Grief is a natural response to loss. Loss can be experienced whenever change occurs. For example, the death of someone, when a relationship ends, a pet dying, losing or changing jobs, or moving to a new place.
Grief often involves intense sadness, and sometimes feelings of shock, numbness or even denial and anger.
Most people find the grief lessens with time. They may always carry sadness and miss the person who has died, but are able to find meaning and experience pleasure again. Some people even find new wisdom and strength after experiences of loss.
Grief is usually described in relation to the death of a loved one, but other types of major loss can also lead to feelings of grief. The more significant a loss, the more intense grief may be.
People may feel grief over:
- the death of a loved one – grief can be particularly severe following the death of an infant or child, or a suicide
- divorce or separation
- the loss of a beloved pet
- giving up something that mattered
- work changes – unemployment, retirement, retrenchment
- the diagnosis of a terminal illness
- the loss of good health due to an illness, accident or disability
- miscarriage or infertility
- having a child with a disability, a terminal illness, a mental illness or a substance abuse problem
- moving away or separation from family or friends
- having an ‘empty nest’ when children leave home
Everybody reacts to grief differently. Common feelings include: sadness; shock; denial; numbness, a sense of unreality; anger; guilt; blame; relief.
Emotional Symptoms of Grief
Shock and disbelief. Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth. If a pet or someone you love has died, for example, you may keep expecting them to show up, even though you know they’re gone.
Sadness. Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.
Guilt. You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (feeling relieved when a person died after a long, difficult illness, for example). You may even feel guilty for not doing more to prevent your loss, even if it was completely out of your hands.
Fear. A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. If you’ve lost your partner, your job, or your home, for example, you may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure about the future. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.
Anger. Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.
Physical Symptoms of Grief
We often think of grief as a strictly emotional process, but grief often involves physical problems, including:
- Lowered immunity
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Aches and pains
If you would like to talk to us about dealing with grief and loss, please contact our Sehat Psychology clinic on (08) 7079 9529 or via our Online Contact Form for more information or to make an appointment.