Chapter 2: What does grief look and feel like?
How grief affects your emotions
"I feel so broken."
Sadness is one of the most common reactions to grief. Sometimes we realize that plans we made will not happen, or that life will never be the same again.
Feelings of powerlessness can make us angry. Our anger may be directed towards God, the health care system, or even the deceased for leaving us alone.
"I feel guilty about things that were left unsaid."
"How can I ever let myself be happy? It would be like I don’t miss him."
We can feel guilty after a moment of pleasure - like going to a movie and enjoying it. A week of relative peace can be followed by deep guilt that we were happy for a while.
Being critical of ourselves is common and can lead us to question our feelings, coping ability and experiences.
Anxiety is very common. Some people find themselves replaying intense and scary moments at the hospital. Fear of forgetting the person who died is another common cause of anxiety.
Many people express fear that they are being, or will be, judged by their friends and family. They worry about failing expectations. They may receive subtle and not so subtle messages that they are not grieving quickly enough and should be better by now.
Some people have never lived alone before and experience this type of loneliness for the first time when their partner dies.
Others choose to isolate themselves, for example, by refusing social invitations.
There can be a build-up of physical and emotional fatigue when someone close to us is dying. When this person dies, the running around attending to endless details finally stops. Many people experience emptiness and exhaustion at this stage.
Where couples had a strict division of labour, the loss of a partner presents unique challenges. For example, someone who has never driven a car may have to learn this skill.
A feeling of unreality may last for a short or a long period of time.
A feeling of unreality may last for a short or a long period of time. Yearning arises when we wish the person who has died was still with us. Some people will walk around their house calling out the name of their loved one when those feelings become intense
"I have my life back and I feel so guilty for feeling this way."
Many people feel a sense of freedom when the suffering of their loved one is over and the demands of caregiving end. This sense of release can give rise to feelings of guilt.
When the person who died was violent or abusive, it may be a relief that they are dead. Conflicted relationships can also be difficult to grieve with so many issues left unresolved.
The loss of someone important to us can be too powerful to absorb. The result is a form of numbness where we feel detached from our emotions.