It can be difficult to face reality when you experience the loss of a loved one. Knowing that everyone is uniquely different helps explain that there can be many different reactions to grief.
It is important to understand that everyone experiences grief in their own unique way, that there is no timeline for grief, and that grief does not come in stages, but tends to be more cyclical in nature.
When loss is sudden and unexpected, your body may go into shock. This is a normal “self-protection” reaction. Usually it is for a brief period, depending on the severity of the loss and your emotional state of being at the time.
Because the loss is so devastating, you may refuse to accept facts, sometimes to the point of fantasizing that your departed loved one is still alive. This is a common occurrence especially with a sudden loss.
Your emotions may be manifested by crying, venting of feelings, mood swings, and in some cases, screaming. These and other feelings can be a normal part of expressing your emotions.
Depression and Loneliness
You may experience thoughts of despair and occasional hopelessness. Knowing that these feelings are normal and will last (in most cases) for a brief period of time can be helpful.
Some people may occasionally experience panic attacks. You may feel something is very wrong with you, and perhaps even ask questions like, “Am I losing my mind?” Talking about and expressing these feelings can help.
Feeling angry is not uncommon, nor is it unusual to be angry with the person who died. The important thing is to find ways to express your anger in ways that don’t harm yourself or anyone else.
Inability to Renew Normal Activities
You may find that you just can’t get back to “business as usual.” Perhaps you may even feel that need to withdraw from people for a period of time. Use this time of solitude to take care of yourself.
Guilt is a very common grief reaction. You may feel guilty about something you said or didn’t say.
Even though you may realize that there is nothing you could have done to prevent the death, you may feel guilty that you didn’t do “more” to save the person who died. If you are experiencing feelings of guilt, it is important to find a safe place to talk about it, without being talked out of it by well meaning friends.
Physical Symptoms of Distress
Recognize that your immune system is on overdrive during extreme stress. It is important to take care of yourself physically, attempt to eat healthy foods, get some exercise and try to rest. It is not unusual to feel extremely tired or lethargic in the first days and weeks following the death of a loved one.