Normal Grief Reactions

Physical – hollowness in stomach, tightness in chest, heart palpitations, sensitivity to noise, breathlessness, weakness, tension, lack of energy, dry mouth, gastrointestinal disturbances, loss of libido, increase or loss of appetite, weight gain or loss, exhaustion,

tight throat, vulnerability to illness, restlessness, headaches, dizziness, muscle aches, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, tremors, shakes


Emotional – numbness, relief, emancipation, sadness, yearning, anxiety, fear, anger, guilt and self-reproach, shame, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, abandonment, loss of control, emptiness, despair, ambivalence, loss of ability for pleasure, shock


Cognitive- disbelief state of depersonalization, confusion, inability to concentrate, idealization of the deceased, preoccupation with thoughts or images of the deceased, dreams of the deceased, sense of presence of deceased; fleeting, tactile, olfactory,

visual and auditory hallucinatory experiences, searching for meaning in life and death


Behavioral – impaired work performance, crying, withdrawal, avoiding reminders of the deceased, seeking or carrying reminders of the deceased, over-reactivity, changed relationships


Complicated Grief Reactions

It may be helpful to consider and know the signs of complicated grief outlined by Columbia University researchers:

  • Strong feelings of yearning or longing for the person who died
  • Feeling intensely lonely, even when other people are around
  • Strong feelings of anger or bitterness related to the death
  • Feeling like life is empty or meaningless without the person who died
  • Thinking so much about the person who died that it interferes with doing things or
  • having relationships with other people
  • Strong feelings of disbelief about the death or finding it very difficult to accept the death
  • Feeling shocked, stunned, dazed or emotionally numb
  • Finding it hard to care about or to trust other people
  • A feeling of constant fear and anxiety.
  • Feeling very emotionally or physically activated when confronted with reminders of the loss
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that are reminders of the loss
  • Strong urges to see, touch, hear, or smell things to feel close to the person who died

If you find three or more of these symptoms persisting beyond 6 months this may be an indicator of complicated grief and a reason to consider seeking professional support. There are certain factors that could put you at greater risk for developing complicated grief. Having experienced one of these risk factors by no means is an indicator that you will experience complicated grief. It just means you are a little more likely. Some of these factors include things like experiencing an unexpected or sudden death, a loved one dying by suicide, a lack of support system, and/or past traumatic losses. As you can surmise grief, complicated grief and post traumatic stress disorder have many common features.