Grief Facts & Grief Support Resources
Grief is a normal, healthy response to loss. One of the greatest difficulties in life is the death of someone you love. The intensity of grief changes over time and through personal growth. Healing involves coming to terms with the loss and the meaning of the loss in one’s life.
Experiencing Symptoms of Grief
What are common physical and emotional reactions to loss? What are normal feelings of grief?
Common Physical Reactions to Grief
- Tightness in the throat or chest
- Shortness of breath
- Sensitivity to loud noises
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
- Agitation and restlessness may also be experienced
Common Emotional Reactions to Grief
As you face a loss, you may have different feelings at different stages. These feelings include shock, denial, anger, guilt and sadness. Your grief may never go away completely, but the pain will lessen as time allows you to work through the feelings.
- Shock: The physical and emotional shock may be prolonged. Persistent memories or dreams about the event may occur for months. Talking or writing about it can help to break the cycle of obsessive thoughts.
- Fear and Anxiety: Simple activities, like taking a shower, being in the dark or opening a closed door, may cause fear or anxiety. This is a normal response, but if the anxiety prevents normal routine for a prolonged period, it's important to see a physician or therapist.
- Guilt: Someone might feel guilt over things that were done, or not done, regrets about the past and guilt for surviving. Much of the guilt that people feel is emotional and not rational, but knowing this does not help to alleviate those feelings. When guilt persists, people are often helped to deal with it in support groups or with a therapist.
- Anger: Anger and rage come from the feelings of helplessness and powerlessness one feels after a traumatic death and can be overwhelming for family members. There are many support and advocacy groups to help deal with the anger brought about in traumatic death.
How long does grieving last?
Grief impacts each individual differently. Recent research has shown that intense grieving lasts from three months to a year and many people continue experiencing profound grief for longer. Be sure to talk with a family doctor if you are having trouble getting through the process. The doctor can help you work through the depression and start to feel better about your loss.
Do all people grieve the same way?
While many aspects of grieving are universal – feelings of sadness, confusion and depression – there is no single prescribed way to grieve. Some individuals want to have many people around with whom they can share their feelings. Others prefer to deal with loss more privately.
What helps the grieving process?
Even though grievers often feel helpless, there are important steps and actions they can take to make the grieving process flow more smoothly. Here are some ways to cope with the pain of loss:
- Seek out supportive people. Find a relative, friend, neighbor or spiritual leader who will listen and provide you with support.
- Join a support group. Being with others who have had a similar loss is therapeutic. Express your feelings.
- Take care of your health. Eat balanced, nutritious meals. Rest properly. If you have physical problems, consult with your physician.
- Find outside help if necessary. If your grief feels too heavy for you to bear, find a counselor or therapist trained in grief issues to offer you some guidance.
What are ways I can remember my loved one?
From photo collages at a memorial service to planting a tree, there are many ways we can remember a loved one. Here are some ideas:
- Lighting a candle in his/her memory
- Creating a memory book of photos of your loved one
- Donating a gift of money or time to those less fortunate
- Wearing a photo pin of your loved one
- Starting a memorial scholarship fund in his/her name
- Writing a poem or story about him/her
- Visiting a place you both liked to visit
- Hanging a special ornament on the tree in his/her memory
- Playing his/her favorite music
- Making a quilt from his/her favorite clothes
- Sharing memories with friends and family
- Providing memorial flowers at your church or synagogue
- Creating a memory box of items that were special
- Honoring his/her favorite tradition
- Reading aloud your favorite story
Online Grief Resources