25 Oct Normal Grief Reactions – The List





Normal Grief Reactions – The List

Help has arrived.  This list will help you navigate your personal healing journey.  It is important to keep in mind that we grieve all loss.  And that  Normal Grief Reactions are normal.  We don’t go looking for them—they just show up.  The intensity of a reaction is an individual experience.  Additionally, we don’t all experience the same reactions.  In fact, grieving family members don’t always experience the same reactions.  Which is another reason why family members who are grieving drive each other nuts!  The duration of a reaction(s) is also an individual experience.  Some people experience a few of the reactions on the list and others deal with more.  And some people come up with their own listJumping in with both feet…


The following list originated with Hospice of Michigan.  Check off the reactions that you are experiencing.   When you are done acknowledge how hard you are working!

The List

Physical Reactions

  • Deep sighing
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increase in activity
  • Decrease in activity
  • Muscular tension
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Decreased resistance to illness
  • Weight and appetite change (Hiding food or refusing to eat.)
  • Neglect of self-care (Or, they may never have been taught self-care.)
  • Increase in self-care (Teens love/overdo makeup and/or aftershave.)
  • Increased sensory awareness (This can trigger allergies including environmental allergies.)
  • Allergy Response: Inhalant/Food/Environmental

Emotional Reactions

  • Shock/Disbelief
  • Numbness (It is normal to feel numb from head to toe. God’s gift of protection.  The numbness protects us from being overwhelmed by the pain.  As the numbness wears off, we are forced to deal with our new reality without it.  It can take anywhere from a few weeks to few months or more for the numbness to dissipate.  As it does behaviors can change, and many times not for the better.)
  • Confusion
  • Euphoria
  • Normal Grief Sadness/Depression (There is a lot to be sad and depressed about.)
  • Normal Grief Guilt
  • Despair
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Feeling of being lost
  • Anger
  • Bitterness—vengefulness
  • Peacefulness
  • Yearning for what is lost
  • Fear/Anxiety
  • Survivors guilt

Behavioral/Social Reactions

  • Looking for what is lost (Examples: Searching through drawers or a child moving from room to room searching for their parent(s).)
  • Disorientation to place and time
  • Hording or hiding food
  • Detached from surroundings
  • Withdrawn from friends and activities
  • Forgetful (Adults tend to lose car keys and they forget to feed their children.   You read the forget to feed children correctly.  This is one of the first things covered in our grief support groups.)
  • Blameful of others
  • Apathetic regarding activities or future
  • Preoccupied
  • Crying (Tears are a healthy release for stress energy and stress toxins. No one should be asked to stuff emotions or tears.)
  • Seeking solitude (So much to process and sort out.)
  • Seeking and providing forgiveness
  • Spontaneity

Cognitive/Intellectual Reactions  

  • Impaired self-esteem (Grief is known for undermining confidence and self-esteem.)
  • Impaired ability to concentrate (This makes school and work difficult.)
  • Disbelief/denying or avoiding the reality of the loss
  • Repeated review/rumination of loss events (This is necessary initially for beginning the process of integration and acceptance of the unwanted change and loss. However, at some point—and you will know when this is—the conversation that you have with yourself and others must begin shifting to the positive. To the present.  To a hugely different, but good, future.  Baby steps.  Bottom healing line is. You do not want to be [ You Fill In The Blank] out from the date of the loss and talking about it like it happened yesterday—all your friends will be hide when they see you coming and they will not answer their phone when you call.)
  • Increase/decrease of dreams
  • Hyperactivity
  • ADHD link to loss/trauma
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Search to understand the implications of the loss
  • Practical needs/problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Wisdom

Spiritual Reactions

  • Emptiness/reason to live challenged
  • Destruction of ideals/beliefs
  • Search for meaning/connectedness
  • Spiritual connectedness
  • Pessimism or connectedness, wholeness, rebirth,
  • Compassion
  • Reevaluation of beliefs


  • Tattoos, Teen pregnancy—replacing what is lost. Medicating with drugs, alcohol, and/or food.

Integration and Acceptance

Integration and acceptance work hand in hand as we deal with the loss. The stress.  The unwanted change. The secondary loss.  Normal grief reactions—and normal grief anger, guilt, depression, plus the “dumb” things that people say to us.   With each baby step of integration there is a little bit more acceptance of the loss into our life story.  With each baby step of acceptance there is a little bit more integration of the loss into our life story.  Healing does happen and life returns to a new type of normal.  However, occasional surges of grief and sometimes the resurgence of a normal grief reaction occur thoughout life.

Learn more for healing in the book, Grieving Forward: Death Happened, Now What?  

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