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The Incredibly Common Experience of Grief

August 30 is National Grief Awareness Day, so we would like to use this space to talk about the commonalities of grief that form the foundation for most people who have lost someone in Alameda County and elsewhere. This day was put in place to encourage open communication on bereavement and loss and to help people of all ages know the facts of grief. Bereavement support can help, and it comes in many forms — from support groups to counseling sessions.

There are many common elements to the act of grieving. On top of the emotions most of us experience after losing a loved one, such as sadness and anger, there are common ways people choose to celebrate the life lost. One example is the public mourning ritual. One study shows that a majority of people — up to 80% — take part in private mourning rituals such as funerals and wakes. Engaging in these ceremonies has been proven to lower the levels of grief. Indeed, they can help you grieve, mourn, and achieve closure more readily.

What Are Some Common Grief Reactions?

A reaction to loss is known as a grief reaction, and it can vary widely from person to person and even within the same person as time passes, points out These reactions take the form of feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and even physical sensations. Here are some common grief reactions that most people go through.

  • Feelings. Those who experience loss will have a range of feelings, including shock, sadness, numbness, denial, despair, guilt, anxiety, anger, loneliness, depression, relief and helplessness. It’s common for someone who is grieving to burst out crying when hearing a song that reminds them of their loved one, for instance. But other people may cry and not really know what the trigger is.
  • Thoughts. Common thought patterns include confusion, disbelief, difficulty concentrating, hallucinations, and preoccupation.
  • Physical sensations. Grief may also have physical reactions as well as emotional reactions, such as tightness in the chest or throat, nausea, dizziness, headaches, physical numbness, fatigue, and muscle weakness. Grief could also compromise your immune system and make you more vulnerable to illness.
  • Behaviors. Grieving people often have trouble falling or staying asleep. They have no energy and no longer want to participate in activities they used to enjoy. They may not want to eat or socialize. They may be more irritable or aggressive or may experience restlessness countered by excessive activity.

Common Ways to Express Grief

After we have engaged in common rituals of mourning, such as funerals and burials, there are common long-term ways to cope with grief. Here are some examples.

  • Post on social media: Letting other people know what you’re going through. Your friends can lend their support, whether through words of encouragement or by reaching out personally to see how they can help. You can control the privacy of your posts if you only want certain people or groups of people to see them.
  • Celebrate special days: Taking the time to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays related to your loved one can help you express your grief while at the same time honor their memory. Tell others who also loved them to join you in the celebrations. You may be surprised to see that forgotten relationships can be renewed through shared sorrow.
  • Join a support group: These public forums allow you to interact with others who have been through the same loss. You can learn from each others’ experiences while sharing your personal journey of grief.
  • Write in a journal: This is a common therapeutic way to express grief. Use this creative way to be alone with your thoughts, even for just a few minutes every day. Write freely. No one will correct your grammar or punctuation!
  • Mediate or do yoga: Take a few minutes each day to meditate in a quiet, dark place while listening to calming music or nature soundtracks. This will give you a chance to be alone with your grief so your emotions can manifest freely. Yoga is also a calming, focused way to get back in touch with your inner self and achieve peace.
  • Create a memorial garden: You can create a safe space in your backyard or patio that’s out of the way. You can head there when you need quiet, contemplative time to remember your loved one. You can hang wind chimes, plant flowers, make an altar, or set up a rock zen garden. Add a comfortable seat or bean bag and you have an instant calming space.
  • Get professional help: Sometimes we need more focused, one-on-one help. For that, reach out to a grief counselor in your community. Pathways can actually connect you with a therapist to help you work through your grief.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

To learn about our bereavement services in Alameda County and elsewhere, including one on one counseling and support groups, please get in touch with us today at 888-978-1306.