Your experience of
grief is likely to be different from another person's.
Similarly, you will probably grieve somewhat differently each time you
experience a significant loss. Your reaction to loss is influenced by the
relationship you had with the lost person and by your
general coping style, personality, and life experiences. How you express grief
is influenced in part by the cultural, religious, and social rules of your
Grief is expressed physically, emotionally, socially,
Your best-selling book The Year of Magical Thinking chronicles your grief following the loss of your husband, John. What surprised you most about grieving?
I did not expect the degree of derangement-both physiological and mental. An example of the latter: Two weeks after John died, when I filled out a hospital form for the autopsy report, I gave not my own address but that of an apartment in which we had lived for the first four or five months of our marriage, in 1964.
Is there something...
Physical expressions of
grief often include
crying and sighing, headaches, loss of appetite,
difficulty sleeping, weakness, fatigue, feelings of heaviness, aches, pains,
and other stress-related ailments.
expressions of grief include feelings of sadness and yearning. But feelings of
worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, or guilt are also normal.
Social expressions of grief may include feeling detached from
others, isolating yourself from social contact, and behaving in ways that are
not normal for you.
Intense grief can bring
on unusual experiences. After a death, you may have vivid dreams about your
loved one, develop his or her behaviors or mannerisms, or see or hear your
loved one. If you feel fearful or stressed by any of these experiences, talk to
your doctor and a mental health professional or clergy person
Age and emotional
development influence the way a person grieves a death.
Children younger than age 7 usually perceive death as separation. They may feel abandoned and
scared. And they may fear being alone or leaving people they love. Grieving young
children may not want to sleep alone at night, or they may refuse to go to day
care or school. Children under age 7 usually are not able to verbally express
their feelings. Instead, they tend to act out their feelings through behaviors,
such as refusing to obey adults, having temper tantrums, or role-playing their
lives in pretend play. Children younger than age 2 may refuse to talk. And they may be
generally irritable. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 may develop eating,
sleeping, or toileting and bed-wetting problems.
Children between the ages of 7 and 12 often perceive death as
a threat to their personal safety. They tend to fear that they will die also
and may try to protect themselves from death. While some grieving children want
to stay close to someone they think can protect them, others withdraw. Some
children try to be very brave or behave extremely well. Others behave terribly.
A grieving child may have problems concentrating on schoolwork, following
directions, and doing daily tasks. Children in this age group need to be reassured that they are not responsible for the death they are
Teens perceive death much like
adults do. But they may express their feelings in dramatic or unexpected ways.
For example, they may join a religious group that defines death in a way that
calms their feelings. They may try to defy death by participating in dangerous
activities, such as reckless driving, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol,
taking illegal drugs, or having unprotected sex. Like adults, preteens and
teens can have suicidal thoughts when grieving.
Warning signs of suicide in children and teens may
include preoccupation with death or suicide or giving away belongings.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this