What is Grief?
Everybody grieves – it’s a natural part of living. We grieve when we experience a loss in our lives.
Most people are familiar with the grief that comes when someone we care about dies. But that’s not the only time we experience grief. The end of a relationship, the loss of a job, moving from a place we love… these are just some of the life events that can trigger grief.
It is important to remember that no two people grieve the same way. It’s been said that the way we grieve is as unique as our fingerprints.
Grief can come at different times – sometimes when we least expect it. Grief has been described as a roller coaster with lots of ups and downs. Some of those hills might be really big, especially at first, and some of the twists and turns can take a person by surprise.
To learn more about coping with grief, please watch Grief – A Part of Living:
Signs You’re Grieving
Some of the things you might experience if you are grieving are:
- Change in your mood, sleeping routine, fatigue or lethargy
- Lack of enjoyment doing things you used to enjoy
- Feeling empty and numb, as if you are in a state of shock
- Physical responses such as nausea, trouble breathing, crying, confusion, lack of energy, dry mouth, or changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Anger—at a situation, a person or in general
- Guilt about what you did or did not do
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Difficulty focusing, working or making decisions
- Questions about faith or spirituality; challenges to the meaning, value and purpose you find in life
How Long Does Grief Last?
Grief is not something you just “get over.” You need to give yourself time to adjust to the loss in your life, particularly when you’ve experienced the death of a loved one. You will never forget about that person, but you’ll find that you make that loss a part of your life.
There are many things that might affect how long a person grieves, including age, maturity, personality, physical and mental health, coping style, culture, spiritual and religious background, family background, other stressors and life experiences. The time spent grieving may also depend on how prepared a person was before the loss was experienced.
Sometimes sharing what we’re feeling with a friend, neighbor, a teacher or clergy member can help you move forward.
Lend an Ear.
If you have a friend or loved one who is grieving, one of the best things you can do is to simply be with them. Don’t worry about saying the right thing – that usually causes us to say just what we shouldn’t. But being there, holding a hand and lending an ear is one of the best gifts we can give to someone who is grieving.
Children Grieve too.
It is important to remember that no individual grieves the same. This is true in the case of children. Children can interpret grief differently from adults. For more insight on the grieving process for children, please watch, Grief through a Child’s Eyes.
Do You Need Help?
If the effects of grief don’t seem to let up, or if you begin to do something that might be dangerous to yourself or others - please ask for help. Grief counselors are trained to help in such situations. There are also grief support groups nationwide which can be a positive influence on someone who is grieving.
One place to find help if you are struggling with grief is your local, community hospice. Hospice professionals are experts at helping people cope with the death of someone they love – and many hospices offer support services to the broader community. To find a hospice near you, use our Find a Hospice tool.
You should never feel ashamed if you are grieving – and you should never be afraid to ask for support.