The Grief Experience

From the Center for Grief Recovery


Grief is the natural healing process that occurs after a significant loss. It is experienced uniquely by each of us, often in waves, with emotional, cognitive, physical and social responses varying in terms of the intensity, duration, and order of our reactions to the loss. There are many components of a loss, and many variables that can affect your grief reaction.


Emotional components of loss can include:

•Shock, numbness, feeling of unreality
•Helplessness
•Vulnerability
•Fearfulness
•Sadness
•Anger, irritability
•Emptiness, loneliness
•Guilt
•Carelessness, harming oneself or others in any way
•Outbursts, euphoria

Cognitive components of loss can include:

•Slowed and/or disorganized thinking
•Confusion, aimlessness, difficulty concentrating
•Preoccupation, rumination
•Unaffected, no thoughts at all about the person or the circumstances
•Dreams
•Decreased self-esteem
•Altered perceptions, sensing the presence of the deceased person

Physical components of loss can include:

•Fatigue, sleep disturbance
•Decreased or increased appetite
•Physical distress, nausea
•Anxiety, hypo- or hyperactivity
•Greater susceptibility to illness

Social components of loss can include:

•Being unaware of others' needs
•Passivity
•Withdrawing from or avoiding others
•Decreased work productivity
•Loss of interest in usual pleasures, including hobbies and/or relationships
•Strained relationships, differences in grieving needs between self and others

Variables that can affect your grief reaction:

•Your own history of past losses, through deaths, divorce, relocation, lost dreams, phase of life changes
•Violations of one's safety (accidents, fire, personal trauma, world crises), or health changes
•Your current personal and situational stressors
•Your personal beliefs in a faith tradition or spiritual practice
•Your cultural and family expectations about loss
•If the loss is anticipated or unanticipated
•If the loss is marked by traumatic events
•The degree to which closure with the person was possible
•A "loss out of season," for the person who has died or for you
•Your ability to share the loss with others
•Your coping style and use of stress management resources
•Working through past hurts and forgiveness issues
•Finding a way to make meaning of the loss

As you can see, grieving is a multifaceted, individualized process for which there is no definitive timetable. As you grieve, you may wish to share your personal journey with family, friends and work colleagues. Professional and community organizations can offer helpful support, as can online resources like this website.

Related articles:
Appropriate Expectations You Can Have for Yourself in Grief
The Purpose of Grief and Mourning
What Helps When We’re Experiencing the Unthinkable
The Work of Grief

Also from The Center for Grief Recovery:
Managing the Holidays
Comfort Quickies: Self Care While Grieving
Grief in the Workplace: An Outline for Helping

The Center for Grief Recovery is a full service, non-profit nationwide Counseling Center helping persons who are dealing with emotionally intense experiences such as Grief, Loss, Trauma, Depression or Abuse. You can learn more at http://www.griefcounselor.org.

Photo by pdufour/StockXchng

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Comment by Janie on February 19, 2010 at 5:37pm
I lost my ex-husband, who I was still dating and don't know why he was my ex really, on October 18, 2009. His funeral was on the 21st, my birthday. He was killed in an auto accident unexpectedly. I am having a hard time dealing with it. He was my best friend and was always there for me no matter when or what it was I needed. He told always told me how much he loved me and worshiped me and I see now that he really did. I did not see how much he did before and all he wanted was for us to be married again, but I wouldn't. Why couldn't I see before how much he really loved me? He called me the night of the 17th saying he wanted to see me and talk to me, but I had plans with my kids and the next morning he was killed. I can't shake the feeling of wanting to know what he wanted. I miss him so much and I don't know what to do without him now. I feel so lost and alone and I don't know how to deal with him being gone. I cry everyday and I have become obsessed with making flowers for the cemetery and making sure that there are always nice fresh flowers. I miss him every second of every day and I am so lost without him.
Comment by angry sister on July 25, 2009 at 12:22am
Hmmm..... Michele, I have asked myself these types of questions also. You bring up a great point and I can totally see your pain. My brother passed at Christmas time (the week of) and his girlfriend was partying (with men) by new years. I don't know how long it is supposed to take someone to grieve, but I can speak for myself in saying it has been over 3 years and I am still not over his death. I am no expert, but it sounds like your father may be dealing with the death by placing those feelings somewhere else. (the new woman) It is hard to watch people who we feel are supposed to be as distraught as we are, carry on as if nothing happened. It can be an added pain on top of what we are already experiencing. I don't think there is anything you can really do to change it though. I would just try and explain your reservations to your father. Maybe he will see your point. I hope that everything works out for you and your family and I pray for your father's health. God bless.
Comment by Michele on December 26, 2008 at 7:01pm
Is it normal for a spouse to get into a relationship about a month after his spouse has died? My dad had been married to my mom for 47 years and she died suddenly in June of this year. We found out a few months later that my dad had been lying to us about who he was seeing. He said he was seeing a guy friend of his, when it was actually a woman. We are no longer close to my dad and he has withdrawn from his 4 grandkids and myself and my brother. He feels like a stranger. The only time I saw him grieve for my mom was at the funeral.
He moved his girlfriend in my mom's house in October. We found out he bought her a 2 carat diamond ring and said he was getting married on Jan. 2nd. My poor mother has not been dead 7 months and already he wants to marry this lady. Here is the kicker also.......... She is 44 and he is 68. Her dad is 69. This lady has never had a place of her own. This will be her 3rd marriage. One of her kids has been in prison for grand theft auto. Her and her family are the total opposite from our family. He use to go to church and we thought very committed to God, but he hardly goes anymore. Has something like this happened to anyone and what have you done to get throught this?
Also my dad was diagnosed this past April as having non hodkins lymphoma. He has been taking chemotherapy and the cells have really shrunk down. This girlfriend of his smokes like a chimney and does this around him. If you love someone like she say's she does, how can you smoke around someone who still has cancer????

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