Title: Is My Grief “Normal”? When to Seek Help
Is there such a thing as “normal” grief? Yes--and no. There is no singular way to grieve, and everyone grieves differently. Some people may feel sad and lonely for days, weeks or even months; others may find that they are capable of feeling normal within a few weeks after a death. Some people may emphasize their mourning by choosing to wear black or withdraw from certain social activities, while others may wish to maintain their regular status quo.
There is no right or wrong way to grief, but it is possible for grief to be a cause for concern; this is typically referred to as abnormal grief.
The very nature of grief is bound to cause intense emotions and actions, which can include:
- Reduced energy
- Reduced ability to concentrate
- Changes in your appetite (eating too much or eating too little)
- Changes in your sleeping pattern (sleeping too much or too little, having trouble getting to sleep)
- Lack of interest in everyday activities and social withdrawal
- Feelings of sadness, depression, guilt, anger, etc--while still feeling happy at other times
It’s normal and acceptable to feel sad, lonely, angry, or frustrated after the death of a loved one. It’s normal to feel changes in your mood, your appetite, and your everyday interactions with the world and other people.
The critical key is remembering that grief is not ordinarily an all-encompassing mood, especially if it has been months after a loved one has passed. If you are experiencing normal grief, you will still find little moments of happiness or normalcy. You might spend the morning watching the natural scenes around your loved ones’ resting place using a system such as AFTR; but then go out with a friend for lunch in the afternoon, laugh at a joke, or enjoy a good movie on TV. These moments of normalcy typically mean that you are coping with grief, as it has not become an all-encompassing issue.
Abnormal grief can be difficult to pin down. Abnormal grief--which may be called by other names, such as complicated grief or chronic brief--is defined as grief which either persists for a lengthy period of time without letting up whatsoever or grief which includes more intense symptoms.
Some of the more intense symptoms associated with abnormal grief include:
- Indulging in self-destructive behaviors, such as abusing drugs/alcohol or engaging in risky behavior
- Suicidal thoughts or impulses
- Episodes of rage (rather than feelings of anger)
- Difficulty focusing on anything else except grief/death of a loved one
- Extreme focus or extreme avoidance of reminders of the loved one
- Intense feelings of sadness, bitterness, depression that do not abate with time
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or your feelings of grief have not changed whatsoever in the weeks or months after the passing of a loved one, you should consult with your physician about receiving help for your grief.