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People React Emotionally and Physically
When coping with a death, you may go through all kinds of emotions.
You may be sad, worried, or scared. You might be shocked, unprepared, or confused.
You might be feeling angry, cheated, relieved, guilty, exhausted, or just plain empty.
Your emotions might be stronger or deeper than usual or mixed together in ways you've
never experienced before.
Some people find they have trouble concentrating, studying, sleeping, or eating when
they're coping with a death.
Others lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Some people lose themselves in playing computer games or eat or drink to excess.
And some people feel numb, as if nothing has happened.
All of these are normal ways to react to a death.
What Is Grief?
When we have emotional, physical,
and spiritual reactions in response to a death or loss, it's known as grief or grieving.
People who are grieving might:
* feel strong emotions, such as sadness and anger
* have physical reactions, such as not sleeping or even waves of nausea
* have spiritual reactions to a death — for example, some people find themselves
questioning their beliefs
and feeling disappointed in their religion while others find that they feel more strongly
than ever about their faith
Grief Isn't Just About Death
The grieving process takes time and healing usually happens gradually.
The intensity of grief may be related to how sudden or
predictable the loss was and how you felt about the person who died.
Some people write about grief happening in stages,
but usually it feels more like "waves" or cycles of grief that
come and go depending on what you are doing and
if there are triggers for remembering the person who has died.
Different Ways of Grieving
If you've lost someone in your immediate family, such as a parent, brother, or sister, you
may feel cheated out of time you wanted to have with that person. It can also feel hard to
express your own grief when other family members are grieving, too.
Some people may hold back their own grief or avoid talking about the person who died
because they worry that it may make a parent or other family member sad. It's also natural
to feel some guilt over a past argument or a difficult relationship with the person who
We don't always grieve over the death of another person. The death of a beloved pet can
trigger strong feelings of grief. People may be surprised by how painful this loss can be.
But the loving bonds we share with pets are real, and so are the feelings of loss and
grief when they die.
All of these feelings and reactions are OK — but what can people do to get through them?
How long does grief last? Will things ever get back to normal? And how will you go on
without the person who has died?
Coping With Grief
Just as people feel grief in many different ways, they handle it differently, too.
Some people reach out for support from others and find comfort in good memories. Others
become very busy to take their minds off the loss. Some people become depressed and
withdraw from their peers or go out of the way to avoid the places or situations that
remind them of the person who has died.
For some people, it can help to talk about the loss with others. Some do this naturally
and easily with friends and family, while others talk to a professional therapist.
Some people may not feel like talking about it much at all because it's hard to find the
words to express such deep and personal emotion or they wonder whether talking will make
them feel the hurt more. This is fine, as long you find other ways to deal with your
People sometimes deal with their sorrow by engaging in dangerous or self-destructive
activities. Doing things like drinking, drugs, or cutting yourself to escape from the
reality of a loss may seem to numb the pain, but the feeling is only temporary. This isn't
really dealing with the pain, only masking it, which makes all those feelings build up
inside and only prolongs the grief.
If your pain just seems to get worse, or if you feel like hurting yourself or have
suicidal thoughts, tell someone you trust about how you feel.
What to Expect
It may feel like it might be impossible to recover after losing someone you love. But
grief does get gradually better and become less intense as time goes by. To help get
through the pain, it can help to know some of the things you might expect during the
The first few days after someone dies can be intense, with people expressing strong
emotions, perhaps crying, comforting each other, and gathering to express their support
and condolences to the ones most affected by the loss. It is common to feel as if you are
"going crazy" and feel extremes of anxiety, panic, sadness, and helplessness. Some people
describe feeling "unreal," as if they're looking at the world from a faraway place. Others
feel moody, irritable, and resentful.
Family and friends often participate in rituals that may be part of their religious,
cultural, community, or family traditions, such as memorial services, wakes, or funerals.
These activities can help people get through the first days after a death and honor the
person who died. People might spend time together talking and sharing memories about their
loved one. This may continue for days or weeks following the loss as friends and family
bring food, send cards, or stop by to visit.
Many times, people show their emotions during this time. But sometimes a person can be so
shocked or overwhelmed by the death that he or she doesn't show any emotion right away —
even though the loss is very hard. And it's not uncommon to see people smiling and talking
with others at a funeral, as if something sad had not happened. But being among other
mourners can be a comfort, reminding us that some things will stay the same.
Sometimes, when the rituals associated with grieving end, people might feel like they
should be "over it" because everything seems to have gone back to normal. When those who
are grieving first go back to their normal activities, it might be hard to put their
hearts into everyday things. Many people go back to doing regular things after a few days
or a week. But although they may not talk about their loss as much, the grieving process
It's natural to continue to have feelings and questions for a while after someone dies.
It's also natural to begin to feel somewhat better. A lot depends on how your loss affects
your life. It's OK to feel grief for days, weeks, or even longer, depending on how close
you were to the person who died.
No matter how you choose to grieve, there's no one right way to do it. The grieving
process is a gradual one that lasts longer for some people than others. There may be times
when you worry that you'll never enjoy life the same way again, but this is a natural
reaction after a loss.