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What Should I Expect as I Grieve?
By Sonya Trueblood

Most of us are unprepared for the enormous grief response we may have to a major loss. Sometimes our expectations are unrealistic. More often than not, we receive insufficient assistance from society and even from our friends and family.

Our grief response varies depending on the meaning of our loss, our own personality characteristics, the type of death it was, the amount and quality of our social support, and our physical state in general.

Here are some things to consider as you go through your grief process:

  1. Your grief may take longer than some people think it should take-take as long as necessary for you.
  2. Your grief may take more energy than you would have imagined.
  3. Your grief may involve many personal changes and may continually develop.
  4. Your grief may show itself in all spheres of your life-psychological, social, physical, spiritual.
  5. Your grief may include unexpected feelings, such as anger, guilt, irritability, frustration, annoyance and fear.
  6. You may grieve for things both symbolic and tangible-not just for the death alone.
  7. You may grieve for what you have lost already, as well as for the hopes, dreams and plans you had for the future.
  8. You may experience acute, unexpected surges of grief that may be triggered by certain dates, events or situations.
  9. You may feel like you are going crazy.
  10. You may be obsessed with the death and preoccupied with the deceased.
  11. You may search for meaning and begin to question your religious or philosophical beliefs.
  12. You may find yourself acting socially in ways that are different from before.
  13. You may have physical reactions to grief that you did not expect.
  14. You may feel confused about "who you are" and may experience low self-esteem.
  15. You may have trouble thinking and making decisions.
  16. You may find that your current loss has resurrected old feelings related to unresolved losses from the past.

These are just some of the reactions that mourners report after a significant loss. Your experience may be different and may include different reactions. The most important thing is that you know that these responses are normal and that sharing them with another can sometimes lessen their impact.

If you believe that you cannot "get over" your feelings of anger or guilt, or can't seem to stop crying, and if you think that professional assistance will help you feel better, you are probably right that it will. You should call your physician; mental health plan or employee assistance plan; a counselor or therapist; your minister, rabbi or other faith practitioner; or a bereavement professional at your local hospice.

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