Find descriptions of normal reactions to grief (physical, emotional, work-related and spiritual). The greatest enemies of grief are loneliness and isolation. Be aware of them, and know that no one has to go through grief alone. You don't have to "white knuckle it" nor "be strong." Allow yourself to tell your story. Find support from those whom you trust. Allow others to comfort you. Find a support group. There is nothing weak about needing and asking help from others.


Beginning in childhood, many people have been taught to face life's crises with a "stiff upper lip," to "bear-up and be strong." As we are influenced by these subconscious messages, we may become fearful that any show of emotion, particularly tears, might be interpreted by others as a sign of weakness: "He's falling apart," or "She's going to pieces."

One of the tragedies in our society today is that many bereaved family members and friends experience their grief alone, feeling "there must be something wrong with me, or certainly no one I know has ever felt or behaved in these strange ways." Fearful of embarrassment or of appearing "crazy" to others, many bereaved persons hide their true feelings of grief.

It is important for you to realize that what you are experiencing is most likely a normal, natural, and expected response to the loss of a significant person in your life.

Your grief reaction may manifest itself in one or more of the following ways described by other bereaved persons:

Remember, do not panic if you find yourself using the above statements.

Physical Reactions

"I feel sick to my stomach; I just can't eat." "I feel short of breath, weak, with a heavy feeling in my chest." "I have trouble getting to sleep and after I finally do, I only sleep for a few hours before I'm up again."

Work Reactions

"I can't seem to get organized. I'm up and down a hundred times during the day, here and there, never accomplishing anything." "I keep thinking I'm losing my mind. I can't concentrate on anything. I can't even decide what to wear today." "Yesterday I heard my loved one call for me in the night, and today I thought I saw him rocking in his chair." "I can't get anything started; I forget everything. Sometimes I'm really tense and anxious."

Emotional Reactions

"If only I had told him one more time that I love him." "He should have gone to the doctor months ago." "The nights and weekends are the worst for me, empty and lonely." "It's as if anytime now he'll call or come walking through the door." "I keep thinking of things to tell him." "It scares me I feel relieved he's dead." "It's so painful and sad. And I burst out crying or get angry so unexpectedly and uncontrollably." "I'm never spontaneous any more with my friends."

Spiritual Reactions

"If my faith were stronger, I would be able to handle this." "If I really believed, this wouldn't have happened." "I'm angry at God for what He's done, if there is a God."