Grieving is unlike any other experience in life. It’s overwhelming, overpowering and once it makes itself at home, it’s not in a hurry to leave you. It’s also unpredictable and confusing. This page helps you to make sense of it by answering some of the most frequently asked questions about grief.
“Grief is the price we pay for love.” – said Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Her speech regarding the 9/11 tragedy in New York and the 250 British Citizens who were missing at the time of these events.
Grief manifests itself in a variety of different ways which depend on your individual circumstances. Your relationship with the deceased and the death itself are likely to have an effect on you, both mentally and physically. At first, you may be in shock and disbelief, angry, anxious, fatigued, dehydrated. What you need to remember is that grief is individual and it affects us in different ways.
You can find more information about the ways in which grief manifests itself in this article:
Grief is often associated with emptiness, numbness, trembling, nausea, trouble breathing, muscle weakness, dry mouth, trouble sleeping and eating etc.
Grieving is a very personal process which opens our eyes to many personal discoveries and lessons. It can make us more grateful and patient. It shows us how precious life is and the real value of love. It teaches us lessons and uncovers truths which we may have ignored in the past.
Grief is often associated with the emotions that it conveys. That’s why people who grieve are often presumed to be sad and teary. You need to remember that grief is as different and as unique in its appearance as we are, and sometimes it doesn’t look like anything at all.
There are so many things that grief is not, yet many people fail to acknowledge that. Grief is not a disease or disorder which needs to be fixed and cured. Grieving people are not sick. You can read more about the importance of learning what grief is not in this article:
Grief counsellors help people cope with the death of a loved one. They can also help with significant life changes which have the potential to trigger grief feelings. Such life changes may be the loss of a pet, loss of job, divorce, a breakup etc.
Unfortunately there isn’t a universal cure because grief is an individual and unique experience. Some people find relief in writing about their feelings and experiences whilst others see it as an opportunity to start exercising and eating healthy. You may find it more helpful to join a local grief group or see a grief counsellor.
There are things you can do to make yourself feel better whilst grieving listed in this article:
Anything that brings memories and reminds you of your loss can be classified as a grief trigger. These triggers can be anticipated events such as anniversaries, birthdays and holidays or they can be as unpredictable as a song you hear on the radio. The good news is that over time, you learn how to understand and anticipate grief triggers. You also develop the mechanisms to deal with them without going into a complete meltdown.
There’s a personal experience and an explanation about grief triggers in this article:
Grief rituals are the routines we perform that helps us connect with grief in a positive way. They introduce a certain calmness and order among the chaos associated with grief. Examples of grief rituals are listening to your loved one’s favourite songs or watching their favourite films, visiting their burial site, preparing their favourite dish etc.
There are more examples of grief rituals and further explanation in this article:
Perhaps the most popular grief theory is the Kübler-Ross model of the Five Stages of Grief. There are, however, a number of other theories about grief that have been developed over the years. There is more information and an extensive list of different grief theories in this article:
Grief may be trapped in certain parts of the body, depending on the physical effects of the emotional symptoms associated with it. One of the most common and obvious physical symptoms of grief is crying which involves the respiratory system – nose, throat, lungs, diaphragm and ribs. A less obvious example is the skin which is the largest sensory organ in the human body.
You can find more examples and explanation in this article:
Grief is our reaction to loss caused by death, separation, divorce, loss of a job, loss of a pet or any other material/financial loss.
Grief is very unpredictable and when it “hits” you depends on many factors, such as the circumstances of the death, your relationship with the deceased person, your character etc.
Some people begin to grieve as soon as they find out about their loss whilst others don’t experience grief until much later. If, for example, someone is looking after a terminally ill person, they may begin grieving even before the death occurs. One thing is certain: it will “hit” you and when it does, you will know about it.
The good thing about grief is that it gets easier to cope with after time. You learn to live with it and you learn to fight back. It’s difficult and overwhelming at the beginning but it gets better with time.
There is no exact “turning point” but its grip and control over you weakens as you work through it.
The grieving process is circumstantial and individual. One thing is for sure: it doesn’t end overnight. It’s a process which takes time. The worst thing you can do is put a time limit on your grief.
Let it take its course and work through it. It “will end” and you will “get over it” when the time is right.
Please refer to the article below in which a Zen priest and bereavement educator explains the importance of sticking with our pain and other difficult emotions so we can come out on the other side:
Grief is a natural reaction to death and loss but it is also a very cathartic experience. It helps the grieving person to express and channel out feelings which can be harmful if left suppressed.
Grief counselling is important because it allows the griever to openly talk about their loss and feelings without being judged.
Grief is a traumatic and stressful event which affects people in many ways, not just emotionally but physically too. It has a variety of symptoms which happen quickly and often in shocking and exhausting way for the griever.
It’s a long process and you must take extra care of yourself during that time. Don’t be afraid to seek medical help if and when you need it.
It’s important to feel safe and be able to talk without feeling judged whilst grieving. Grief support groups provide the perfect and safe environment for that. You can join a local group, an online support group or a forum where you can ask and read questions about grief and anything related to it.
Even though most people associate grief with sadness and crying, there are many other ways in which individuals can and do grieve. You need to remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s important to express your feelings but if you are not a crier, you shouldn’t feel guilty about not being able to cry.
Feeling nothing can be a normal reaction to trauma and shock. Grief is probably the most traumatic event you are likely to experience. Therefore, it’s quite normal to feel numb especially in the first days/weeks after your loss.
You can read more about the emotional numbness of grief in this article:
Anger is a normal emotion and part of the grieving process. In fact, anger is the second stage of grief in the Kübler-Ross’ model of the Five Stages of Grief.
