Reactions to grief are such profoundly personal and unique experiences that it is very difficult to tell people what is “normal” to feel or how long they will feel it. There truly is no such thing as a normal way to grieve or the amount of time it takes to do it. That being said, there are some very common reactions to grief that include the following:
1. Denial, disbelief, feeling numb, or having the inability to cry.
2. Overwhelming sadness and the inability to stop thinking about what has happened.
3. Anger and rage – this anger may be directed at anything and anybody, including other family members, medical providers, God, or yourself.
4. Guilt – guilt over things that were or were not said or done, survivor’s guilt, and feeling that you could have somehow prevented the death.
5. Fear of what is to come next and what the future will hold.
6. Shame and/or Relief – caregivers may feel a sense of relief that their loved one is no longer suffering or relief that they are no longer burdened as a caretaker. While this is a very common reaction it often causes feelings of great shame.
7. Sleeping too much or not at all, frequent crying spells, and inability to concentrate during daily tasks.
So what are the warning signs that grief has turned into something much more serious requiring professional help?
1. The reactions above do not seem to lessen in severity or frequency over time, things stay constant or actually get worse.
2. Family and friends are starting to take notice and express concern.
3. Sadness has turned into a true clinical Depression which may be marked by a complete inability to take care of yourself, go to work or school, or perform your normal household responsibilities.
4. You have thoughts of hurting yourself or committing suicide.
5. You have psychotic symptoms or delusions (seeing, hearing, or believing things that are not there).
6. Prolonged and profound sleep disturbance.
7. Severe weight loss or gain.
8. Risky behaviors such as substance abuse, gambling, compulsive shopping, or promiscuity.
If you or a loved one are in pain and experiencing any of the things mentioned above reach out and ask for help.