Grief Affects Behaviors, Feelings, Thoughts (Including Memory), & Body

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Sometimes when in grief, time is distorted. It feels too fast or too slow.

Grief affects all the areas of a person: behaviors, feelings, thoughts and physical body. Each grief experience is unique. A woman may experience all, some or none of the symptoms of grief.

Below are some of the common manifestations.

Behaviors

  • Absent-Minded Behavior
  • Accident–Prone (because of being easily distracted)
  • Avoidance of Tasks
  • Appetite Disruptions (either too much or not enough food)
  • Difficulty Making Decisions
  • Disinterest in Activities That Used to Bring Pleasure
  • Disorganized
  • Dreams/Nightmares About the Loss
  • Easily Distracted
  • Focus Only on the Negative of the Lost Person/Place, Thing/Idea
  • Focus Only on the Positive of the Lost Person/Place, Thing/Idea
  • Fragile
  • Inattention to People/Circumstances at Hand
  • Inability to Focus
  • Inability to Pray
  • Irritability
  • Loss of Perspective
  • Mood Swings
  • Passivity/Resignation
  • Sleep Disruptions (either too much or not enough)
  • Social Withdrawal and/or Overly Clingy

Feelings

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Bitterness
  • Confusion
  • Despair
  • Emptiness
  • Endless
  • Fear
  • Feeling Crazy or Like You Are Losing Your Mind
  • Frustration
  • Guilt
  • Helplessness
  • Hopeless
  • Lack of Belonging
  • Loneliness
  • Loss of or Increased Faith
  • Numbness
  • Outrage
  • Overwhelmed by the Pain of Earlier Losses That Weren’t Grieved Over
  • Regrets
  • Relief
  • Roller Coaster of Emotions and Feelings
  • Sadness
  • Self-Pity
  • Silliness
  • Shock
  • Yearning

Thoughts

  • Confusion
  • “I didn’t realize it would be this hard.”
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Mental Anguish
  • Ruminating About the Loss a Lot
  • Time Distortion (feels too fast or too slow)
  • “What’s the Use?”
  • “Why?”

Grief disrupts your mind and thinking abilities. Confusion moves in and memory takes a vacation. . . Just as your leg can experience a cramp and not move, it’s as though your mind has a memory cramp. Your mind is paralyzed and shuts down…” (Wright, 12-13)

Physical Symptoms

  • Deadens/Heightens Every Sense
  • Depression
  • Disbelief/Denial
  • Doing Anything Requires Extra Effort (even simple tasks)
  • Empty Feeling in the Stomach
  • Exhaustion (physical and emotional)
  • Flashbacks
  • Grief Spasms 1 
  • Lack of Energy
  • Many/Little Tears
  • Memory Loss
  • Panic Attacks
  • Rapid Heart Rate
  • Sensation of Aimlessness
  • Shock
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Surprise at Intensity and Suddenness of Emotions
  • Tightness in the Chest and/or Throat
  • Weakened Immune System

Action Steps

  1. As you look over these common symptoms of grief, which one(s) describe you?
  2. What has surprised you about this list?
  3. How does it make you feel to know that these are common manifestations of grief?
  4. Are you acknowledging your grief or are you ignoring it?
  5. What is one healthy step that you can take today to deal with your grief?

Related Posts

Works Cited

Wright, H. Norman.  Experiencing Grief. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2004.

____________________________
1 A grief spasm is a normal, sudden, unexpected, upsurge of the emotion grief (Wright, 18). The best way to handle this out-of-control feeling is acknowledge that you can handle this intensely difficult emotion. And wait for it to end.

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Entry filed under: Grief. Tags: .

It’s Important to Grieve the Little Losses Too Good Words Spotlight My Thoughts & Actions

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elizabeth Kaylene  |  . at .

    I am so absentminded, and usually I’m pretty organized. I can barely remember to do anything (then again, I’m also really, really busy)!

