Grief is more than sadness — it is all the ways we respond to loss. Grieving is the process of coping with the heartache, loneliness, and practical adjustments that may occur after the death of someone significant to us.
How you experience your grief will vary according to many factors that are personal to you, your family, and your relationship with the person who died. While every person’s grief is unique, these are common responses:
- A sense of relief or acceptance that some suffering is ended
- Shock, disbelief, or a feeling of unreality
- Physical symptoms, such as exhaustion or low energy, tightness in throat or chest, an "empty feeling," or digestive problems
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering, difficulty making decisions
- Changes in appetite and/or sleep patterns
- Restlessness and/or irritability
- Anger or frustration with yourself, your loved one, the medical community, God, or the situation; thinking "it’s not fair"
- Preoccupation with the illness or death, reviewing or reliving what happened
- Frequent, sometimes unexpected, bouts of tearfulness and/or emotional outbursts
- Deep sorrow, sadness, missing your loved one’s presence
- Regret or guilt, "if only" thinking
- Spiritual questioning or a need for spiritual comfort and support
Among your family and friends you will likely see a wide range of responses to the death of your loved one, both immediately and in the months to come. You may not be able to tell from the outside how someone is reacting to the loss on the inside. You may need to adjust your expectations of yourself and others. Some people may tell you how to grieve or how not to grieve.
At Hospice of the Northwest we believe that even when we grow through our grief and feel we have put our lives together again, it is normal to have tender spots around each loss that we will be aware of throughout our lives.
"It has eased my heart to know that all that could be done for Mom was done... to keep her comfortable, to help her transition peacefully, with dignity."
Daughter of a Hospice of the Northwest patient