Facing Illness, Death, and Loss

Grief is a person’s normal, healthy response to a loss.

Grief is a person’s normal, healthy response to a loss. It describes the emotions you feel when you lose someone or something important to you. People grieve for many different reasons, including:

Death of a loved one, including pets.
Divorce or changes in a relationship, including friendships.
Changes in your health or the health of a loved one.
Losing a job or changes in financial security.
Changes in your way of life, such as during retirement or when moving to a new place.
The loss that triggers grief isn’t always physical. You can experience grief if you or a loved one are diagnosed with a major disease or face a serious illness. You may grieve the future plans you had made, or the ways life will change.

Grief is different for everyone. It can include many emotional and physical symptoms, including:

Feelings: Anger, anxiety, blame, confusion, denial, depression, fear, guilt, irritability, loneliness, numbness, relief, sadness, shock, or yearning.
Thoughts: Confusion, difficulty concentrating, disbelief, hallucinations, or preoccupation with what was lost.
Physical sensations: Dizziness, fast heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, hyperventilating, nausea or upset stomach, shortness of breath, tightness or heaviness in the throat or chest, or weight loss or gain.
Behaviors: Crying spells, excessive activity, irritability or aggression, loss of energy, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, restlessness, or trouble sleeping.
Grief is sometimes described as a process of 5 stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

All of these reactions to loss are normal. However, not everyone who is grieving experiences all of these reactions, and not everyone experiences them in the same order. It is common to cycle back through some of these reactions, stages, and symptoms more than once.

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