Grief is a complicated subject. It can come upon you without warning and it manifests itself differently in each person that experiences it.
Common Responses to Death
Although death affects people differently, there are some common reactions that many may experience. Some people may experience little reaction to the event while others may experience strong reactions. These signs could begin right away, or you may feel fine for a couple of days or weeks, then later be hit with a reaction. The important thing to remember is that these reactions are quite normal; although you may feel some distress, you're probably experiencing a normal reaction to an unexpected or expected situation.
- Physical Symptoms: Insomnia/nightmares, fatigue, hyperactivity or "nervous energy," appetite changes, pain in the neck or back, headaches, heart palpitations or pains in the chest, or dizzy spells.
- Emotional Symptoms: flashbacks or "reliving" the event, excessive jumpiness or tendency to be startled, irritability, anger, feelings of anxiety or helplessness, sadness, or guilt.
- Effects on Productivity: Inability to concentrate, increased incidence of errors, lapses in memory, or an increase in absenteeism.
Surviving After Someone's Suicide
Suicide is almost always the result of a combination of painful suffering, desperate hopelessness, depression and many, many other factors. The devastated family and friends left behind are known as "survivors.” A loss by suicide is complex and difficult.
Common reactions experienced by survivors of suicide loss:
- Shock: You may feel numb, disoriented, and have trouble concentrating.
- Disbelief: You may ask yourself over and over why and find it difficult to comprehend.
- Grief: You might feel an overwhelming sadness at the loss for yourself and for others.
- Anger: You might feel this way toward the deceased, toward yourself and/or toward others.
- Guilt: Many survivors think they could have or should have known and done something to prevent it.
- Temporary Depression: You may experience disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, intense sadness and lack of energy.
Ways to Cope with Grief
- Be kind to yourself.
- Do not try to avoid the grieving process.
- There is no set time for grieving; take it at your own pace.
- Spend time with others.
- Talk about your feelings.
- Try to keep your normal routine.
- Structure your time even more carefully than usual.
- Maintain control where you can.
- Maintain a self-care routine.
- Reach out to others who have suffered similar losses.
- Give yourself room to grieve in your own way and for others to grieve in their own way.
- Create some new traditions as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays may be particularly difficult.
Coping with Loneliness
Loneliness is yet another aspect of grief that seems to have different stages. Initially, a person may feel somewhat mad or bitter toward the person who caused the loneliness. Loneliness is a universal condition of human life, which is distinctly personally felt. To love is to be lonely. Certain activities can help with loneliness. Examples include:
- Going for a walk
- Keeping a journal
- Listening to music
- Starting a project
- Enjoying art
- Joining a club
- Talking with friends
- Volunteer work
- Plan an outing
- Church involvement
Ways to Help a Bereaved Friend
- Listen. When a friend is grieving, provide them with the opportunity to talk about their loss.
- Do not tell them to “cheer up,” but give them the space to work through their grief.
- Do not tell them how they should be grieving; we all grieve differently.
- Allow them the freedom to do it their way.
- If their symptoms of grief are severe and persistent and they are having difficulty coping with their day-to-day activities, encourage them to get help through Counseling and Psychological Services or another supportive agency.
- Coping with Loss: Bereavement and Grief – Mental Health America
- Coping with Grief and Loss – Help Guide
- Complicated Grief – Mayo Clinic
Where to Get Help
UWF Counseling and Psychological Services offers grief counseling. To schedule an appointment, call 850.474.2420 or visit the Center in Building 960, Suite 200A, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to set up an appointment.