Grief is your emotional reaction to a significant loss. The words sorrow and heartache are often used to describe feelings of grief. Grieving is the process of emotional and life adjustment one goes through after a loss. Loss could include the death of a loved one, end of a marriage or meaningful relationship, losing employment or changes in health following a serious or life-threatening diagnosis.
One could imagine grieving as a process of healing. A broken bone mends through a physical process that the body accomplishes on its own but with the expectation of recovery and usefulness of the limb in the future. Consider that grieving is the mind and heart healing in a similar fashion from an emotional wounding and that will in time, allow for both to be used again in connecting emotionally with the experience of life.
A wide range of feelings and symptoms are common during grieving. While you are feeling shock, numbness, sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, or fear, you may also find moments of relief, peace, or happiness. And although grieving is not simply sadness, “the blues,” or depression, you may become depressed or overly anxious during the grieving process.
The stress of grief and grieving can take a physical toll on your body. Sleeplessness is common, as is a weakened immune system over time. If you have a chronic illness, grieving can make your condition worse.
Grief is expressed physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
- Physical expressions of grief often include crying and sighing, headaches, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, weakness, fatigue, feelings of heaviness, aches, pains, and other stress-related ailments.
- Emotional expressions of grief include feelings of sadness and yearning. But feelings of worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, or guilt are also normal.
- Social expressions of grief may include feeling detached from others, isolating yourself from social contact, and behaving in ways that are not normal for you.
- Spiritual expressions of grief may include questioning the reason for your loss, the purpose of pain and suffering, the purpose of life, and the meaning of death. After a death, your grieving process is influenced by how you view death.
Your experience of grief is likely to be different from another person’s. Similarly, you will probably grieve somewhat differently each time you experience a significant loss. Your reaction to loss is influenced by the relationship you had with the lost person and by your general coping style, personality, and life experiences. How you express grief is influenced in part by the cultural, religious, and social rules of your community. The outcome of grieving should allow the individual to incorporate their loss into a outlook that enables them to re-engage in the experience of life, enjoy the connection with caring family and friends and return to the routines the helped define their personality.
Grieving is a personal experience. Depending on who you are and the nature of your loss, your process of grieving will be different from another person’s experience or even previously grieved situations. There is no “normal and expected” period of time for grieving.