Normal Grief Reactions

It can be beneficial to know how grief expresses itself in various forms: physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral. This information can help us feel less isolated and understand that what we are experiencing is normal for a grieving person. Families and friends of those who are grieving can also benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of our lived experience. Below are examples of typical grief reactions—however, not every way of grieving is listed.


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


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


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


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

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same
nor would you want to.”

Elizabeth Kubler Ross & John Kessler