The loss of someone we care about can be one of the most difficult and challenging events in our lives. When we lose a spouse, sibling, or parent, our grief can be particularly intense. While loss is a natural part of life, anyone can be overwhelmed by shock and confusion, which can lead to periods of sadness or depression. Sadness typically passes, but grieving is an important process in overcoming these feelings.
Symptoms of Grief
The symptoms of grief can be unique for every individual. We all have varying levels of resilience to loss or other painful events and losses may be experienced differently at different stages of life. Even the makeup of one’s relationship to the person he or she has lost contributes to the uniqueness of bereavement from person to person.
These are some of the more common emotions or symptoms of grief:
- Shock: Whether the loss was anticipated due to illness or sudden and unexpected, it’s natural to feel shocked when your loved one is gone. You may feel numb for a time, or have difficulty believing that the loss has taken place.
- Anger: Loss can cause anger and even resentment. Anger may be directed at a higher power, medical caregivers, yourself, or even the person you’ve lost.
- Sadness: Feelings of despair, emptiness, loneliness, and yearning are natural. Nearly everyone feels sad when a loss occurs, with sadness expressing itself in many ways.
- Fear: Anxiety or stress disorders may arise in the aftermath of a loss. We may begin to have new fears about our own mortality, or have anxiety about an uncertain future that must be faced without the person we have lost.
- Physical symptoms: Grief can manifest in a number of physical ways, from insomnia and deep fatigue, to changes in appetite that cause weight gain or weight loss.
What Can Be Done About Grief?
Research shows that most people can recover from a loss on their own over time if they have social support and healthy habits. There is no normal time period for grief — it may take a year or two to come to terms with a loss. Do not expect to pass through phases of grief, as new research suggests that most people don’t experience stages as progressive steps. Even after a period of years, certain events or encountering certain reminders can, for a time, cause a renewed sense of grief.
Humans are naturally resilient, but some people may struggle for longer periods and be unable to carry out normal activities due to prolonged grief or depression. People with severe grief may benefit from the help of a psychologist or other licensed mental health counselor who specializes in grief and loss.
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