The experience of grief and loss is a very individualized experience. There are common reactions that may occur. By no means do these reactions follow a particular order or sequence over an optimal period of time. Some reactions may not be experienced at all. Some may happen and then cycle back at a later time. Some people may recover more quickly. While others may take a number of years. Comparing one’s grief process to others is not very helpful. Focusing on the differences with others grieving process invites a conclusion of judgment of not doing right. This certainly adds to the already stressful emotional experience of grief and loss.
The most common reactions are:
- shock or disbelief that the loss has occured
- denial with feeling numb or a refusal to accept it has happened
- bargaining such as “let me be the one to die, just let him/her live”
- pain or deep sadness and guilt
- anger that may be directed to doctors, religious beliefs or even the person who died
- depression and loneliness with a sense of heaviness, low energy. There may be profound feelings of isolation and feeling separate from others and normal daily life.
- period of calm with less physical symptoms and lifting from feeling overwhelmed and intense emotions
- processing the loss by becoming more functional, being able to deal with dail problems and beginning to rebuild a different life after the loss.
- Physical symptoms. There is an increase in inflammation which decreses the functioning of the immune system resulting in more vulnerability to illness, fatigue even death. Insomnia, changes in appetite, inability to focus or concentrate as well as a variety of other physical symptoms may occur.
Generally there is very little that can be done to “get rid of” the grief. When there is an emotional attachment greiving is a normal response or an “emotional injury” to that loss. It takes time to heal and recover with help from some “tools” or ways to mediate and manage these reactions.