Grief Reaction

Grief is the feeling that we all have when we lose someone or something that has been important in our life. Grief is an unavoidable and normal reaction to this loss. It can last from days to years. The amount of time depends on different factors. These include how close the person was to you, the events surrounding the death, and how much support you have through the grief process. Symptoms can be both physical and emotional.

Physical reactions to grief include: 

  • Loss of appetite or overeating

  • Changes in weight

  • Trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep

  • Hair loss

  • Upset stomach, indigestion, heart burn, belly pain, cramping, diarrhea

  • Sense of trouble breathing

  • Trembling, shakiness

Emotional reactions to grief include: 

  • Sadness

  • Anxiety

  • Feeling depressed or helpless

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Detachment or withdrawal from those around you

  • Loss of interest in your normal life and work

Home care

Suggestions to care for yourself at home include the following: 

  • Allow yourself to feel the pain of your loss. For some, this can be a key part of healing grief. Talk about your pain with others who understand. Share good memories that involve the person, pet, or possession you lost.

  • Take time for yourself. Make it a point to do things that you enjoy. This might be gardening, listening to music, walking in nature, or going to a movie.

  • Take care of your physical body. Eat a balanced diet (low in saturated fat and high in fruits and vegetables) and establish an exercise plan at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes. Even mild-moderate exercise such as brisk walking can make you feel better. Get plenty of sleep.

  • Don't use alcohol or drugs to cover your emotional pain. This only slows down the emotional healing process.

  • Don't isolate yourself from others. Have daily contact with family or friends. Talk about your loss to those closest to you.

  • For additional support, meet with your faith leader, a counselor or therapist, or your own healthcare provider.

  • Consider joining a grief support group. Ask your healthcare provider or our staff for information on how to find one in your area.

  • If you have been prescribed a medicine to help with your symptoms, take it only as directed. Don't use it with alcohol. Don't take more or less than prescribed. Don't share it with others..

  • Respect your feelings and your self-care needs. Friends or family members may try to be helpful but give unsolicited advice on how you should feel or what you should do. Sometimes this advice can cause more stress than comfort. Say no thank you to suggestions when you need to do so.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

Call or text 988

Call or text  988 or call 911 if any of these happen:

  • Have suicidal thoughts, a suicide plan, and the means to carry out the plan. When you call or text 988, you will be connected to trained crisis counselors at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. An online chat option is also available. Lifeline is free and available 24/7. 988 counselors will work closely with 911 to get you the care you need.

  • Trouble breathing

  • Very confused

  • Very drowsy or trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Seizure

  • New chest pain that becomes more severe, lasts longer, or spreads into your shoulder, arm, neck, jaw, or back

  • Have serious thoughts of hurting someone else 

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these happen:

  • Worsening symptoms

  • Not eating or sleeping for 3 days in a row

  • Feeling extreme depression, fear, anxiety, or anger toward yourself or others

  • Feeling out of control

  • Feeling that you may try to harm yourself

  • Having family or friends express concern over your behavior and ask you to get help

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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