Everyone grieves differently. What’s normal? When is it time to ask for help?
Grief is normal
Grief is a natural reaction to loss, whether you’re grieving the death of a loved one or another kind of loss–the end of a relationship, a deep disappointment or a move to a new community.
When you grieve, you’ll experience a tangled web of emotions including sadness, shock, numbness, anger, frustration, denial and acceptance.
One thing is clear. Life is changed forever.
Grief comes to everyone at some point in their lives. Typical grief can involve:
- Overwhelming sadness
- Appetite changes
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Mixed, confusing and painful emotions
- Difficulty with routine tasks like showering & housework
- Changes in concentration and memory
- Difficulty making decisions
- Pulling away from people
Allow yourself to grieve
Coping with loss may be one of the biggest challenges you face. Instead of denying feelings or avoiding sadness, grieving well helps you adjust to the situation and find meaning in new circumstances.
Social support and healthy habits can help you through the most difficult times. It is important to:
- Talk about your loss with friends and family
- Accept a mixture of feelings and mood swings
- Share stories and celebrate your loved one
- Meditate, pray or participate in spiritual practices
- Allow others to help in practical ways like bringing meals or doing errands
- Eat well and get plenty of rest
- Depression. When combined with depression, feelings of overwhelming sadness and hopelessness may not go away on their own. Changes in appetite, sleeping problems and difficulty functioning day-to-day could signal clinical depression disguised as grief.
- Anxiety. Anxiety and fear are normal feelings of grief. If they increase and intensify, or are combined with irritability, racing thoughts, muscle tension, insomnia, stomach pain and other physical symptoms, underlying anxiety may hinder your grieving process.
- Anger. If the relationship with the deceased was a difficult one, it may take extra time and thought to resolve your feelings.
Grief and children
Children experience the same emotions as adults when faced with a loss, yet their grief often isn’t given the attention it deserves. For a child, grief may be caused by the loss of a grandparent or a pet, a best friend moving away or parents getting divorced.
When a death impacts children, their responses will depend on their age and maturity. At every age:
- Explain death in a child’s terms, using clear, direct language
- Give children opportunities to talk about their feelings and the deceased
- Help children understand they are not alone by allowing them to grieve with other family members
- Ensure children feel safe by being a loving, consistent presence in their lives
When to seek help
It’s not unusual to experience difficult emotions on-and-off after a loss. Usually the intensity is reduced over time, however, and most people reach a point when day-to-day activities temporarily move grief to the sidelines. Others struggle longer. The difference between normal grief and severe (or complicated) grief is largely a matter of timing.
When deep feelings of denial, distress, anger, guilt, idealization, hostility or panic continue for months, you may benefit from seeing a psychologist or other mental health professional.
How Pine Rest can help
Pine Rest is here to help you through difficult grieving processes. Our highly trained clinicians provide professional services with compassion and understanding. And our network of outpatient clinics throughout Michigan and Iowa can help you regain your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
Counseling/Outpatient Services. To schedule a new outpatient appointment, call 866.852.4001.
When tragedy occurs, our sense of well-being feels violated. Elizza LeJeune, LMSW, offers tips on how to care for ourselves in the wake of trauma.
Cancer can affect your mental health - according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the link between physical and mental health is two-fold. Not only are patients with a serious physical illness more likely to develop depression, but...
Are you facing a loss this holiday season? This might be a good time to think about resizing your holiday expectations while grieving. Several years ago I met with a patient to discuss ways she could cope with the holiday…
View All Posts