Normal Reactions to Loss
A normal reaction to loss, grief is unique in its impact, course and meaning to each of us. Experiencing the loss of a spouse with whom we shared years of life, has special meaning to us. Thinking about reactions to the loss of a loved one, we tend to think only of emotional reactions. Yet, people also experience physical and behavioral reactions. The intensity of grief changes over time and through personal growth.
Some of the most typical emotional, physical, and behavioral reactions include the following:
Immediate Reactions – The first few weeks following death:
- Emotional: Shock, Relief, Release
- Physical: Numbness, Shortness of breath, Heavy chest, Empty feeling
- Behavioral: Denial, Disorientation, Crying, Listlessness
Later Reactions – After the shock wears off, you begin to feel your feelings once again:
- Emotional: Anger, Fear, Guilt, Panic, Loneliness, Depression
- Physical: Chest pains, Lack of energy, Headaches, Fatigue, Vulnerability to illness, Tension
- Behavioral: Over-reactive, Hyper-sensitive, Running, Sleeplessness, Isolation, Need to relive death
Adjustment – A time when you think you are going to “make it”:
- Emotional: Taking responsibility, Reconstructing your life
- Physical: Looking forward, Doing things for oneself
- Behavioral: Exploring new interests, Personal growth
Remember everyone’s reactions and grief are different. The above lists are guides and should not be considered all-inclusive. If you are in doubt about some of your reactions, consult your physician or pastor. If outside help is needed, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
For weeks after a death, most caring families and friends do all that they can to comfort us, making life as comfortable as possible. Many times, we are still in shock, accepting this support in a daze. Gradually, those around us return to their normal lives, but we do not. The reality of the situation may lead you to think “I am alone,” but you are not. Others who have felt what you are feeling now stand ready to help.