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Grief: typical behaviors and reactions

Grief: Feelings, Physical Reactions, Thoughts and Typical Behaviors

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Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of a significant someone or something in your life. Grief is a necessary process that helps an individual adjust to a loss. Grief does not mean you have a lack of faith. Unfortunately, there are no written scripts for how to grieve or for how long to grieve. Each person grieves in his or her unique way at his or her own pace.

Feelings

Sadness

  • Most common reaction
  • Exhibited sometimes by crying

Anger

Frequently felt
  • Can be one of the most confusing feelings experienced
  • If it is not acknowledged, it can lead to complicated grief
  • Anger comes from two sources:
    • A sense of frustration that the death was not prevented
    • A regressive or more childlike reaction to being abandoned
  • The mourner sometimes blames another person for the death in order to make sense of their loss or to validate that it could have been prevented
  • Turned inward, anger can cause depression or even suicidal feelings

Guilt

  • Guilt is often associated with something that happened or some thing that was neglected around the time of the death

Anxiety

  • The more intense and persistent the anxiety, the more outside help is needed to process the grief reaction
  • Anxiety comes from:
    • Fear of being unable to care for yourself
    • Awareness of your own mortality

Fatigue

  • Often seen and experienced as apathy and listlessness

Shock

  • Can occur both with sudden and anticipated deaths

Loneliness

  • Feelings of isolation that may be situational or self-imposed

Helplessness

  • Feelings of loss of control over situations, others or yourself

Yearning for the lost person

  • Desire and longing to return to the past

Relief

  • Common when the deceased suffered before the death
  • Guilt can follow a feeling of relief

Numbness

  • A lack of feelings often occurs shortly after the death

Physical Reactions to Grief

  • An empty feeling in the stomach
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tightness in chest or throat
  • Fatigue, insomnia
  • Over-sensitivity to noise
  • Heavy and repeated sighing
  • Lack of muscle power
  • Irritability
  • Tearfulness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth


Thoughts Experienced in Grief

Disbelief

  • Typical reaction when first learning of the death of a loved one
  • A sense of depersonalization (nothing seems real)

Confusion

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to organize your thoughts
  • Forgetfulness

Preoccupation

  • Constant thoughts of the deceased and/or how to get the deceased person back

Hallucinations (sensing the presence of the deceased)

  • Visual
  • Auditory


Behaviors Experienced in Grief

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Appetite changes
  • Absent-minded behavior
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dreaming of the deceased
  • Avoiding reminders of the deceased
  • Searching for and calling out for the deceased
  • Sighing
  • Restlessness
  • Crying
  • Visiting places or carrying remembrances of the deceased
  • Treasuring items that belonged to the deceased
  • Over-activity


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