People grieve for many reasons, the most common being the loss of a loved one. The death of a loved one is always difficult. Your reactions to the loss are influenced by the circumstances of the death, such as a sudden or accidental death, and by your relationship with the person who died.

A child’s death arouses an overwhelming sense of injustice — for lost potential, unfulfilled dreams, and senseless suffering. Parents may feel responsible for the child’s death, no matter how irrational that may seem. Parents may also feel that they have lost a vital part of their own identity.

A spouse’s death is very traumatic. In addition to the severe emotional shock, the death may cause a potential financial crisis if the spouse was the family’s main income source. The death may necessitate major social adjustments which require the surviving spouse to parent alone, adjust to single life, and maybe even return to work. Elderly people may be especially vulnerable when they lose a spouse because it means losing a lifetime of shared experiences. At this time, feelings of loneliness may also be compounded by the death of close friends.

A loss due to suicide can be among the most difficult to bear. They may leave the survivors with a tremendous burden of guilt, anger, and shame. Survivors may even feel responsible for the death. Seeking counseling during the first weeks after the suicide is particularly beneficial and advisable.

Knowing What to Expect

When a death takes place, you may experience a wide range of emotions, even when the death is expected. Many people report feeling an initial stage of numbness after first learning of a death, but there is no real order to the grieving process. Some emotions you may experience include:

  • Denial

  • Disbelief

  • Confusion

  • Shock

  • Sadness

  • Yearning

  • Anger

  • Humiliation

  • Despair

  • Guilt

Grieving takes time

These feelings are normal and common reactions to loss. You may not be prepared for the intensity and duration of your emotions or how swiftly your moods may change. You may even begin to doubt the stability of your mental health. But be assured that these feelings are healthy and appropriate and will help you come to terms with your loss. Remember—it takes time to fully absorb the impact of a major loss. You never stop missing your loved one, but the pain eases after time and allows you to go on with your life.

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