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Emergency Department

The Grief Experience and Reactions

Grief is a normal part of the healing process. Healing may take place through:

  • Acknowledging the reality of the loss
  • Experiencing the pain of the loss
  • Remembering the person who died
  • Developing a new identity
  • Searching for meaning
  • Receiving ongoing support from others

It is important to recognize that grief is normal and that it is part of the healing process. All the emotions, thoughts, and feelings felt during this time can be extremely intense. Many people may feel very alone during this time and may feel as though no one around them could understand what they are going through. These are very natural and normal responses. It is important to talk and cry with somebody when the need arises.

Helping Others through Grief

The following suggestions are useful for helping someone grieve after a death. These suggestions respect the principles that everyone grieves in his or her way and time, and that you should always try to ‘do the best you can’.

  • Accept the person for who they are and where they are at in the grieving process
  • Be sensitive to their feelings, even if their feelings are not verbalized
  • Encourage them to accept their grief and to mourn openly
  • Identify all emotions (fear, confusion, hurt, anger; all are real)
  • Use the person’s name in your conversations
  • Encourage them to tell their stories, as often as necessary
  • Help them to find ways to express grief
  • Offer information and help them to process it
  • Help them to remember in various ways (photos, journals, memory books)
  • Accept that their grief might be different from your own
  • Recognize that behavior may speak as loudly as words
  • Acknowledge that grief hurts and crying helps
  • Understand that grief will retreat and resurface at different and unexpected times

Grief Reactions

Grief is complex. We show our grief physically, emotionally, behaviorally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Physical reactions

  •  Weakness and fatigue
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Decreased resistance to illness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Changes in self-care
  • Increase or decrease in activity
  • Weight and appetite changes

Emotional Reactions

  • Numbness
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Yearning for what is lost
  • Despair & hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Feeling of being lost & alone
  • Anger
  • Bitterness & vengefulness
  • Peacefulness
  • Relief

Behavioral Reactions

  • Searching for what was lost
  • Detached from surroundings
  • Disorientated to time and place
  • Crying
  • Unable to concentrate       
  • Forgetfulness
  • Blameful of others
  • Withdraw from friends & activities    
  • Finishing “unfinished business”  
  • Seeking & providing forgiveness

Cognitive Reactions

  • Altered self-esteem
  • Problem-solving
  • Hyperactivity
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Increase/decrease of dreams
  • Disbelief/denying or avoiding reality of loss
    Search to understand the loss
  • Wisdom
  • Attending to practical needs
  • Creativity
  • Repeated review of the event & death

Spiritual Reactions

  • Pessimism or realism
  • Destruction of ideals/beliefs
  • Emptiness/reason to live challenged
  • Search for meaning
  • Acceptance
  • Forgiveness
  • Compassion
  • Experiences of connectedness, wholeness, rebirth

Take time to focus on your mental health. It is okay to not be okay. There may be long-term effects on our mental health from events that occur within our lives. Show yourself compassion the way you would a loved one, and remember that you are doing your best. Reach out for help if you need it.

We all have mental health, and we need to talk about it.

If you are not feeling safe, or require immediate medical support, please call 911.

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