    I frequently think to myself, “maybe I am crazy,” because I have yet to find a doctor who listens to me, looks me over, and then says, “I know what’s wrong, let’s run some tests.” I know I have to keep hanging on and trying, but it gets so overwhelming. I’m taking a break right now! :D

    If anyone needs to talk, you can find me at the website linked in my name. Hugs to all!

    Reply
    • 2. susan2009  |  . at .

      Elizabeth, according the research I’ve done and my own experiences, if you are absent-minded and going through a period of grief, it is very normal. It takes a lot of energy to grieve and no wonder a typically organized person ends up being disorganized for a time.

      It is hard when you can’t find a doctor or friends who will really listen to what you are going through and give you support.

      So proud that you are taking a break. I hope that you are feeling better now.

  • 3. Desiree  |  . at .

    Thanks for this article. Today had intense grief spasm two years post moms death. Didn’t know why I was exhausted, irritable, time seemed to move so slowly, and I had a “social panic attack” filled with anger. I couldn’t explain the sudden move shift and it was driving me nuts because I am a information and control freak. I can’t control my spasms of grief and that is embarrassing. This article has helped me delineate what is going on.

    Reply
  • 4. susan2009  |  . at .

    Desiree,I am so sorry that today was a difficult one. I am so glad that you read some information that helped explain what was going on today. Grief spasms can be scary in part because of their intensity, unpredictability, and uncontrollable nature.

    Desriee, Your grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one. It shows (in part) that you loved your mom. Getting over these losses always seems to take longer than anyone expects. My mom died 10 years ago and there are still times when I experience deep sadness.

    Now I am usually able to predict when they might occur: holidays, special days involving my mom, whenever one of my kiddos has a milestone that “grandma” should have witnessed, when I am ill, hurt, or feeling extremely overwhelmed.

    During such times I try to practice good self care and give myself permission to feel what I feel. I love my mom and these feelings (though much less intense in frequency and feeling now) are one evidence of me missing her and loving her.

    Reply
  • 5. susan2009  |  . at .

    Desiree and Elizabeth, If you read “Mourning is a Choice” https://fruitfulwords.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/mourning-is-a-choice/, you might find a little help there. You are in my prayers tonight.

    Reply
  • 6. Rosemarie  |  . at .

    Is it normal to have poor memory after a loss almost 11 years ago?

    Reply
    • 7. susan2009  |  . at .

      Hello Rosemarie,

      One thing I’ve learned is that there is a wide range of “normal” for most things in life, including grief. However, it’s never a bad idea to talk with a medical professional to rule out other possible causes.

      Many things can account for poor memory besides grief: depression, stress, not attending to the moment, anxiety, aging, head trauma, dementia, drug/alcohol abuse, nutritional deficiency, etc.

      And if grief is the reason, perhaps a medical professional could give you tools to deal with this uncomfortable ailment.

      I wish you well in dealing with this and your grief.
      Susan

  • 8. Sarah  |  . at .

    Thank you for this post./article. I was just google-ing grieving and memory loss and I came across this post which after reading the entire list, it made very good sense as to what I’m going through. I have lost my husband suddenly to heart attack exactly 4 years ago and I was 3 months pregnant at the time. I am STILL experiencing memory loss, long and short term along with many of other descriptions on your list, and I am very worried this may remain with me a lifetime. It’s a horrible experience as I used to have a wonderful memory and the fact that I cannot remember much about my son’s growing up as I try very hard to remember since it is all I have left… It leaves me in great dispair and worry. Anyway, I don’t know if my memory will come back to normal and when because I try to cherish every moment with my son and its sad that I cannot remember much.
    Why am I still going though these bad feelings (I would say about 90% of the list above pertains to me) and will it get better?

    Thank you… Sarah

    Reply
  • 9. susan2009  |  . at .

    Sarah, I am so sorry about the sudden and tragic loss of your husband especially when it was supposed to be a happy, special time in your life.

    I am no doctor, so it is always good to talk to one about such concerns. It might also help to speak with a counselor/therapist if some of your symptoms are negatively impacting your life.

