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Feelings and Reactions to a Significant Loss

Feelings and Reactions to a Significant Loss

  • Grief is a necessary process that helps an individual adjust to a loss.
  • Grief is not a lack of faith.
  • Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of a significant someone or something in your life.
  • Unfortunately, there are no written scripts for how to grieve or for how long to grieve.
  • Each person grieves in his or her unique way at his or her own pace.

Feelings Often Experienced While Grieving


  • Most common reaction
  • Exhibited sometimes by crying


  • Frequently felt
  • Can be one of the most confusing feelings experienced
  • If it is not acknowledged, it can lead to complicated grief
  • Anger comes from two sources:
    • A sense of frustration that the death was not prevented
    • A regressive or more childlike reaction to being abandoned
  • The mourner sometimes blames another person for the death in order to make sense of the loss or to validate that it could have been prevented 
  • Turned inward, anger can cause depression or even suicidal feelings


  • Guilt is often associated with something that happened or something that was neglected around the time of the death


  • The more intense and persistent the anxiety, the more outside help is needed to process the grief reaction
  • Anxiety comes from:
    • Fear of being unable to care for yourself
    • Awareness of your own mortality


  • Often seen and experienced as apathy and listlessness


  • Can occur with both sudden and anticipated deaths



Yearning for the lost person


  • Common when the deceased suffered before the death
  • Guilt can follow a feeling of relief


  • A lack of feelings often occurs shortly after the death

Physical Sensations Often Experienced While Grieving

  • An empty feeling in the stomach
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tightness in chest or throat
  • Fatigue, insomnia
  • Over-sensitivity to noise
  • Heavy and repeated sighing
  • Lack of muscle power
  • Irritability
  • Tearfulness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth

Thoughts Often Experienced While Grieving


  • Typical reaction when first learning of the death of a loved one
  • A sense of depersonalization (nothing seems real)


  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to organize your thoughts
  • Forgetfulness


  • Constant thoughts of the deceased and/or how to get the deceased person back

Hallucinations (Sensing the presence of the deceased)

  • Visual
  • Auditory

Behaviors Often Experienced While Grieving

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Appetite changes
  • Absent-minded behavior
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dreaming of the deceased
  • Avoiding reminders of the deceased
  • Searching for and calling out for the deceased
  • Sighing
  • Restless over-activity
  • Crying
  • Visiting places or carrying remembrances of the deceased
  • Treasuring items that belonged to the deceased