Grief is the emotional suffering caused by a loss. It often begins before the loss, like the sadness upon learning that a resident or a loved one does not have long to live. Spouses and others grieve for the companionship they will lose and dreams that won’t happen, that life will be changed forever.
Grief is a natural part of life. People express it in their own ways. There is no timetable for grief and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It can come and go.
Grief takes different forms at different times. At first, the bereaved person may feel disbelief and expect to see their loved one even though they know the person is gone.
They may also feel anger at being “abandoned” by the loved one. Or they may feel guilt—for the anger, for still being here, or for things they may have said or done (or didn’t say or do). These feelings are all normal.
When to Get Help
But there are times when grief is so intense or so prolonged that the health of the bereaved person is at risk. There are some signs that let us know a person may need help in coping with their grief.
Although deep sadness is a natural part of bereavement, in some individuals death triggers a lasting depression that may cause withdrawal from friends and family, thoughts of suicide and lack of energy. This is one of the times when outside help is needed.
Mild weight loss, fatigue, insomnia and anxiety may be expected early on. But it may be time for the grieving person to see their doctor or a mental health professional if after three months or so you see:
- Intense feelings are not starting to lighten.
- Excessive weight gain or weight loss.
- More than 12 or less than 4 hours sleep a night.
- Constant crying.