Everyone grieves differently. One family member may cry loudly and incessantly. Another may be withdrawn and quiet. Another may show physical symptoms. These are all valid ways of dealing with grief; there are no “normal” steps of grieving. The one thing that everyone in mourning needs, however, is support.
Grief takes a great toll mentally and emotionally. Below are several common reactions to loss beyond the physical, as well as some suggestions to help the persons in your life who may be struggling with grief.
Confusion/Disorientation – Immediately after a loss, it may take a grieving person an hour to complete something that should take 15 minutes. Be patient, provide guidance if possible, and make sure to plan tasks accordingly.
Forgetfulness – Grief can consume us mentally. You may notice your grieving loved one become forgetful about daily activities. You can help by discussing upcoming tasks with the person, and encouraging list making. For a child, rebuilding a daily routine will greatly help with this, as well as bring a much-needed level of security back to his or her life.
Anxiety – Be supportive, and listen patiently. Try not to get frustrated.
Agitation/frustration – Your loved one may become frustrated with others, especially when they feel others are complaining about seemingly frivolous things. Be understanding of where they are coming from, and help others around them understand (peers, teachers, etc.); especially during the holidays and anniversaries. Also help your friend/child understand that the frustration is misdirected by “taking it out” on others.
Concentration problems – Even when doing activities they love, a grieving person may have a hard time concentrating, or being motivated and in-the-moment. Taking on challenging tasks in small increments at a time can help.
Shock/emotional numbness – Often times, the first few months following a loss can be a blur for the grieving. They may simply be going through the motions of life – get up, get dressed, eat, breathe, sleep. The shock often lasts 3-6 months following the loss. Take your grieving friend/child where they are. If they want to talk, listen. If they don’t want to talk, don’t force it. But let them know you are there to listen when they are ready.
Guilt/regret – Know that your grieving loved one may be experiencing guilt or regret associated with their loss. If they are willing to talk about it, listen and support them.