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Grief (Actual/Anticipated): Care Instructions


Grief is your emotional reaction to a major loss. The words "sorrow" and "heartache" often are used to describe feelings of grief. You feel grief when you lose a beloved person, pet, place, or thing. It is also natural to feel grief when you lose a valued way of life, such as a job, marriage, or good health.

You may begin to grieve before a loss occurs. You may grieve for a loved one who is sick and dying. Children and adults often feel the pain of loss before a big move or divorce. This type of grief helps you get ready for a loss.

Grief is different for each person. There is no "normal" or "expected" period of time for grieving. Some people adjust to their loss within a couple of months. Others may take 2 years or longer, especially if their lives were changed a lot or if the loss was sudden and shocking.

Grieving can cause problems such as headaches, loss of appetite, and trouble with thinking or sleeping. You may withdraw from friends and family and behave in ways that are unusual for you. Grief may cause you to question your beliefs and views about life.

Grief is natural and does not require medical treatment. But if you have trouble sleeping, it may help to take sleeping pills for a short time. It may help to talk with people who have been through or are going through similar losses. You may also want to talk to a counsellor about your feelings. Talking about your loss, sharing your cares and concerns, and getting support from others are important parts of healthy grieving.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get enough sleep. Your mind helps make sense of your life while you sleep. Missing sleep can lead to illness and make it harder for you to deal with your grief.
  • Eat healthy foods. Try to avoid eating only foods that give you comfort. Ask someone to join you for a meal if you don't like eating alone. Consider taking a multivitamin every day.
  • Get some exercise every day. Even a walk can help you deal with your grief. Other exercises, such as yoga, can also help you manage stress.
  • Comfort yourself. Take time to look at photos or use special items that make you feel better.
  • Stay involved in your life. Don't withdraw from the activities you enjoy. People you know at work, church, clubs, or other groups can help you get through your period of grief.
  • Think about joining a support group to help you deal with your grief. There are many support groups to help people recover from grief.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You think you may be depressed.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.