You may experience some or all of these, and more that are your personal "normal."
"Normal is someone you don't know very well." ~Anonymous
~Shock and numbness ~Feelings of unreality ~Anxiety (many, many people experience extreme anxiety in grief, even those who have previously not had difficulty with anything beyond typical anxiety. It is important to know you are not alone in this experience) ~Guilt ~Distance from
others ~Need to be with others ~Sadness ~Despair ~Fear ~Worry ~Irritability ~Frustration ~Anger ~Depression (non-clinical depression) ~Loneliness ~Relief ...and more that are unique to you
~Appetite (eating more or eating less) ~Crying, or inability to cry ~Dry mouth and skin (dehydration from crying, not drinking enough fluids can occur) ~Breathing (holding your breath, feeling as if you cannot breathe, shallow breathing. It is important to know too that breathing difficulties can cause us to go into a stress mode in our bodies, i.e., "fight, flight, freeze" mode) ~Energy level changes (usually low, sometimes extremely high) ~Extreme fatigue and exhaustion ~Pain in various parts of the body—including feeling as if you literally have a broken heart with pain in the chest. Women whose babies have died often feel physical pain in their arms, with the need to hold their child. ~Sleep patterns channge (sleeping a lot or inability to fall asleep) ~Lack of motivation to do anything ~Increased sensitivity to loud noises, bright lights, crowds, activity. Many people experience changes and differences in sensory perception in grief (how we see, hear, smell, feel, experience all input from our senses). ~Feeling "clumsy," actually tripping, dropping or fumbling much more than is your typical norm. Cognitive
~Confusion ~Disbelief ~Forgetfulness (including misplacing items, forgetting to pay bills or appointments, losing things) ~Changes in attention span (inability to focus, "spacing" out, mind wandering) ~Hallucinations (not necessarily "visitations" from the loved one, but sometimes actual auditory or visual hallucinations of sights and sounds that no one else can see or hear that may seem totally unrelated to the death of the loved one.) Seeing, hearing or sensing your loved one is also a very common occurence. ~Frequent thoughts of loved one ~Trying to “make sense” of the loss ~Dreams that may be disturbing, or those that are comforting--or the lack of dreaming ~Frequent and sometimes intrusive thoughts of your loved one, the death or circumstances, your life without them. ~Feeling distracted
~Questioning ~Why did God let him die? Why him? Why her? Why me? ~Why is God punishing me? ~What did I do wrong to deserve this? ~Life is Unfair! ~What is the meaning of life? ~What is the reason for this? ~If there is "a reason for everything," where is the reason in this? I don't care what the reason might be. ~Is there a God? ~Where is my loved one really? Is he safe? Does he know I am here? Does she know I miss her? Can he see me? Feel me? Hear me? ~Increase in spiritual activities, prayer, etc. ~Decreases in spiritual activities. Feeling unable to embrace or tolerate spirituality or religious practices. ~Many people experience "visitations" or "signs" from loved ones--including seeing their loved one, hearing the voice of the loved one, smelling a smell of either the loved one's scent or a smell that reminds them of the loved one. Feeling that their loved one is sending messages of comfort or other attempts to communicate. This may occur through animals, insects, wind, rain, snow, other elements of nature. Many receive a great deal of comfort from these visits and signs.
Ways to Help Decrease the Stress of Grief Symptoms
~Journaling--writing down thoughts and feelings
~Create Something—draw, paint, cook, write, garden, sculpt, scrapbook, collage, build or make something. Creation is the antidote to destruction. Not the antidote to death, but to the destruction we feel has ravaged our hearts, our lives, when someone we love deeply has died.
~Engage in rituals and activities in honor of and in memory of your loved one
~Be physically active (take a walk, stretch, move your body)
~Talk and share with people who do not judge or advise or tell you what to do or not do, should's and shouldn'ts. Support groups are wonderful places for this kind of help.
Find more ways to manage the stress and symptoms of grief in my new book Finding Your Own Way to Grieve. It's written for kids & teens on the autism spectrum who are grieving, but really it's meant for everyone. Click here to find out more about the book.