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Grief is a natural response to the loss of someone or something very important to you. The loss may cause sadness and may cause you to think of very little else besides the loss. The words sorrow and heartache are often used to describe feelings of grief.
Grieving is the process of emotional and life adjustment you go through after a loss. Grieving after a loved one's death is also known as bereavement.
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. There is no "normal and expected" period of time for grieving.
You may experience physical, emotional, social, or spiritual expressions of grief. While you are feeling shock, numbness, sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, or fear, you may also find moments of relief, peace, or happiness.
Grieving can cause problems such as headaches, loss of appetite, or trouble with thinking or sleeping. You may withdraw from friends and family or behave in ways that are unusual for you. Grief may cause you to question your beliefs or views about life.
Be patient and kind to yourself. Remember that the difficult emotions you're having are normal. It may help to talk about your feelings with others. Seek support from loved ones, and consider joining a support group. Do activities you enjoy, and find ways to express your feelings, like writing.
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Grief and grieving are the natural response to a major loss, such as the death of a loved one. Loss can cause feelings of grief, sometimes when you least expect it.
You may find that old feelings of grief from past loss can be triggered by current experiences or anniversaries of that loss. This is normal.
Anticipatory grief happens in advance of an impending loss. You may feel anticipatory grief for a loved one who is sick and dying.
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.
Grief is expressed physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
Intense grief can bring on unusual experiences. After a death, you may have vivid dreams about your loved one, develop their behaviours or mannerisms, or see or hear your loved one.
Age and emotional development influence the way a person grieves a death.
Children younger than 7 usually perceive death as separation. They may feel abandoned and scared. And they may fear being alone or leaving people they love. Grieving young children may not want to sleep alone at night, or they may refuse to go to daycare or school.
Children between the ages of 7 and 12 often perceive death as a threat to their personal safety. They tend to fear that they will die also and may try to protect themselves from death. While some grieving children want to stay close to someone they think can protect them, others withdraw.
Teens perceive death much like adults do. But they may express their feelings in dramatic or unexpected ways. For example:
Like adults, preteens and teens can have suicidal thoughts when grieving. Warning signs of suicide in children and teens may include preoccupation with death or suicide or giving away belongings.
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If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.
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Your way of feeling and expressing grief is unique to you and the nature of your loss. You may find that you feel irritable and restless, are quieter than usual, or need to be distant from or close to others. Or you may find that you aren't the same person you were before the loss. Don't be surprised if you experience conflicting feelings while grieving. For example, it's normal to feel despair about a death or a job loss yet also feel relief.
The grieving process does not happen in a step-by-step or orderly fashion. Grieving can't be predicted. Thoughts and feelings can come and go.
While grieving may make you want to isolate yourself from others and hold it all in, it's important that you find some way of expressing your grief. Use whatever mode of expression works for you. Talking, writing, creating art or music, or being physically active are all ways of expressing grief.
Spirituality often is part of the grieving process. You may find yourself looking for or questioning the higher purpose of a loss. While you may gain comfort from your religious or spiritual beliefs, you might also be moved to doubt your beliefs.
You may become more aware of your feelings of grief during holidays, birthdays, and other special events.
With loss, your sense of self and security is disrupted. It may help to develop or strengthen connections with other people, places, or activities. These new parts of your life are not meant to replace what you have lost. Instead, they serve to support you.
Call 911 or other emergency services if:
If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.
Call a doctor if:
Grief itself is a natural response that doesn't require medical treatment. Social support and good self-care may help. But if you find that your grief is making it difficult to function, contact a grief counsellor, bereavement support group, or your doctor.
If you have symptoms of depression, prolonged anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), call your doctor.
Talking about the loss, sharing cares and concerns, and getting support from others can help you grieve in a healthy way. If you have just had a major loss in your life, you might try these steps.
Not getting enough rest and sleep can lead to physical illness and exhaustion. Try activities to help you relax, such as meditation or guided imagery.
If you have trouble eating alone, ask another person to join you for a snack or meal. If you don't have an appetite, eat frequent small meals and snacks.
Walking and other forms of exercise, such as yoga can help.
Allow yourself to be comforted by familiar surroundings and personal items that you value. Special items, such as photos or a loved one's favourite shirt, may also give you comfort.
Staying involved in work, church, or community activities may help.
Surrounding yourself with loved ones and talking about your feelings and concerns may help you feel more connected with other people and less lonely.
Take part in the activities that occur as a result of the loss, such as making funeral arrangements.
Resist the urge to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or take non-prescription medicines (such as sleeping aids). When you are under emotional stress, these may only add to your unpleasant feelings and experiences. They may mask your emotions and prevent you from normal, necessary grieving.
During times of emotional distress, allow other people to take over some of your responsibilities. Allowing other people to help you also helps them, because it gives them an opportunity to show their care and concern for you.
There are many ways that family members and other people close to a person who is grieving can give help and support. The best way to help a grieving person often depends on how well the person was prepared for the loss, the person's perception of death, and the person's personality and coping style. The person's age and stage of emotional development are also important to think about when you are helping someone who is grieving.
Here are some ways to help.
Encourage the person to take part in activities that involve and build the person's support network.
Listen to the person's beliefs or feelings without making judgments.
Current as of: March 27, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineJohn Pope MD - PediatricsAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJean S. Kutner MD, MSPH - Geriatric Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Current as of: March 27, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Jean S. Kutner MD, MSPH - Geriatric Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine
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