Common Grief Reactions

Common Grief Reactions_web pageGrief affects everyone differently, but everyone will have some reaction to grief. Grief affects many aspects of a person’s life. Grief is not just emotional. It affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves—even what they believe. The intensity of grief changes over time, and through personal growth.

Below are some common grief reactions of adults. Not everyone will experience the same reactions, and there may be additional reactions that aren’t listed.

Physical Reactions

  • Deep sighing
  • Feeling weak or faint
  • Muscle tension, aches or pains
  • Change in appetite (increase or decrease)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sleep disturbances (more, less or waking more)
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weight change
  • Decreased resistance to illness
  • Indigestion
  • Headaches
  • Hypersensitivity to sights, sounds, smell, touch
  • Dry mouth
  • Tightness or heaviness in chest
  • Hollow feeling in stomach
  • Lump in throat
  • Sobbing

Cognitive Reactions

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Preoccupation with loss/death
  • Difficulty making decisions, even simple ones
  • Searching to understand
  • Disbelief
  • Increase/decrease in dreams
  • Suicidal thoughts

Emotional Reactions

  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Anxious
  • Despair
  • Loneliness
  • Feeling “out of control”
  • Mood swings
  • Guilt, including survivor guilt
  • Relief
  • Numbness
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Fear
  • Longing/yearning for loved one
  • Bitter
  • Calm

Behavioral Reactions

  • Forgetfulness
  • Blaming others
  • Avoidance of people/situations
  • Change in activity (increase or decrease)
  • Neglecting oneself (hygiene, eating, health)
  • Loss of interest in work, world events, social activities, sex
  • Increase in use of alcohol/drugs/medications
  • Acting out

Spiritual Reactions

  • Asking “why” questions
  • Anger at God
  • Change in beliefs and values
  • Loss or strengthening of faith
  • Need to find meaning in the loss

Click to download and print Common Grief Reactions article.

Hospice of the Red River Valley has many resources available for the public, on a loan basis, through the resource libraries in each of our offices. Topics include caregiving, terminal illness, dying, death, grief and loss. To view more information about our grief support services, visit the grief support section of our website or call us at (800) 237-4629.