Healthy Grieving

Since grief can be extremely painful, it may seem strange to think of it as “healthy.” Yet grief is a normal reaction to loss, and it is an essential part of the healing process. Grief reactions occur not only following death, but also after changes such as divorce, loss of a job, miscarriage, or serious illness. Some common reactions early in the grief process include:

  • Shock and “numbness”; thoughts such as “this can’t be happening…this isn’t possible.”
  • Anger, guilt, and the question, “Why me?”
  • Increase or decrease in religious faith
  • Sadness and despair
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Difficulty concentrating or working. There are a number of things that people can do to help themselves move through the grief process.
  • Don’t be surprised if your reactions become more intense after the initial shock wears off. This is normal.
  • Rather than avoiding any thoughts about the loss, look for natural opportunities (e.g., birthdays and anniversaries) to remember the good times. This gets easier to do as time goes on.
  • Recognize that many different reactions are normal, and accept rather than fight them. Again, these reactions help the grief process move forward.
  • One of the big tasks in grieving is to figure out how you will manage after the loss. Don’t pressure yourself to have all the answers now; they will come in time.
  • Get all the support you can: bereavement support groups, friends, family, and clergy.
  • If you’re a more private person and uncomfortable with the idea of a support group, consider keeping a regular journal of your thoughts and feelings. You’ll be surprised how much it helps.
  • Try not to make too many other changes in your life at once. Allow yourself to take comfort in familiar things (e.g., meals, routines, activities).
  • If, after a reasonable time, you continue to experience intense feelings, or you have difficulty at home or at work, consider talking with a counselor.