Common Grief Experiences After a Loss
What you may experience physically:
- Tightness in muscles or throat
- Times of nervousness or panic
- Diminished appetite
- Increased appetite
- No energy
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Headaches or stomach/intestinal disorders
What you may experience emotionally:
- Depression and sadness
- Crying easily or unexpectedly
- Anger toward others, God, or self
- Mood changes
- Feeling uncomfortable around other people
- Not wanting to be alone
- Frequent thoughts of "if only" things had happened differently
- Feeling empty
- Feeling cheated
- Fearful of the future
- Wanting to run away or involve yourself in many activities
- Thinking you are "going crazy" when overwhelmed by intense feelings
What to do for physical relief:
- In the early stages of grief, don’t force yourself to eat more than you desire. As your appetite returns, eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Exercise, even just a quiet, peaceful walk. Physical exercise helps you to relax.
- Perhaps give up caffeine (coffee, colas, tea, etc.) as a way to relieve nervousness. Beware of alcohol, which is a depressant. Alcohol could interrupt normal sleep patterns.
- Frequently check for balance in your life: rest, recreation, prayer/meditation, and work.
What to do for emotional relief and healing:
- Be gentle with yourself. You may often feel overwhelmed. Remind yourself that what you are feeling is normal.
- Reach out to others. It is important to find friends with whom you can talk. Sharing with someone who has "been there" can be very helpful.
- Be aware that people grieve in different ways. Don’t measure your grief progress with others.
- You may or may not cry often but, when you do, realize it is therapeutic. Don’t fight the tears.
- Become familiar with the common grief experiences and be willing to engage in your own grief work.
- Remember that grieving takes time and experiences and emotions can recur. Be patient with yourself, and allow yourself time to heal at your own pace.
- Beware of being critical of yourself, either consciously or unconsciously, because of unrealistic expectations.
- Other events in your life also may be grief situations (trouble with spouse, children, work, or friends). Realize that this happens to many grieving people, and these situations can complicate the grieving process.
- Find support from both inside and outside your family, but don’t expect your family to meet all of your needs.
It may take time to introduce new life patterns. In the past, you may have handled grief by overactivity. If your previous style of grieving has not been helpful, be willing to try new approaches:
- Become active in a support group
- Find telephone friends
- Read and learn about grief
- Develop new coping skills
- Reach out and help others
- Hold on to HOPE