Grief is a natural reaction to loss and can affect every part of our being and lives — physically, mentally, emotionally and even socially. Grief reactions can range from anger, guilt and anxiety to changes in appetite or social behavior.
It’s best not to think of grief as a series of stages. Rather, we might think of the grieving process as a roller coaster — full of ups and downs, highs and lows. When we understand what is "normal" in grief, it gives us the knowledge that others have gone through this process and have found healing.
Common reactions to loss include:
Physical sensations, such as hunger, nausea, breathlessness, shakiness, headache, sensitivity to noise, and chest or throat pain.
Behaviors, such as sleep and appetite disturbances, crying and sighing, social withdrawal, increase in illness or accidents, increased use of alcohol, drugs or nicotine, and changes in personal hygiene habits.
Feelings, which may include sadness, loneliness, increased irritability, guilt, yearning, fear and relief.
Thoughts, such as disbelief, confusion, obsessive thinking about the deceased, and a sense of finality.
Spiritual reactions, ranging from searching for broader meaning and embracing religious rituals to questioning of faith or returning to previously abandoned beliefs and practices.
Adapted from Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner, second edition, by William Worden (1991).