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Understanding Grief: Exploring Common Symptoms and Normal Reactions to Loss

Grief is a complex and deeply personal experience that encompasses a wide range of emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations and may feel like it brings chaos to our entire system. When we experience loss, the symptoms of grief can manifest in various ways, affecting us on multiple levels.

In this blog post, we explore the multifaceted symptoms of grief and loss, shedding light on the emotional, cognitive, and physical aspects of the grieving process. By understanding these symptoms, we can navigate the challenging landscape of grief with greater compassion, understanding and self-awareness.

Ocean of Emotion

One of the primary symptoms of grief is the intense emotional turmoil that accompanies loss. Feelings of sadness, sorrow, anger, guilt, and even relief may arise at different points throughout your grieving process. It is important to recognize that these emotions are a normal and natural part of grief. Allowing ourselves to feel and express the full range of our human emotions is crucial for processing grief and eventually finding our way through.

Emotions are not bad, wrong, good, or right, they simply just are. When we allow our emotions to surface, without trying to push away, rush past, or hide from, they remain in motion rather than becoming stuck, stagnant, and hardened.

Grief Brain

Grief can have profound cognitive effects, often referred to as grief brain. Many individuals experience difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or experiencing memory lapses during the grieving process. The overwhelming emotions and adjustments to life without the loved one can impact cognitive functioning. It is important to be patient with ourselves and seek support in navigating these challenges. It is important to practice self-compassion and be patient with ourselves during these moments of cognitive challenges when we don't feel quite like ourselves, or memory is challenged, and our thoughts unclear. Seeking support and employing strategies such as breaking tasks into smaller steps or engaging in activities that promote mental clarity can be helpful.

Physical Manifestations

Grief is not just an emotional experience; it can also manifest in physical symptoms. Loss can lead to physical sensations such as fatigue, insomnia, changes in appetite, tension, chronic pain, and even somatic symptoms like headaches or stomachaches. The mind and body are deeply and intricately connected, and the toll of grief can be felt physically. Taking care of our physical well-being through self-care practices, exercise, and seeking medical support when needed can help reduce the intensity and impact of these symptoms.

Behaviour Changes

Loss rocks the foundation of our lives. It is quite common for things, bhevaiors, routines, and even interests to change following a significant loss. Some individuals may experience changes in appetite, sleep patterns, or a decrease in motivation to engage in previously enjoyed activities. Others may seek distraction through excessive busyness or engage in coping mechanisms that are unhealthy in the longterm. Recognizing behavioural shifts and seeking a healthy balance between self-care, engaging in meaningful activities, and seeking professional help if needed is crucial in navigating grief.

Relational Impacts

Grief can also impact our social interactions and behaviors. Some individuals may withdraw from social activities, experiencing a sense of isolation or disinterest in previous hobbies or relationships. On the other hand, others may seek solace in the company of loved ones and find comfort in sharing their grief. It is essential to recognize and respect our own needs for connection and support while allowing ourselves the space to grieve in our own unique way.

Spiritual and Existential Exploration

Loss often prompts questioning and exploration - you may find yourself questioning the meaning and the purpose of life, which may leading to profound existential and spiritual reflections and discoveries. It is common to contemplate our beliefs, values, question our faith, or seek a deeper understanding of life and death through the times in our lives that are transitional and/or deeply transformational. Exploring existential dimensions of grief can offer solace, provide opportunities for growth and self-discovery, and lead to a renewed sense of meaning and purpose. Spiritual and existential exploration has been some of my most profound work following grief in my own life, and it is something I witnessed as deeply meaningful for the clients I work with as well.


If you're interested in delving deeper into this topic and exploring the ways in which grief has impacted you, I invite you to explore the Grief Archetypes Quiz to get to know your grieving style in a new way.

Understanding the symptoms of grief is an important step in navigating the healing journey after loss. By recognizing the emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of grief, we can foster self-compassion and seek appropriate support. It is essential to remember that the grieving process is unique to each individual, and there is no timeline or "right" way to grieve. Seeking professional help, confiding in trusted loved ones, and engaging in self-care practices can contribute to the healing and brave steps we take post loss. Remember, you are not alone, and with the right supports and compassionate understanding, the symptoms of grief can gradually shift and take new form.


Over here in my world we aren't doing grief work the way we’ve been sold, taught, and fed throughout our lives. If you’re like me, you’re ready to do it differently. Click here to book a discovery call where we will get to know you, your grief, and invite you into the path that we think would be most supportive for where you're at (no pressure, invitational always, left in your hand to decide your next right step).

About the Author:

Hayley Yarish is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), Grief Therapist, Compassionate Bereavement Care Provider, and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®. She specializes in supporting individuals who are navigating loss and grief of any kind. Her own experiences with grief and loss have cracked her heart wide open and led her to doing this sacred work in the world.

Specific areas of focus: death of a loved one (recent or past), life changing transitions, relationship transitions and break ups, pregnancy loss, grief around family planning, and supporting entrepreneurs through the grief that comes with growth.

To learn more about Hayley or to book a session with her, click here.



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