Look out for signs of unhealthy grief
Behavioral changes associated with grief are a normal part of the mourning process and can be subtle (like sighing more) or obvious (like becoming socially withdrawn and noticeably distracted).
Although there are no right or wrong ways to grieve, grief becomes unhealthy when it no longer contributes to processing loss and instead prolongs itself and has a negative impact on a person's life and those around them.
Death may be a topic often avoided, but living with grief cannot. At some point, these feelings will need to be dealt with and resolved, otherwise they can cause emotional or physical pain or illness.
Defining the line between normal emotions that should be felt and expressed and those that cross the line into unhealthy can be difficult.
There are a few situations in which grief might be unhealthy. In these cases, contacting a professional to get further support in processing the loss and managing emotions is recommended.
- Stuck grief. Most people experience grief as a rollercoaster of emotions with many ups and downs. If there is no variety in emotion and only one feeling is felt consistently, grief can get stuck.
- Delayed grief, in which a person doesn’t process the loss when it happens, but experienced profound and disruptive feelings some time later.
- Prolonged grief, in which a person continues to experience serious emotions a year or more beyond the loss. -** No grief at all**, in which the emotions may build up under the surface. Failing to deal with a lack of grief can lead to mental health concerns down the line.
Common feelings and expressions of grief
Some of the more common feelings, emotions and physical manifestations of grief include, but are not limited to:
- Anger or general irritability
Common physical and behavioral manifestations of grief
Grief can also manifest itself physically. It may be important to seek support if you feel any of the following:
- Forgetfulness or difficulty focusing
- Withdrawn or disconnected
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Overwhelmed / unable to complete tasks
- Fear or anxiety
- Vivid dreams
- General apathy
- Weight gain/loss
- Manic behavior
How does grief affect relationships?
Family members and close friends are often a key source of support in the immediate aftermath of losing someone.
However, over time, people’s patterns of grief may evolve in different directions.
This is because the process of grieving is a personal one and there is no “wrong” timeline.
It is not uncommon for some people to experience strain in their personal relationships following the loss of a loved one.
You might have an idea of how you expect your friends and family members to support you during this time.
If those people fail to live up to these expectations, the grief can become even more personal as you turn inward. It’s common to experience disappointment in these loved ones or friends.
Explaining these feelings might be a first step towards repairing these relationships.
When this is not sufficient support to help you through your Grief, however, consider bereavement groups or professional help.
Do’s and Don’ts for Talking
When it comes to talking with someone who has gone through a loss, recognize that everyone responds to grief differently. There is no one right way or timeline for grieving, so being empathetic and patient is key.
Some tips can help you make the most of any conversations with a loved one:
- Keep it simple and heartfelt
- Ask them if they are open to talking
- Allow them to speak if they want to, avoiding interruptions as they talk
- Don’t make cliche statements like “time will heal all wounds”
- Don’t rush them to finish grieving on your timeline
- Don’t presume to know what or how they are feeling
- Don’t impose your personal or religious beliefs on others
- Don’t talk about what “should” have happened regarding the passing, services, or other issues
- Do respond when someone reaches out for help
- Don’t look for the positives or the silver lining in the situation