Symptoms of Grief

A person may experience each of the symptoms listed below or only a few. These symptoms do not necessarily occur in any particular order and will vary according to the individual and the nature of the death. Certain phases of grief could be worked through in a matter of hours, days or years. It is said that the grief process will take anywhere from 2 – 5 years, but in my opinion I don’t believe a time limit can or should be put on it. I haven’t reached the point of *moving on*, but I’ve been told by others who have lost a child that it does get easier. It doesn’t ever go away, but you learn to deal the best you can.

The following was published in Today’s Health by the American Medical Association.

WHAT MAY I EXPERIENCE?

SHOCK AND DENIAL
“I just don’t believe it!” The first actual announcement that a death has occurred is often shocking. The impact of the tragedy may take a few minutes to a few weeks to be realized. The unreality of the death may even reoccur occasionally in the future.

EMOTIONAL RELEASE
“I can’t stop crying.” Crying is a normal reaction to a death. Psychiatrists often emphasize it as a necessity to release tensions and feelings rather than lock them inside. The opportunity to express grief at the funeral with family and friends permits an emotional release, although the grief process takes longer.

LONELINESS
“Without him/her I might as well be dead!” A feeling of emptiness may occur after the funeral as friends must return to their own activities. Therefore, the feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression become more intense. The thought that no one has ever suffered as much may exist. For some people the lonely feeling leaves suddenly. For others, it may take months to move to the next phase of grief.

PAIN
“I just can’t bear it!” Anxiety and loneliness can create emotional pain. This strain of grief can even cause physical distress. If the physical signs continue for a lengthy period of time, it is possible a healthy adjustment has not occurred.

PANIC
“Oh, what am I going to do?” It may become difficult to concentrate on anything because of constant memories of the deceased. In fact, the continual preoccupation with the loss may cause a person to worry about his own stability. He may fear losing control. Not knowing what to do and not understanding what is happening can result in panic.

GUILT
“I should have done more for him/her.” Frequently survivors recall things that could have been done for the person who died. This realistic guilt is common. Sometimes, a person will experience unrealistic guilt stemming from a situation which was uncontrollable. This type of guilt is irrational and must be discussed. Unresolved guilt, whether, “normal” or “neurotic” may be harmful physically and mentally. Often, arranging a meaningful funeral can redirect the feelings of the grieving person into something positive and uplifting.

ANGER
“Oh, God, why me?” After dealing with personal guilt, it becomes natural to look for someone else to blame. There may be hostility toward the physician, nurses, persons surrounding the accident or anyone who seemingly could have prevented his/her death. These feelings of anger must be expressed. It is best to disclose them to a tolerant and sympathetic listener.

DEPRESSION
“Will life ever be worth living again?” A feeling of weariness develops from depression and frustration. Sometimes, suffering in silence seems easier than socializing. Forcing yourself to get involved in activities will help relieve the depressed feelings. When the despair mounts, contact someone who will listen.

HEALING
“I now realize the meaning of friends.” Through the affection and encouragement of friends and family, gradually a new meaning for life unfolds. As you begin to enter into activities, your mood will brighten, and life will begin to take on a new perspective.

READJUSTMENT
“Knowing I’m adjusting to life again would please him/her.” The acuteness of the death will diminish as readjustment begins. This stage may take time. Then recalling the deceased becomes a pleasant experience and planning for the future becomes realistic.


Please remember, there is NOT a time limit on this. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. If you start to feel out of control, hopeless and/or suicidal, PLEASE seek help.