Grief refers to the process of adaptation to a loss. This word is usually used to describe one`s response to someone's death. However, a grief process can also occur in response to other types of losses (of a relationship, of a job ...). These losses can be traumatic, at a psychological level, in the same way an injury is traumatic at the physical level. Grief, like healing, aims to restore previous functioning, and, like healing, takes some time to develop and fulfill that goal.
Some grief reactions may be:
- Emotions: sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, restlessness, loneliness, helplessness, fatigue, apathy, longing, shock (but also, sometimes, relief or emancipation);
- Cognitions: disbelief, confusion, distraction, obsessive thoughts, dreams or nightmares, feelings of presence, hallucinations;
- Behaviors: crying, changes in sleep and appetite, social isolation, decreased or excessive activity, avoidance or attachment to objects or places that evoke memories of the deceased;
- Sensations: «tightness» in the chest or throat, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, lack of energy, feeling of depersonalization («nothing seems real, including myself»).
Grief reactions can be very varied, without being «abnormal».
Thus, the difference between "normal" and «complicated» grief relates not so much to the presence or absence of a specific grief reaction,
but rather to the intensity of that reaction, to its duration in time, or to harmful ways of dealing with it.