Common Reactions to Grief


Grief causes tremendous turmoil in every aspect of life and involves a wide range of physical, emotional and spiritual responses. You may find yourself overwhelmed and frightened by the feelings, thoughts and emotions. Any of the following can be characteristic – and are normal !!!

Physical – Grief can cause physical symptoms. Your body “feels” the emotional loss.

Knot in stomach                                                             Changes in appetite
Tightness or lump in throat                                       Frequent sighing
Shortness of breath                                                       Tightness in chest
Fatigue and lack of energy                                          Unrelieved by sleep
Muscle weakness                                                             Dry mouth
Nausea, Diarrhea, Indigestion                                   Feeling “hollow” or “emptied out”
Feeling weak or faint                                                      Headaches
General achiness                                                              Oversensitivity to noise

 Behavioral –

Being immobilized, unable to act
Restless over activity (unable to sit still or stay with a task)
Sleeplessness or oversleeping
Unable to begin and maintain normal daily activity
Lack of motivation or energy
Crying or sobbing (often at unexpected times)
Talking to the person who has died
Social withdrawal

Feelings –

 Shock, numbness, disbelief
Anxiety, panic (What will I do now? How will I manage?)
Anger (Why me?)
Guilt (Why didn’t I…? I should have…)
Intense sadness
Helplessness, powerlessness
Everything is unreal, feeling detached
Fears: of “going crazy”, of the future
Envy of others who have not experienced a loss (still have their spouse, their home, their health)
Relief (that the person’s suffering os over; burden of caring is over)

Thought Patterns –

 Many different thoughts patterns occur during grief. When not understood as normal, some people fear they are going crazy. 
 Denial (difficulty believing the loss is real)
Poor concentration
Preoccupation with the loss and/or circumstances surrounding it
Seeing or hearing the person who died
Dreams (e.g. of person who died)
Repetition (thinking about or retelling the events surrounding the loss over and over)
Anticipation (subconsciously expecting the person who died to return)
Yearning and longing for the person who died or for “what was”

 Spiritual – Even if you have strong faith, you may find it shaken by a significant loss.

Anger directed towards God, clergy or religion in general
Consolation provided by belief or scripture
Examining the meaning of life
Seeking meaning in the loss itself
Strengthening of beliefs
Wavering of faith
Searching for evidence of afterlife
Changes in priorities (e.g. increased or decreased tolerance for minor irritations in life)

Give yourself the time you need –

Grieving takes time. It can’t be hurried. Just as it takes time for broken bones to heal, it takes time for broken hearts and spirits to heal.

There is no fixed time period for grieving. It varies from person to person. However, many people do not understand grief and think you can just “snap out of it” or “should be getting over it” much sooner than is realistic. Try not to judge yourself by the expectations of others.

Grieving is not something you can just “snap out of.” One must adjust out of it, and that takes time and effort.