What Does Grief Look Like
Riley Children's Grief Team
While each person’s grief is unique, and it’s impossible to fully describe the shattered heart of a person experiencing the loss of a loved one, we know grief effects all dimensions of a person:
- Emotionally. Society mistakes grief for sadness, but grief is so much more than sadness. Grief is also chaos, confusion, disbelief, longing, guilt, anger, regret, exhaustion, jealously, fear, worry… and other emotions. Sometimes emotions that didn’t exist together before, do exist together in grief. For example, someone may feel happy and experience immense guilt for feeling happy at the same time.
- Physically. Grief impacts every cell of the body. People often feel physical pain, complete exhaustion, irregular sleep, lack of appetite, and/or restlessness.
- Cognitively. Grief impacts our thoughts and our perspective. Grievers may feel confused, have trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks, even if they are routine. They may replay events over and over in their mind, while also wishing the replay would stop. They may focus heavily on one detail or try to remember every detail. Often people grieving experience difficult thoughts like “I wish it would have been me” or “Why my child/sibling? Why us?”.
- Socially. Some grieving parents experience a wonderful support system from family, friends and their community. Even with support, they may feel isolated or like no one understands their loss or the depths of their broken heart. Good intentioned people may say things that they find upsetting or hurtful. They may find it difficult to: be with certain people, go to certain places, or work on certain activities.
- Spiritually. Grief can change a person’s spiritual perspective. People who held certain beliefs prior to the loss, may question or struggle with those same beliefs now. On the other hand, some people find themselves leaning heavily on their faith and find it comforting. Some people wrestle with questions about the afterlife and wanting to see their child again. Many grieving parents experience signs from their child and/or feel their presence.