"If you're old enough to love, you're old enough to grieve."
- Dr. Alan Wolfelt
- A multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died.
- May include a wide range of emotions, physical sensations, thoughts, and/or behaviors.
- A process that will change over the course of time and is not a limited event.
- An experience that is both universal and unique to each individual, family, and culture.
- Transitional in that it may bring about a crisis of meaning, not only challenging our view of the world, but potentially requiring us to reexamine our purpose in life.
- Seen and unseen, heard and unheard, depending on how an individual mourns their loss.
- An individualized, non-linear process of integrating major losses and life transitions into our sense of self and our reality.
We grieve many things over a lifetime, not just death.
Many acute stress and grief reactions are similar to symptoms of major depressive disorder and even post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD). Remember, many of these reactions are common and are a normal part of grief.
**If your grief begins to limit your ability to care for yourself or your dependents, it’s important to reach out to a professional for help.**
What is Complicated Grief?
For some people, feelings of grief do not lessen or diminish as time passes. Grief continues to dominate life and the future seems bleak and empty.
Symptoms and Warning Signs of Complicated Grief:
- Intense sorrow, pain, and rumination over the loss of your loved one
- Inability to focus on anything other than your loved one’s death
- Numbness or detachment
- Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
- Thoughts of suicide and/or long-term depression
- Failure to provide for basic needs
Common Grief Reactions
Sadness - Anger - Guilt - Numbness - Loneliness - Anxiety - Panic - Abandonment - Inability to Feel Pleasure - Relief - Regret - Apprehension - Emotional Outbursts - Loss of Emotional Control - Inappropriate Emotional Response - Shock - Feeling Overwhelmed - Depression
Chills - Thirst - Fatigue - Nausea - Fainting - Twitching - Vomiting - Headache - Elevated Blood Pressure - Rapid Heart Rate - Muscle Tremors - Sweating - Grinding of Teeth - Noise Sensitivity - Tight Chest - Dry Mouth - Weight Loss/Gain - Loss of Libido - Dizziness - Difficulty Breathing - Gastroinestinal Issues - Stomachache
Withdrawal - Inability to Rest - Intensified Pacing - Erratic Movements - Change in Social Activity - Inability to Eat - Crying - Searching - Forgetfulness - Impaired Work Performance - Change in Speech Patterns - Hyper Alert to Environment
Confusion - Nightmares - Uncertainty - Hyper Vigilance - Suspiciousness - Intrusive Images - Blaming Others - Poor Problem Solving - Poor Abstract Thinking - Poor Attention Span - Poor Decision Making - Disoriented to Time, Place, or Person - Increased or Decreased Awareness of Surroundings
Disrupted World View - Starting/Stopping Belief in Higher Power - Reexamining Purpose and Meaning of Life
Tips for Caring for Yourself After a Loss
The First 24 - 48 Hours:
- Stay hydrated and rest when you’re able.
- Try to eat something nutritious if possible. You may have an upset stomach—that is normal. Try to eat small amounts of gentle food or perhaps a smoothie if chewing is too much.
- Periods of physical activity alternated with relaxation may help alleviate some of your physical reactions.
- Identify people in your life who may be able to help with logistical tasks.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Stress and grief affect memory and concentration—write reminders, make lists of questions or things you need to do, leave yourself extra time to get places, etc.
- Educate yourself about common grief reactions to help normalize and validate your experience.
- Try to avoid any additional big life changes.
- Be cautious of using drugs or alcohol to numb the pain.
- Be kind and compassionate to yourself.
- Listen to your body; if you need to cry, yell, sleep, eat, etc. - do it!
- Reach out for help as needed. Talk to a friend, grief counselor, pastor, or look at a reputable grief website or engage with someone else you trust.
- Remember, you're the expert on what grief feels like for you. It's okay to say "no" to suggestions or advice from others.