Understanding Your Grief

Peggy Green - Thee Grief Specialist

By Peggy Green of Thee Grief Specialist

Death of a child is unique. It is a mother’s worst nightmare. As a mother, you never expect to outlive your child. It changes your total being from the core. There is a hole in your heart and a yearning to be reunited with your child. Your circle of friends changes because they do not know how to help you. They are afraid to say and do the wrong things. They cannot comprehend the depth of your pain and do not know how to support you in difficult times. 

However, death and loss are part of the circle of life and a painful reality. It is guaranteed to happen at some time. People react to it uniquely and the effects may remain for months or years. It is your response to your loss that impacts your ability to live a fulfilling and productive life.

Grief is the internal thoughts and feelings you have when a loved one dies. It is a strong feeling of sadness. It is natural to experience grief. It is normal to miss a loved one.

Shortly after a loss is experienced, you can enter into an acute phase of grief. Acute grief is caused by the suddenness of loss and is characterized by behavioral, social, emotional and physical  symptoms.

Symptoms of acute behavioral grief can include:

  • Forgetfulness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Slowed thinking

  • Wandering aimlessly

  • Feeling trance-like

  • Prevailing need to retell the story of the loved one’s death

Symptoms of acute social  grief can include:

  • Overly sensitive

  • Lowered self-esteem

  • Withdrawn

  • Relationship difficulties

  • Lack of initiative

  • Avoid others

Symptoms of acute emotional grief can include:

  • Fear

  • Guilt

  • Longing to be with the person who was lost

  • Loneliness

  • Apathy

  • Anger 

Symptoms of acute physical  grief can include:

  • Trouble initiating or maintaining sleep

  • Chest heaviness or pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Lack of desire to eat

  • Headache

  • Digestive issues

The above lists are just a sample of what you could be experiencing. Those internal responses are different than mourning which is the external or outward response to loss.

Some common examples of mourning can include preparing for a funeral, wearing black or sharing memories or stories about a loved one. Grief and mourning represent different pieces of loss and can help you understand the different parts of coping with loss. 

Grief has many faces. It is individual and nobody’s grief is better or worse than another’s. This is not a place or time to compare pain and suffering.  It is a journey. Emotions associated with grief are difficult to understand.

The intensity of your grief is associated with the depth of love between you and your deceased loved one. As humans you are meant to experience pain and suffering. There is not a guarantee that life will be easy. It is expected to experience challenges.

Find solace in the fact the human experience naturally includes loss and pain. No matter what your experience, you can move through grief to healing. There is hope.

“Grief only exists where love lived first.”  – Franchesca Cox