    Talking with your doctor or a therapist/counselor who deals with grief might be a good way to investigate why you are still having a hard time. Do remember that healing does not have a time frame.

    Have you considered going to a grief group? One such group is called Grief Share: http://www.griefshare.org/

    However, I do know from my own experience with raising kiddos that not remembering much from when they are little can be common. I was always tired from not sleeping much. I recently read that in order for memories to go into long-term memory we need sleep to “cement” it there.

    My days were hectic with the moment-to-moment care of my infants to toddlers and then homeschooling them was just as busy. I didn’t do a good job of focusing on the present or preserving the memories. I always thought I would remember, but I didn’t or I mixed up who did what.

    Yes, I believe that you can feel better. Although you may always have a “hurting” spot for your husband.

    Sarah, please do what it takes to help yourself. You are worth the energy, time, and money. Plus it will help you be a better parent and enjoy your son more.

    You are in my prayers today, Susan

    Reply
  • 10. Julia  |  . at .

    My boyfriend was hit and killed by a drunk driver last month. My job is VERY demanding and my stress level has obviously increased. I have been very forgetful and have actually started to worry about myself. Work isn’t very understanding since we weren’t married so I have had to move on and function as if nothing happened. I also lost my parents 4 hours apart 2 years ago and I was still grieving for them when my boyfriend was killed. Needless to say, this article has brought me some peace and I no longer feel like I’m going crazy.

    Reply
    • 11. susan2009  |  . at .

      Dear Julia,

      I cannot imagine the heartache you have been going through these past 2 years. I am so sorry for your losses.

      And I am sorry that work hasn’t extended you grace and understanding.

      I am glad you found some peace in this post. You are in my prayers today.

      Blessings, Susan

  • 12. Malu  |  . at .

    I was getting over the loss of a relationship. I believe the relationship ended because of my ex-boyfriends’ loss of his girlfriend (before me who had died almost 4 years ago.) He thought he was ready to move on and we started seeing each other and I moved in (apparently wasn’t ready). I never rushed the grieving process, At his request I helped him remove some of her belongings. He seemed fine almost relieved. Just before we made plans to go to Canada he freaked out one day and asked me to move out unexpectedly. For the past year I prayed for his healing. Then the unthinkable happened, his daughter died, whom I was close to and love very much. I am going through a strange sense of grief now. Kind of a double whammy. Her funeral is tomorrow. His daughters mother and the daughters husband requested that I attend; he asked me not to. Although I can pay my respects privately…I’m not sure how I feel. I go in and out of acceptance.

    Reply
  • 13. susan2009  |  . at .

    Oh, my, Malu. I cannot imagine what you must be going through. This is a traumatic time indeed.

    It seems unfair to be treated like this when you were supportive and caring.

    I hope you have at least one person that will sit with you and let you grieve however you need to grieve.

    Today I will pray for peace and healing for all of you.

    Blessings, Susan

    Reply
  • 14. Maggie  |  . at .

    I blog often and I genuinely thank you for your information.
    The article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to bookmark your website and keep checking for new information about once a week.
    I opted in for your RSS feed too.

    Reply
  • 15. Jennifer Gilbert-Potts  |  . at .

    Thank you so much for this. I also googled “grieving and memory loss”. My 13 year old daughter has drug-resistant epilepsy, which is only partially controlled and she’s suffered so much the last few years. In November last year my 16 year old son was suddenly diagnosed with epilepsy too and something inside me broke down. I feel like I have a muscle that stopped working and now I’m weak. Following that, my daughter had three hospital admissions in a month and I really broke down. My short term memory has become terrible and I have difficulty focusing on tasks. I work almost full-time (I’m the breadwinner) and my manager is irritated and says I’m losing credibility, which is very painful. I’m grateful to find reassurance that my symptoms are common and will pass. It took a long time for me to come to terms with my daughter’s condition, as it’s a very distressing one to observe in somebody you love. I felt we had come out the other side of acceptance and then the rest happened.
    Fortunately I have a very supportive GP and I’m currently searching for a grief counsellor, who can help me through this scary time.

    Reply

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