Experiences of Grief

Home » Experiences of Grief

What am I feeling?

The experience of grief, following any loss, is a very human response and your thoughts and feelings may feel complicated and confusing and may fluctuate, from one moment to the next. There may be times, where you feel sad, disappointed, confused, with none of it making any sense or a range of other contradictory feelings, thoughts or sensations. There may be other times, perhaps on the same day or the next hour or sometime after, where you may feel numb, or exhausted, or unable to concentrate or a gamut of other feelings, thoughts or sensations.

The important point here is that everyone has an individual and often private responses to any experience of grief, loss and/or trauma. There is no right or wrong way to grieve about whatever you are experiencing. Everyone experiences grief, loss and associated trauma differently and this may feel very unfamiliar and at times confusing. There may be times when your thoughts and responses about what has happened may not make sense and this may feel confusing and overwhelming, these thoughts and feelings will pass.

Try not to push these thoughts and feelings down, if you can, and if you feel comfortable enough, share your experience with someone you trust. If you would find it useful, ring us at GriefLine, on our state hotline numbers, and one of our counsellors will work with you with your experience of grief, loss and/or trauma. These intense feelings and thoughts will pass and speaking with someone you trust or with a counsellor, can assist in your thoughts and feelings becoming less intense with time.

This is so unexpected

There may be times where you have unexpectedly experienced grief or loss and as it is unexpected, you may experience feelings or thoughts linked to the experience of something being unexpected. As times, it may feel like a roller coaster. Shock, feeling numb, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do are common and are very normal responses to experiencing a loss and grief which is unexpected. You may also find yourself very distressed, crying uncontrollably, unable to sleep, sleeping poorly or sleeping more than you would normally. Again, these responses are a very human and normal response to an unexpected experience of grief and loss.

Sharing your unexpected grief with someone you trust and talking about it, may also help the intensity and the focus of the thoughts and feelings to lessen. Contacting GriefLine and speaking with a telephone counsellor may also assist you and with time these intense feelings and thoughts will become less intense.

I expected this but it feels so different to what I thought

When you expect a situation to result in experience of grief or loss, you may anticipate a range of feelings and thoughts, which you may assume you will experience at the time of the loss and grief. Then when you experience the loss or grief, the feelings and thoughts you may experience may be different to the feelings and thoughts you thought you would experience. This can feel confusing and make not make sense.

For some people, in anticipating a loss and resulting grief, may result in mourning prior to it occurring. Anticipating a loss is a very normal and human response to a need to prepare and make sense of this loss, in all its complexity. For other people, anticipating the loss and the grief may result in very similar feelings and thoughts to when the loss does occur. For others, there may be a sense of relief and permission to create the possibility of change or permission to move beyond the loss. By preparing, some people have the opportunity to plan and give themselves the opportunity to make sense of things and resolve things. Again, these are very natural and normal responses.

Like other experiences of loss, many people find it useful to share their experiences with a trusted friend, colleague or family member and for others it may assist to contact GriefLine on your local state hotline number to discuss your experiences with a volunteer counsellor.

I thought I would feel fine because I had made rational sense about all of it and now that it has happened, it feels so different

Trying to make sense of an expected loss and the grief, which may accompany it, is a very normal response to something which may feel initially overwhelming and does not make sense. It is your mind and your body attempting to make some logic of a situation, which is completely out of the ordinary. This may be useful and a support and comfort during that time. Once the loss has occurred, how you have made sense of this situation, may continue to support and comfort you through the feelings and thoughts, which occur following the loss. For some people, their feelings and thoughts may differ to what they had prepared themselves for, prior to the situation occurring.

This difference may result in a range of unexpected emotions, thoughts and/or sensations. Some people may experience exhaustion, headaches, muscle tension, cramping, stomach upset, palpitations, feel like their thoughts are scrambled, feel like they are unable to make decisions and/or feeling empty or lost. The experience of shock – and the difference between the thoughts you had put in place prior to the loss and what you may be experiencing now the loss has occurred, is a very normal and natural response. Everyone is unique in how long it takes to readjust feelings and thoughts to the loss and grief you are experiencing. For some people, it may take a couple of hours, for others, a week, for others, it may take longer, there for formula as everyone is different and makes sense of the loss in their own particular way.

For some people, they are able to work through these thoughts and feelings themselves, for others they find sharing their experiences with a friend, colleague or family member, helps and for others they may find contacting GriefLine and speaking with a counsellor helpful.

I just can’t stop thinking about what happened and it has been months now

For some people, they may find that they continue to focus on the loss and all the reminders attached to the loss for weeks or months following the loss, without any decrease or change in the focus, pain, grief or the intensity of the loss. They may find that it fills much of their day, with them going over and over what has happened and with the feelings and thoughts remaining powerful and dominating their life. The person may feel like they are stuck on a treadmill, unable to change what is occurring and feeling like they are unable to make sense of what has occurred. They may also feel increasingly isolated and may experience depressive and anxiety symptoms, they may feel worried about the future, avoid situations or reminders of what has occurred and they may find it very hard to regulate their emotions, feeling a roller coaster of different intensive emotions and thoughts.

Speaking with a trusted friend, family member or colleague who understands may be helpful, especially if the person feels like they are continuing to socially withdraw. Plan to contact the GP for a referral for psychological support to work through what is occurring. During this time, the person may find it useful to focus on their existing strengths and capacities (on the things that have worked for them and they have achieved in the past) and to take steps to practice ways of focusing on eating regularly and healthily, going to bed at the same time every night, not having alcohol just prior to going to bed, or eating any high sugar foods or heavy meals prior to bed and focusing on doing something active, even beginning with a walk for five minutes and increasing this by one minute every day.

GriefLine can also assist you in managing your thoughts or feelings and in between working with a therapist, you can also contact GriefLine and speak with a volunteer counsellor for extra support.

Things feel better now

Your feelings have started to change and increasingly what has happened has started to make more sense or is not having the same confusing and overwhelming impact. You find that you are able to engage more meaningfully with work, activities and relationships and are less distracted.

There are times when you still may think about the loss and the associated grief, which is completely natural. You come to realise that it does not affect you in the same way as when you first experienced the loss and associated grief. You come to recognise that there are more days when you are engaged with the world and re-engaged with friends, family, colleagues and activities, which you have enjoyed in the past.

There may be periods of time or a particular meaningful day or months, when feelings of loss may re-develop and this is very common and natural and it does pass with time.

GriefLine provides anonymous and confidential telephone support. Please call the the GriefLine Helpline in your local state.