What does grief feel like?

Individual experiences of grief vary widely. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, many people suffering a loss experience some of the following emotional, physical, and behavioral characteristics:

  • Emotional Characteristics: emotionally numb, a sense of disbelief that the death has occurred, intense feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, isolation, relief, loneliness; yearning for the person who died

  • Physical Characteristics: an overwhelming sense of fatigue, body tension, tightness in the throat, muscle weakness, frequent sighing, increase or decrease in appetite

  • Behavioral Characteristics: restlessness, forgetfulness, dreaming of the person who died, decreased desire for social activity, lowered self-esteem, needing to talk about the details of the loss again and again

Why do people grieve differently?

Many factors influence our grief, including the circumstances surrounding our loss, the relationship we had with the person who died, and the strength of our support system.

How long does grief last?

There is no timetable for grief. Each person's experience with loss is unique and "takes as long as it takes."

I feel like Iím going crazy. Is that normal?

Grief can be very intense with vast mood swings and behaviors that may be atypical for you. It is normal to feel like you are going crazy, but rest assured you are not.

My loss happened a long time ago. Could I still be grieving?

Yes. When a loss has not been fully processed, grief can go "underground", later surfacing as depression, anxiety, irritability, alcohol or drug abuse, or somatic symptoms.

My wife died 7 months ago and my grown children say itís time for me to get rid of her things. Should I?

There are no set rules about this. Some people do a "clean sweep" after someone dies, while others take comfort in holding on to the things that remind them of their loved one. I encourage you to think about what feels right for you. If you decide you are not ready to part with your wifeís things, then give yourself the permission to continue to hold on to them. If you feel you are ready, proceed at a pace that feels comfortable for you.

Do I have to visit the gravesite?

The short answer to this is no. Some people take comfort in visiting the gravesite, while others do not. We do not have to be physically present at the gravesite to honor the person who died.

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