Symptoms of grief
When you have lost a loved one, it’s possible you can experience a range of feelings, both emotional and physical. Although it’s dependent on each person and their circumstances, there are some common symptoms which are associated with grief.
- Numbness and shock
- Agitation and longing
- Sadness and depression
- Physical symptoms
- Weight change
- Aches and pains
- Lowered immune system
All of these symptoms are completely natural and commonly associated with grief. Whether you’re grieving yourself or you’re looking out for somebody who has lost a loved one, it’s important to recognise that experiencing these symptoms is normal – as this can often help the bereaved have a better understanding of the grieving process.
Stages of grief after death
What are the five stages of grief? Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross originally developed five stages of grief after death which explain the process that occurs for people coping with loss.
These stages are:
Denial – this initially helps us to survive the loss. This is often where the emotional symptoms of numbness and shock occur – during this stage, denial helps the bereaved to pace their feelings of grief and gradually come to terms with it.
Anger – this stage is often associated with agitation and longing, as well as experiencing angry feelings and thoughts about the loss. Although it may not feel like it at the time, anger is a necessary stage to go through – it helps to manage the grief and manage your emotions.
Bargaining – making bargains with fate, God or a higher power you believe in is common in the grief process. Dwelling on “what if” statements and “I will do… in order for the loved one to return” is a common symptom of bargaining.
Depression – once the bereaved has experienced bargaining and anger, the feelings of emptiness and sadness are likely to occur. The realisation a loved one has gone is apparent now, which can lead to depression.
Acceptance – this stage is about accepting the reality and moving on with life. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is “okay”, but it’s more manageable, and the bereaved begins to learn to live with it.
Although they offer a valid representation of the grieving process after death, the stages are not linear – and not set in stone. It’s possible to flip in and out of stages while coping with death, and these stages offer only a model of what the average person can go through when trying to deal with grief.
How to deal with bereavement
Regardless of what stage you’re in, or what symptoms of grief you’re showing, it’s important to take care of yourself when grieving.
There are things you can do to help you cope, and to help make the grief become more manageable:
Sleep – it’s common for people who are grieving to experience either fatigue and feel they want to sleep all the time, or on the other hand, insomnia – where they struggle to sleep at all. However, as difficult as it may be, trying to keep a regular sleeping pattern is important to your health and eventually getting back on track into a normal routine.
Eat healthily – eating may feel like a chore, but binge eating or snacking on junk-food will likely make you feel worse mentally.
Allow yourself to feel sad – it’s okay to be sad. And it’s okay to talk about it with loved ones. Trying to keep up appearances that you’re feeling fine or pretending you’re not sad can lead to a build-up and eventual break down of emotions.
Avoid alcohol – steering clear from alcohol or anything that ‘numbs’ the pain is advised when coping with death. It may help you to forget at the time, but once worn off, it will likely make you feel worse.
Keep up your routine – like your sleep pattern, maintaining your daily routine can be helpful when dealing with bereavement. That sense of normality your daily routine brings can help you to cope with the loss of a loved one.
Rely on support – your family and friends are there to support you, so make sure you utilise their support. You can also lean on counselling if required, and support groups which may make you understand perspective slightly more.