Understanding Your Grief

The death of a loved one hurts. While we all accept that simple truth, few of us really understand what that hurt is doing to us; how it is influencing our inner feelings and our external behavior.

When someone close to you dies, grief attacks you; emotionally, physically and spiritually. Grief - your thoughts and feelings related to the death - also forces upon you the task of mourning, or the outward expression of those thoughts and feelings.

Understanding grief and mourning and how they affect you can take time and effort. Though it may seem unimportant at first, such understanding can help you to deal with your loss and come to terms with your future. Understanding your grief is a step toward healing.

A personal experience

It is important to realize that your grief is as unique as your fingerprint. Though there are common feelings and reactions we share with others who grieve, it is important not to compare or judge ourselves by anyone else's response. Your grief experience will be influenced by the circumstances surrounding the death and how you mourn will depend upon your past experiences with death, as well as your cultural and religious background.

Embracing the pain

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to embrace the pain of grief - to acknowledge the hurt. Our society often seems to prefer that we "put up a good front." Pretending to feel cheerful at a time when we are struggling with the challenge of accepting our new life - without that special person - is difficult to say the least. At this time it is important to be with people who will support you and encourage you to freely experience the emotions that will accompany you on your journey through grief.

Beginning the journey

Your first feelings of grief are likely to be numbness and shock over the death. You may find yourself functioning, dealing with people and events, in a fashion that leads others to believe that you are "doing well." What you are actually experiencing is shock, an emotional anesthetic or freezing that will sustain you for a period of time. It is not uncommon for people to discover later that they barely - remember those first days and weeks.  This first phase of grief can occur even when a death had been anticipated.

Facing your new reality

It is this phase of grief that can leave you feeling the most isolated and frightened. As the emotional freezing wears off you may experience a multitude of feelings which often make people wonder if they are "going crazy." While you may certainly feel that way, you are not crazy.

Some of the reactions you may experience include: disorganization and confusion; a generalized lack of energy and fatigue; searching and yearning for the person who has died; anxiety and fear, explosive emotions; irritability; inability to concentrate - feelings of guilt, remorse and sadness; and a change in eating and sleeping patterns, Some people even exhibit physical reactions like palpitations of the heart; tightness in the chest; increased thirst; shortness of breath; and difficulty controlling chronic disorders. While some of these can be symptoms of other serious difficulties - not to be ignored - the lingering emotional pain, the outbursts of anger, feelings of guilt, the physical discomforts and even the moments of hopelessness in many instances, are normal and temporary reactions to your grief.

Caring for yourself

Be sensitive to your own timing. Don't push yourself, or let others push you, ahead of the process. Let this take as long as it takes. Remember that grief is a process not an event! At times you will think you should be capable and more in control of your grief, but expecting too much from yourself, too soon, may complicate your healing.

Take your time sorting through your loved one's personal belongings and clothes. Only you should decide what to do with these items and when the time is right to do it. Leaving things where they are until you have the energy to deal with them isn't hurting anything or anyone.

There will be certain days and times of the year which you will find more difficult. Dates and events that have held special meaning for you and your loved one will be difficult to face alone. At these times you may miss them more than ever. It is important to treasure the memories that comfort you and address those that may trouble you. Share your memories with family and friends, recognizing that they can bring both laughter and tears. Photographs and videos are a wonderful way to embrace memories. Remember that healing is a part of grieving, but healing doesn't mean forgetting.


In this, the final phase of your grief, you have come to understand that the reality of the death becomes a part of you. You recognize, that you have been changed by the experience and while your life is different, you are able to feel happiness once again. You now know that grief is not necessarily something you get over, but it is something you can come to terms with.

Grief is the passion to endure.
People can be stricken with it, Victims of it, stuck in it
Or they can meet it, get through it, and become quiet victors
​through the active, honest and courageous process of grieving.

Alla ReneJe Bozarth