Feelings of grief

Grief brings lots of raw and complicated emotion

Grieving is a necessity. It’s a process that you have to go through to deal with the trauma of losing someone.

Throughout our resources on feelings of grief, we talk about grief as a response to a person’s death. But you can also experience grief after significant change, such as

  • The end of a family, romantic or platonic relationship
  • An animal or pet dying
  • Injury or illness
  • Going through hormonal change, like menopause
  • Being made redundant, retiring or losing your home

Feelings during and after these changes can be just as impactful as feelings of grief after a bereavement.

Your emotional response to grief

Everyone grieves differently.

You may feel numb at first, particularly if you have to deal with a lot of practical tasks, such as organising a funeral. As time passes your feelings can become more complex and often are at their most intense after the funeral or memorial service.

It’s common to experience lots of different feelings, including

  • Sadness and depression
  • Shock and disbelief
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Confusion
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • An inability to cope
  • Relief
  • Questioning your beliefs and worldview

Your physical response to grief

When someone important to you dies, your physical health can suffer.

In the past, people talked about someone dying from a broken heart. It turns out there is a link between grief and mortality, particularly in older people. Grief and depression can impact your immune system. This can mean that

  • Existing illnesses get worse
  • You experience physical symptoms without a medical explanation, knows as psychosomatic disorders
  • You have difficulty sleeping normally – either struggling to sleep at all or sleeping too much

Speak to your GP about these issues. They may be directly related to your grief but they may also be a symptom of something else.

While not everyone will experience physical symptoms of grief, loss and bereavement will often have a deep impact on your emotional and mental health. You may experience:

  • Anxiety attacks
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression
  • Obsessive feelings about the person who has died
  • Suicidal feelings

Initially, you may think that these feelings will never go away and that you’ll never recover from your loss.

Feelings can surface at unexpected times throughout the day, leaving you struggling to cope.

These intense feelings and their unpredictability should lessen as you move through the stages of grief. But it’s normal for certain dates, events and memories to bring them back to the surface.

Complicated feelings of grief and returning to yourself

The sadness and pain that you feel at the loss of someone can be complicated by additional feelings of guilt, anger, despair, hopelessness, loneliness, fear, shame and jealousy.

You may not be ready for the intensity of these emotions or for how quickly your moods and feelings will change.

You may feel that your reactions are not normal and may even doubt your sanity. Know that this will eventually pass.

Most people eventually adapt to loss and slowly start to return to their former selves. You may be experiencing complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder if you find that months or years pass and your feelings of grief are as sharp and raw as ever.