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Symptoms of grief and loss

Death of a loved one is the most stressful experience in life be it sudden or expected. After the initial numbness which follows the loss people are overwhelmed by powerful and intense emotions, and rapid mood change. It is important to realize that the recovery takes time, and that people are eventually able to go on living. These are natural responses which help overcome the pain and deal with the feeling of bereavement. Mourning a loved one is a personal experience which sometimes can lasts for months or even years, and which is sometimes accompanied by religious ceremonies involving the participation of friends and family to honor the dead. Grief is a physical or psychological expression of loss and it may be manifested through crying or depression.

People sometimes avoid the subject of death though grief is something a person must go through and something that shouldn’t be suppressed, because if the person is trying to escape these feelings for a long time, they might emerge as physical or emotional illness after a while. Mourning presents many challenges for human body, and the signs of acute grief may include poor appetite, stomachache, sleep disorders and low energy. General health may deteriorate and new conditions may occur.

Death of child is particularly difficult to deal with, since parents sometimes blame themselves for the tragic event, feeling as they no longer have the reason to go on and being crushed by the feeling of lost potential. Death of a spouse is both, an emotional shock and the cause for many social adjustments, especially if the spouse was the only source of incomes in the family. Elderly are profoundly affected by spouse’s death, since this involves the loss of life-long shared experiences and is followed by major loneliness. Tragedy or a suicide poses a great challenge for the survivors, and the feeling of loss is accompanied by anger, shame and guilt, and families often seek counseling to come to terms with this shattering experience.

To effectively cope with pain one should surround themselves with caring people either friends and relatives or join support groups to be able to talk about their feelings. Special attention should be paid to one’s health and not becoming dependent on addictive medication or alcohol. People should allow themselves enough time to adjust to the new situation, they should be patient and seek help whenever necessary. When a close person is in grief, friends can share in their sorrow, listen and talk to them but avoid giving them false comfort; instead, practical help with everyday life should be offered.

Children’s grief is different from that of adults, since they are faced with feelings of insecurity, confusion, lack of understanding, and they ask inappropriate questions about the dead, invent games about death or pretend the event never took place. Parents should be extra sensitive to grieving children, avoid anger and criticism, and instead, they should talk about their feelings and set an example with their own behavior. It is important for both children and adults to look to the future, keeping in mind that the pain will ease eventually and found memories of their loved ones will prevail.  

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