When a person is faced with a significant loss his/her world has lost all its familiar reference points and the future is an unclear, unfamiliar, and frightening nothingness. Without being able to control one’s emotional and physical states, the person is overwhelmed with intense and unsettling emotions that often follow each other in quick succession. In contrast, others might not feel anything and remain in a state of numbness.
Anger, depression, loneliness, fear, frustration, and desperation may be quickly followed by shock and disbelief and deep sadness. There may also be guilt and the age-old question “Could I have done something” while others may experience a sense of going crazy in a never-ending nightmare.
Besides the emotional expressions of grief, people may also struggle with physical problems that are commonly associated with grief: they may have a hollowness in the stomach, tightness of throat or chest, lack of energy, nightmares, insomnia, breathlessness, appetite disturbances, vomiting, rashes, dry mouth, heart palpitations, backaches, over sensitivity to noise, lowered immunity to illnesses, weight loss/gain, and even de-personalisation experiences. Norah Leney's poem expresses powerfully the deep impact of grief:
that start beneath my heart
and hold my body in a grip that hurts
The lump that swells inside my throat
brings pain that tries to choke.
Then tears course down my cheeks
I drop my head in my so empty hands
abandoning myself to deep dark grief
and know that with the passing time
will come relief.
That though the pain may stay
There soon will come a day
When I can say her name and be at peace.
People who experience these strong emotional and/or physical symptoms may do very well benefit from getting help from their general practitioner and a counsellor. Both can ease the disturbances these symptoms cause.