Living with Grief 2

How to Survive the Death of a Loved One
Part 2: Characteristics & Symptoms of Grief

Each of us grieves in our own unique way, but there are responses to loss which most of us will have in common. The only way to heal from loss is to experience the emotions of grieving fully. We need to be able to relax into these painful feelings. Knowing that what we are feeling is “normal” can help us to do that more easily.

Following is a list of the characteristics of grief. Loss of a parent, spouse, child, friend or pet will all have a different quality, but the experiences below are common to all types of grief.

Physical Characteristics

  • Tightness in the throat, heaviness in the chest, bodily aches and pain
  • Feeling dizzy, short of breath or headachy
  • Frequent sighing
  • Loss of appetite and/or increased eating
  • Chronic feeling of tiredness

Emotional Characteristics

  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling as though the loss isn’t real, that it didn’t actually happen
  • Intense sadness, depression and yearning
  • Anger and irritation
  • Crying at unexpected times
  • Feeling guilty for what was said or not said, or for not having done enough for the person who died
  • Feeling guilt over times when one is happy
  • Intense anger at the loved one for leaving them or at God
  • Sudden changes in mood
  • Relief: if the person was ill before the death, there may be relief that their suffering is over
  • Feeling as if life doesn’t have any meaning
  • An upsurge of emotional distress at anniversary dates, birthdays, holidays, etc.

Behavioral Characteristics

  • Sensing the loved one’s presence, hearing their voice or seeing their face, expecting the person to walk in the door at the usual time
  • Restlessness, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, not finishing things
  • Difficulty sleeping and dreaming frequently of the loved one
  • Being intensely preoccupied with the life of the person who died
  • Assuming mannerisms and traits of the loved one, doing the things they used to do
  • Decreased desire for socializing
  • Needing to remember and tell and retell things about the loved one and the experience of their death
  • Questioning religion, philosophy or spiritual beliefs

These experiences will occur for weeks, months and even years following a death, depending of the type of relationship we had with the person who died. Grief comes in waves — grief reactions can come and go, and the intensity varies considerably. Just when we feel that things are finally a bit easier, something can unexpectedly trigger a whole new flood of feelings.

Part 1: Living with Grief
Part 3: Tips for Living with Grief

Internet Grief Resources — our favorite — lovely, informative website — especially well-written and informative website — how to help yourself with grief — extensive book list by topics — support with the death of a child


Living with Grief 2 — 8 Comments

  1. I lost my two brothers in the space of 5 months recently. I feel numb and still cannot believe it is happening to us. Does anyone have any experience on how to deal with this great pain. I wait.

  2. This is a huge loss, Sarah. I am so sorry.

    With a loss of this magnitude, you might consider grief counseling or a grief support group. You can contact your local hospice and see if they have services available.

    It’s normal to feel numb at first. We deal with this great pain by experiencing it all the way. It isn’t easy. It takes time, lots of time. The best thing is to get support along the way. We have information here on this website and references above.

    We also have a special guided meditation for grief on our Meditation Oasis website. You can listen to it free by following this link.

    We wish you well.

  3. Just want to thank you for being online. I am hanging on by a thread and today, that thread was this website. God Bless

  4. Thank you very much for sharing my suffer, My pain is stiil suffering me a lot, my only one brother , and my dearest father left me in one year. How could i continue my live, people. still i crying, but I need to care my mum and a sister. But I have depressed too much doctor said.

  5. We are so sorry to hear of your suffering, baigalmaa. It does take a lot of time to heal from such difficult losses, but eventually you will feel better. We wish you well.

  6. I lost my mother 5 months ago. I found this article very helpful. I know my feelings of depression are from the grief of losing my mother and i’ve been very hestiant to go to a GP as i’m worried they wouldn’t understand and just put me on an anti-depressant. I have read many articles on grief and depression but this article has given me a sense of relief and hope- thank you.

  7. You are welcome, Carmela. It can help to talk with someone who understands what you are going through. Perhaps you can find a local grief support group or counselor (your local hospice should be have information about resources). Best wishes.