Grief is the process of experiencing the psychological, social and physical reactions to your perception of a loss.  It is a natural and expected reaction to all kinds of losses, including death.  Grief is a wound that needs attention in order to heal.  This process of healing requires us to face our feelings openly and honestly, to express or release our feelings fully, and to tolerate and accept our feelings for however long the healing process takes.

        Below are the stages of grief, skills for coping, signs and symptoms of grief, and how to support others who are grieving.


1st Stage-SHOCK

Emotional numbness, disbelief, denial, panic and fear

Shields full impact of loss

Approximate time period of a few hours, to a day, to a few weeks


Time of greatest suffering

Pain is intense but not constant

Tears, protest, anger, tension, changes in sleeping and eating, physical pains, partial disbelief, painful memories, regrets, ruminating

Plagued with “if onlys,” “shoulds,” and “why me?”


Alternates with yearning/protest

Apathy, preoccupation, disorganization, despair, fatigue, irritability, health/sleep disturbances, over activity, anxiety, respiratory changes

Emotional highs and lows


Loss is no longer primary focus

Altered self-image, new roles, longer periods of emotional stability, greater social participation, energy level returns to normal

Physical state at normal level

Aftershocks or sudden reminders of loss

Active interest in planning own future

Common Signs and Symptoms When Coping with a Loss

Emotional                 Physical                   Thoughts

Numbness                  Loss of Appetite             Ruminating

Depression                 Sleep Disturbance           Unable to Concentrate

Sadness                    Dizziness                   Confused

Anger                     Trembling                  Disoriented

Guilt                      Nausea                    Disorganized

Disbelief/Shock             Shortness of Breath          Preoccupied

Anxiety                    Headaches                 Unable to Make Decisions

Resentment                Fatigue                    Unable to Problem Solve

Low Self-Esteem            Heartburn                 Dreams/Nightmares

Frightened                 Muscle Aches/Pains         Memory Difficulties

Withdrawn                 Rapid Heartbeat

Irritable                   Difficulty Changing

Apathy  Habitual Behavior







Suggestions for Friends and Relatives


Get in touch  Comfort children in the family

Say little on an early visit  Avoid talking to others about trivia in the

  presence of the recently grieving person

Avoid clichés and easy answers  Allow the “working through” of grief

Be yourself  Write a letter

Keep in touch - be available  Encourage the postponement of major   decisions until after the period of intense


Attend to practical matters  In time, gently draw the mourner into

  quiet, outside activity

Encourage others to visit or help  When the mourner returns to social activity,

  treat him/her as a normal person

Accept silence 

  Be aware of need to progress through grief


Be a good listener


Avoid telling the grieving person

how he/she feels


Avoid probing for details about

the death/loss