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Grief and Loss

Grief is the normal human response to loss.  Loss can be when someone we love dies or when a relationship ends.  We can also experience grief when we endure some other significant life change that involves loss.  Everyone experiences grief at one time or another.  However, each individual experiences grief differently.  Some may feel a profound sense of sadness while others may experience more anger or agitation.  Some suffering from a loss may choose to withdraw, while others may feel more of a need to remain around others.  The following are examples of different types of reaction that can result from experiencing a significant loss or trauma:

Physical Reactions Cognitive Reactions Emotional Reactions
fatigue difficulty concentrating helplessness or meaninglessness
changes in sleeping patterns difficulty making decisions numbness or hypersensitivity
changes in eating patterns flashbacks or preoccupation with the event fear, panic, feeling unsafe
changes in other activities memory disturbances moodiness, crying, or depression
digestion problems or stomachaches a sense that things aren't real anger or guilt
headaches or dizziness   isolation from other people
physical tension, shakiness or weakness   feeling that your thoughts or emotions are out of control
(Reaction List: American U. web site)   neediness, not wanting to be alone

It is well known that grief appears to move through different stages.  Individuals may experience each one of these stages, or only a few of them.   Some may experience one stage with intensity, and briefly pass through another stage with only a mild reaction.   The point is that grief appears to have a course, but each individual travels this course in her or his own way.

Stages of Grief

Shock:  Immediately after the loss, one may feel a sense of disorientation and unreality.  There is an initial response of denial.  "She can't be gone".

Emotional Release:  The reality of the loss hits home.  There is an awareness of how dreadful the loss is.  The grieving person may experience intense feelings of emotional pain and loss.  "It hurts so much I don't think I can bare the pain".

Panic:  A period of time of mental instability may occur.  The person may become forgetful, disoriented, and disorganized.  He or she may also experience physical symptoms - tightness in the chest, fatigue, headaches, gastric difficulties and others.

Guilt:  The person may feel guilty over what happened or what didn't happen. "Could I have done something?"

Anger:  Some individuals may feel anger over what caused the death.  Some may feel anger at the dying person for leaving them behind.

Striving for Normalcy:  Attempts at getting back to a normal routine may be difficult.  The individual may have trouble concentrating and maintaining focus.  They may experience intrusive thoughts and emotions.

Reconciliation:  Balance returns little by little.  Emotions are less intense.  Attending to life's routines and demands become easier.

Hope:  The grieving person begins moving forward knowing they will remember and have memories of the person who is gone.

Help Toward Resolving Grief

  • Try not to be afraid of your feelings.  Express them openly. 
  • Accept all your feelings, both positive and negative 
  • Acknowledge that it takes time to pass through grief, and that your time may be different then someone else's 
  • Confide in a trusted person.  Share your thoughts and feelings and tell the story of the loss 
  • Use a journal to document your passage through grief 
  • If your grief reaction is leaving you unable to function, please contact Counseling Services at x2180

     
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