you'll be able to use it in almost any situation. 
  • Talk. Talk about what's going on inside. Talk out loud to yourself. Talk to others. Get around people who know grief (support groups, grief counselor, therapists, ministers, etc.) and share.
  • Write. Journal. Write letters to your loved one. Get what you're feeling, thinking, and experiencing on paper. Those who make writing a habit usually experience great benefits in the long run. Again, if you’re more artistic, draw, paint, or sculpt. Be creative.

Some clumsiness and coordination issues are common and natural for those adjusting to a heavy loss. We've been shattered. The effects are pervasive. 


Adapted from the newly release bestseller, Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child. You can watch the Shattered videos here: Gary, Michelle


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About the Author

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. He is the author of the award-winning bestsellers Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child, Please Be Patient, I'm Grieving, HEARTBROKEN: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse, and Surviving the Holidays without You and the co-author (with New York Times Bestseller Cecil Murphey) of Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One. Visit him at

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