Understanding Grief

Grief is a natural reaction when we’ve suffered the loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, our society doesn’t give us much room to feel or express the pain that comes with that loss. We may think we have to “stay strong” no matter what we’re feeling inside. We may also be overwhelmed by the strong emotions that can come upon us at unexpected times after a loss. It’s important to understand that there are many sides to grief. Below are some of the more common ones.

You may feel a wide range of emotions like sadness, relief, anguish, and depression. Sometimes the emotions can be frightening in their intensity. You may also find yourself responding to others with anger, irritability or a loss of spontaneity. All of these emotions are normal when you are grieving. You are not the only one to feel them.

Unexpected and uncontrolled crying is common. Crying is an acceptable and healthy expression of grief and releases built-up tension. Don’t try to hold it in.

You may find that you’re not thinking as clearly as you normally do, and it may be difficult to initiate anything new or to go through the normal routine of your day. Some people may even fear that they’re losing their mind. This, too, is normal. The death of your loved one is a shock to your system. Be gentle with yourself. As time goes on, you will find it becomes easier to concentrate and deal with life again.

Problems sleeping are common. Some people also find their eating habits are disrupted. They may eat more or less than normal. It’s important to do all you can to keep up your health. That includes eating healthy and getting enough sleep.

Spiritual beliefs can be comforting at this time, but conversely, it is also common for grievers to find themselves questioning the existence of God or feeling angry at God for the death of their loved one. Talking about these thoughts with someone you trust can help you work through them.

Guilt is a normal part of grief. Thoughts of “if only” and fears that you made the wrong decisions regarding your loved one can surface. Coming to terms with your actions and accepting that you did the best you could under the circumstances can ease the guilt.

Social interactions can change. You may find you want to be around people more, or that you now prefer to be alone when you used to be more social. If your deceased loved one was your spouse or partner, you may especially find it difficult to get together with other couples you used to socialize with. Many grievers in this situation express the feeling of being a “fifth wheel.” Don’t cut yourself off from those who want to support you. Try to continue to see people as frequently as feels right to you.

Consider joining a grief support group. It can help to become involved with a group of other people who are grieving. By sharing with others who are going through the same things, you can ease your loneliness and express your grief in an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding. For a schedule of our ongoing grief support groups or special groups, visit our calendar of events.

Read through the suggested Grief Resources to learn more.