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Characteristics of the Grieving Process

Elderly Couple Grieving Together

Grief is a cognitive, emotional, spiritual, physical and social process of working through a significant loss(es). And the grieving process is not limited to experiencing one response at a time, but can be a combination of several or all that creates a crisis stage lasting a few days to a few weeks. After the shock lessens in intensity, daily activities become a drudgery with a sense of numbness. Symptoms of severe grief have physical effects such as, but not limited to, exhaustion, headaches, inability to sleep, indigestion, loss of appetite, and stress-induced illness. Symptoms with mental/emotional effects are depression and anxiety, dreams about the deceased forgetfulness and disorganization, guilt and anger, loneliness, withdrawal and isolation, threats of self-destruction/suicide. Avoidance of the grieving process can be manifested with symptoms of antisocial behavior, behavior such as excessive drinking, drugs, travel, gambling and sexual promiscuity, excessive busyness, withdrawal from social activities, and tensions with existing relationship.

Grief typically comes in waves, overwhelming the whole person. After tragic or sudden loss, survivors basically refuse to accept what happened and how it happened by utilizing strong defenses and coping strategies and remain unaware of their unfinished grief. Troubled relationships tend to have more unfinished issues at the point of separation than positive ones and are difficult to get over. An often heard insight by the normal grief-stricken individual is, “I’m losing my mind.” This fear of inadequacy looms over one’s assurance and is perhaps the most draining aspect of grief.

The goal of grief therapy is to help one move through the normal mourning process at their own pace. Grieving is viewed as the healthy response, for without it a recovery is not possible. Factors to assess ones attitude with the grieving process include emotional stability, social support system, age of the deceased person, and the amount to which they were at peace with self, God, and family.

Editor’s Note: By Randy Rush, Alabama Licensed Professional Counselor and Doctor of Ministry. Learn more about the grieving process at RDR Counseling Services, Huntsville, Alabama


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