Grief and Loss
Grief and loss affect everyone differently. Your reactions may be very different from others. How you grieve may depend upon several factors. One factor is the circumstance of the loss (who has died, whether the death was sudden or followed a chronic illness, how the person died, if the death was violent or due to suicide). Other factors contributing to the way you grieve are personal factors such as gender; age and life experience; culture and faith; and personality. (Adapted from Working through Grief: A Self-Care Handbook, Channing L. Bete, Grass Roots Press, 2005)
Regardless of how you grieve, please make sure that during your time of grief you take care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually. You may find that you need to let go of prior expectations of yourself while you are coping with this loss in your life. Please know that you are not alone in your daily struggles. Accept help when it is offered; seek help if it is not.
Intial Grief Reactions: Be patient. Grief reactions come and go, and can show up over many months. Most grief reactions begin to soften over time. Every person’s time line is different.
- Anger: This can be a confusing but common reaction to the loss of a loved one. It is a way of feeling the helplessness and frustration that you can no longer have this person in your life.
- Denial: It is hard to believe that the world has really changed because the person you loved is no longer in it. We try to pretend that nothing has happened, that this can’t be real.
- Numbness: This can be a way we block out the overwhelming feelings of pain and loss.
- Confusion: This can show up as absent-mindedness, forgetfulness, trouble putting thoughts in order.
- Sadness: Some people cry a lot, others not so much. Tears are a way of releasing stress hormones that build up in our bodies.
- Guilt: This is the feeling that not enough was done to help. Or that the things that needed to be said were left unspoken.
- Relief: If things had been difficult between you and the deceased, or the deceased had been very ill, this can be a normal expression of the mourning process.
Normal Physical Symptoms of Grief: Rest assured, these symptoms go away over time.
- Change in appetite, either overeating or undereating.
- Low energy level or fatigue, even when there has been no physical activity.
- Stomach upset or headaches are common reactions.
- Sleep Disturbance, either sleeping a lot or not able to fall asleep.
Ways to Cope with a Sense of Overwhelming Loss:
- Express your feelings (talk to a friend, write in a journal, somehow vent your feelings.)
- Seek caring people (support group, family and relatives, someone who has the ability to listen.)
- Avoid making major life changes for the first 6 months if possible, such as moving, changing jobs.
- Make sure to look after your own health. Eat well and exercise, even a 20-minute walk a day.
- Be patient; it may take months or years to begin to accept your loss.
(Adapted from Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: J. William Worden)
If you are experiencing any of these emotional and physical responses, and they become extremely difficult, unbearable or intrusive, or are hindering your ability to function on a daily basis, please talk with your doctor, mental health provider, or spiritual leader. They can assist you in dealing with your grief.
You may also contact UMHS Depression Center at 734-936-4400 or the Psychiatric Emergency Room of your local hospital.