There’s more information about anger and the Five Stages of Grief in this article:
Please read this beautiful piece about grief in which the author tells how grief comes in waves:
Grief is a lengthy and complicated process which occurs as a natural reaction to loss, particularly the loss of a loved one (spouse, partner, parent, child, friend). It is unpredictable, although there are some common emotions that are expressed throughout: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, guilt, loneliness, acceptance, hope etc.
You can read more about how grief works in this article:
Grief has many effects on the body and mind. It can cause random aches and pains, headaches, disturbed sleep etc. It can also worsen existing medical conditions.
You can read about the effects of grief on your health in this article:
Grief is a very individual experience. Nobody understands it unless they experience it and even then, not every person’s grief develops and affects an individual in the same way. Because of that, grief can be damaging to relationships.
You can find more about grief and relationships in this article:
Grieving the death of a child, for example, can put a lot of pressure on the marriage. Most couples see this as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship but that’s not always the case.
There’s more about grief and marriage in this article:
Grief affects your health, emotions, relationships and work too. That’s mostly due to the high level of stress associated with grieving. Employees who are grieving the death of a loved one in particular can lack concentration, motivation, struggle to make decisions as well as expressing other symptoms that can affect their productivity.
You can read more about grief and work in this article:
Grief is the reaction to the loss. Bereavement is the period after the loss. Mourning is the process of adapting to the loss. Further reading:
There are many myths and misconceptions about grief. Some of the biggest myths about grief include things like: grief is the same for everyone; it has a beginning, middle and end; it is a single emotion; it’s predictable; the first year is the worst; time is a great healer; women grief more than men etc.
These are all myths. You need to remember that your experience is unique to you and is defined by your individual circumstances. Further reading:
That would be the first stage of grief which is also the Denial stage in the Kübler-Ross’ model of Five Stages of Grief. Further read:
Anger is the second stage of grief in the Kübler-Ross’ model of Five Stages of Grief. It normally comes after Denial. Further read:
There are some studies that suggest a possible link between losing a spouse and premature death. Some of these deaths are related to suicide or stress. If you think your life is at risk, please talk to someone – a friend, family member, a counsellor or join a local grief group.
Building new relationships and being with people is beneficial to you and it is an important part of the grieving process.
Grief can cause memory changes. It can also affect those who already have dementia but there is no evidence to suggest that grief causes dementia.
If you or someone you know is grieving and affected by dementia, please seek medical advice and help.
Grief is a very traumatic and stressful event for all of us. Those stress hormones can weaken the immune system and can affect the blood pressure.
If you or someone you know is grieving and has high blood pressure, please seek medical advice and help.
Due to the effect of prolonged stress on your body, unresolved grief can increase your risk of illness.
If you or someone you know is grieving and feels unwell, please seek medical advice and help. Further read:
Grief can manifest itself in different ways. Some of its physical symptoms include tiredness, exhaustion, restlessness, headaches, backache, neck pain, rib and chest pain, anxiety attacks, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, comfort eating, trouble sleeping, fear of sleeping, lack of concentration etc.
Dealing with grief is a long-term process. It’s not uncommon for people to experience grief a few years after their loss.
Some people develop a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as the result of a dangerous event they go through. Grief after the sudden death of a loved one is one of the most stressful events you are likely to go through and it could cause PTSD.
If you or someone you know is grieving and affected by PTSD, please seek medical advice and help.
There are many causes of hair loss. Severe stress associated with the grief of a loved one could be a contributing factor to hair loss.
If you or someone you know is grieving and suffers hair loss, please seek medical advice and help.
In the so-called “psychiatrist’s bible for diagnosing mental illness” – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, “grief is specifically mentioned as an exception to the diagnosis of clinical depression”.
If you or someone you know is grieving and suffers depression, please seek medical advice and help. Further read:
There is very weak evidence that links grief as a contributing factor to “increased risk of developing cancer”.
If you or someone you know is grieving and affected by cancer, please seek medical advice and help. Further read:
In an article about grief and anxiety, published on healthcentral.com, the author states that “panic attacks may also either appear or intensify after the death of a loved one”. Further read:
The stress associated with grief could contribute to a sudden and noticeable weight loss. Further read:
An article, published on The Harvard Medical School’s website, cites a study which suggests a link between bereavement and cardiovascular events. Although very real, the risk of someone suffering a heart attack after the death of a loved one is small.
If you or someone you know is grieving and suffers or is at risk of a heart attack, please seek medical advice and help. Further read:
Some of the most common physical symptoms of grief include random aches and pains such as neck or back pain.
Extreme fatigue and general tiredness are both common physical reactions to loss, especially the death of a loved one.
Severe grief may cause triggers which could lead to an episode of bipolar symptoms, especially in those who already suffer a mental illness or a mood disorder.
If you or someone you know is grieving and affected by bipolar disorder, please seek medical advice and help. Further read:
Grief is a stressful event which affects the mental and physiological functioning of the human body. It can cause weight loss as well as weight gain. Further read:
Grief is a natural reaction to loss. Random body aches and pains are common physical symptoms of grief. Further read:
An article published on sciencenews.org, cites a study which suggests that those who grieve the death of a spouse or a partner are more prone to a heart attack or stroke in the month following their loss.
If you or someone you know is grieving and suffers or is at risk of a stroke, please seek medical advice and help. Further read:
Even though grief and depression share similar symptoms, they are not the same. Further read:
No, they are not. Grief and sorrow are different. Grief can be the cause of sorrow while sorrow can be the cause of unhappiness.