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What Should I Expect as I Grieve the Loss of a Loved One?

Most of us are unprepared for the enormous grief we feel after the loss of a loved one. Grief is a state of being which contains many emotions, and is a necessary process that helps an individual adjust to a loss. It is a normal reaction to the loss of someone significant to your life.

Often we receive insufficient understanding and assistance from society and even from our own friends and family during our grief process. And sometimes our own expectations of when we will “heal” are unrealistic. Our grief response varies depending on the meaning we make of our loss, our relationship to the person who died, our own personal characteristics, the type of death it was, the amount and quality of our social support and our physical state in general. We may have begun aspects of the grief process as our loved one became ill or incapacitated.

While there is no right or wrong way to grieve and no formula or timeline to follow, here are some things to consider as you go through your grief process:

  • Your grief may take longer than you think.
  • Your grief may take more energy than you would have imagined.
  • Your grief may involve many personal changes and may continually develop.
  • Your grief may show itself in all spheres of your life—psychological, social, physical, spiritual, etc.
  • Your grief may include unexpected feelings such as anger, guilt, irritability, frustration, annoyance and fear.
  • You may grieve for things both symbolic and tangible, not just for the death alone.
  • You may grieve for what you have lost as well as for the hopes, dreams and plans you had for the future.
  • You may experience acute, unexpected surges of grief that may be triggered by certain dates, events or stimuli.
  • You may feel like you are going crazy.
  • You may be obsessed with the death and preoccupied with the deceased.
  • You may find yourself searching for meaning and questioning your religious or philosophical beliefs.
  • You may have physical reactions to grief that you did not expect.
  • You may feel confused about who you are and your role in the world.
  • You may have trouble thinking and making decisions.
  • You may find that your current loss has resurrected old feelings related to unresolved losses from the past.

These are just some of the reactions that mourners report having after a significant loss. Your experience and reactions may be different. Most important is that you know your responses are normal and that sharing them with another can sometimes lessen their impact. Consider seeking out a professional bereavement therapist or grief group to support you during your grief process.

This article was provided by Judy Austin of The Grief Center of Southwest Colorado. Grief Center provides support for those living in Southwest Colorado or Northern New Mexico. Please contact Judy at 970-764-7142 or griefcenterswco@gmail.com for more information.

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