What is “normal” grief? (Following a sudden death)

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What is “normal” grief? (Following a sudden death)

First day:
– feeling of shock & numbness
[the emotional reaction protects you from the knowledge; the physical reaction helps you survive]
– denial & limited to no expression of feelings
[a defensive reaction – can last for minutes, hours, days or some people]
– overwhelming feelings develop as you become more aware of the reality
– you may need o cry, scream, kick, yell or withdraw
– it is a time of intense pain (sadness, anger, guilt, disbelief, confusion) & anguish
– physical reactions: loss of appetite, nausea, restlessness, agitation, sleeplessness
[tips: try not to inhibit emotion through self-control]

Third day:
– reality is sinking in
– numbness may begin to wear-off
– pain often increases
– time passes in a blur
– people may even wish it was them who had died
– people often wonder how they will survive the funeral

Seventh day:
– the funeral is over & you are now alone
– this is often when people feel at their worst
– feelings of despair can be intense
– fears about sanity & being able to survive often also arise

Four to Six Weeks Later:
– people (particularly widowed spouses) can “go downhill” during this time
– not coping; not eating; not sleeping; crying a lot
[this is to be expected, but family members often worry nonetheless]
– authors believe this to be a “good sign” of the healing process
– crying / being upset shows you are processing
– be kind to yourself

The First Year:
– grief for many people “comes in waves” – often at unexpected times & in unexpected places
– panic attacks may even occur

Anniversaries & Special Dates
– once celebratory days are now the antithesis of joy they once were
– at the 11 month mark after the death, the “anniversary reaction” may begin – indicated by the re-appearance of feelings, thoughts & reactions experienced immediately after the death (also physical reactions)
[prepare for the anniversary day, including lifestyle (exercise, diet, sleep); plan for it – support or being alone]

Source: Coping with Grief (McKissock & McKissock, 1999) ABC Books

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