Anytime we experience loss, we experience grief. Whether it be the loss of a pet or a job or a loved one, there will be grief.
What is grief? It is the normal response to loss and it can be completely overwhelming. Grief affects our cognition, our physical status, our emotional balance and our spiritual beliefs.
You may find that your brain is fuzzy, that you just can’t think clearly. Your memory may not work as well as before. Attention and focus may be off kilter and it may be difficult to retain information. Some people find that they can’t read because the words just don’t connect any more. All of these symptoms are normal.
You may find that your body aches – particularly in the stomach and heart areas. There may even be moments of intense pain. You may find that you don’t want to eat or that you can’t stop eating. You may sleep a lot or find it difficult to sleep at all. Your energy level may be low. Motivation to accomplish anything may seem to be lacking. All of these possibilities are normal.
Your sadness may feel like more than you can handle. You may find that you can’t stop crying. Or you may find that there are bursts of tears that you just can’t control. Or you may find that you don’t cry and instead stay focused on all the tasks and details that need to be handled. Either of these emotional ways of handling grief are normal.
There are many other emotions that may surface in no order at all. You may experience anger – anger at the pet or person who died and left you – anger at the medical system who failed to save your loved one – anger at the work place who let you go. Anger is a normal reaction.
Another emotion that may arise is anxiety. What will you do now? How will you cope? What does the future hold? Sometimes you may even question your own identity. All of this is normal.
Guilt has a way of showing up too. Could you have done something differently? Could you have said more than you did? Why are you still here? Is there something you wish you hadn’t said or done? These are normal reactions.
Depression may show up. It may seem so difficult to do anything. You may feel helpless. You may feel worthless. Your self-esteem may drop dramatically. This type of depression is known as situational (temporary) – directly related to your loss and it, too, is normal.
You may find yourself doubting your spiritual or religious beliefs. You may question how this could have happened and why it happened. Or, conversely, you may now lean towards religion or spirituality for answers and for support. Either scenario is normal.
There is no right way to grieve. There is only your way. And it will take as long as it takes. What we do know is that seeking help with your grief can help you to process more quickly and can alleviate the symptoms as you heal.