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Symptoms of Grief

Kathryn Patricelli, MA, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 2nd 2016

Though each person grieves in unique ways, there are common behavioral, emotional, and physical signs and symptoms that people who are grieving typically experience.

  • Physically, persons affected by grief may experience:
    • Fatigue and exhaustion alternating with periods of high alertness and energy
    • Temporary hearing loss or vision impairment (possibly associated with dissociation)
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Disturbed appetite (either more appetite or less appetite than normal)
    • Muscle tremors
    • Chills and/or sweating
    • Difficulty breathing or rapid respiration
    • Increased heart rate or blood pressure
    • Stomach and/or intestinal problems
    • Nausea and/or dizziness
  • Mentally, persons affected by grief may experience:
    • Confusion (memory, concentration, judgment and comprehension difficulties)
    • Intrusion (unwanted thoughts, arousal, nightmares)
    • Dissociation (feeling of detachment and unreality, disorientation, denial)
  • Emotionally, persons affected by grief may experience:
    • Shock
    • Fear, anxiety or apprehension
    • Anger, irritability or agitation
    • Guilt
    • Numbness, remoteness, depression


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Death of my mother - maggie - Dec 13th 2012

my Mother died two years ago, and, I was also having problems in my relationship.  Since then I have 'let myself go' and have gained two stone in weight and I have lost interest in lots of things.  I  keep trying to get my act together, but feel quite depressed and I am not sure what to do to help myself.  I have orgainsed another blood test for my thyroid problem (underactive) as this might be a significant factor. Any advice guys? Maggie.

my big sister - drea - Dec 10th 2010

in feb of 2009 i moved to texas from california to give my one year old son a better life. thinking ill get a us a nice place and ill go to school. well my older sister anita drove us there. she stayed with me at our mothers until april. she then went back to california at our dads house. over the months we talked just about every day or we would chat on facebook. in sept of 09 my sister anita & oldest sister, nephews were all coming to texas. but anita was sick with her asthma. my mom told her go to er see about getting a treatment ect. well she went in they kept her. over the first few days they ran test and then did a lung scope. while they were doing the lung scope her heart stop. my mother went to ca to be with her. my sister spent the next month of her life on life support. this whole time i was in texas with my son an lil bro. i woke up at 145am to someone beating on the door. it was my uncle he told me anita had died. i started telling him no. with in a few days i got to ca for her funeral. when i saw her laying there i asked her to please wake up. i stayed next to her until they closed the coffin. it eats me up inside that the last time i saw my sister was in april then for the last and final time i see her again was at her funeral. i never left ca i live at my dads in her room. i have her ashes. i cry every day. i have rashes on my skin. i have lost over a 140 lbs i was 250++. i always feel i am sick. i think i have this or that wrong with me. i wish anita was here to tell me to knock it off but shes not. i am handling her court case she had going before she got sick. i have her medical records to read word for word what they did to her breaks my heart. my body is in pain i clean  everything everyday so no one gets sick. does anyone know of anything that will help me. please my heart is broke and i am very tired of over working myself. i need help...

grief - - Oct 9th 2009

How do you help an adult child deal with the loss of a boyfriend that died from a drug overdose? She has been crying for days, barely eats, and wants to be alone. she has been with friends mourning the loss and talking with her pastor daily. what can I do as her mom?

Effects of Grief on Relationships - - Sep 1st 2007
My significant other of three years recently walked out on our relationship because he couldn't stand my grief issues any longer.  Both of my parents died; my father when I was 13 and my mother when I was 25.  I have no siblings and the rest of my extended family remains rather cold and distant.  My mom died 5 years ago, and I've had a really hard time coping.  I do get very upset and cry about my parents' loss frequently.  My boyfriend tried to console me at first, but my grief was so "big" that he felt unable to cope and eventually began to withdraw from me when I cried, which in turn only made me feel more depressed and isolated.  Unfortunately, he didn't want to go to couples counseling with me, only wanted me to go to grief support alone.  Now he's left me, saying that he just couldn't be around so much sadness anymore.  He says he may want to reconcile, but only if I finally get some grief counseling.  I want him to come along at some point, which he says he'll do eventually.  My question is, what is the best way for the non-depressed partner to help?  Is it possible that grief counseling will help me become emotionally healthy enough to remedy this relationship or future ones?  Right now, I feel as though my grief is going to ruin any chance of happiness in a relationship.

Some advice needed please. - Jackie - Jul 14th 2007
My elderly father has recently been diagnosed with advanced secondary lung cancer and given just weeks to live. He has been unwell for over a year now having first been diagnosed with bladder cancer in August of last year. I am emotionally and physically exhausted(I have a nine year old son to care for also) and am experiencing extreme mood swings and am so so angry, mostly at my partner of 5 years. He has never experienced the loss of a parent(my mother died 12 years ago) and has no idea of what I'm going through. I feel that I am constantly needing to explain and justify my actions and I'm so tired of it, I feel like exploding, which I do on a regular basis. Is it normal to be this angry at someone I am supposed to love?? I am a 49 year old female, is it possible this is menopause as well?  

Grief counselor - - Jul 9th 2007
As a grief counselor, you sound as if you're dealing with classic complicated grief crisis.  I do think it would be a good idea to find a professional person...even using EAP at your help you process the ocean of feelings you're having to contend with.

Stress? Grief? or Bipolar Disorder? - Confused - Jul 3rd 2007

I just came across this and have no clue if I will get a response, but I had a parent pass away just a couple months ago. I loved them, but we fought so much. Not long before that I was nearly beaten to death by a boyfriend. I dealt with so many nightmares and anxieties after that happened. My emotions were all over the place when that happened and I had just gotten to calm down again when my parent died. Then my employment situation with my family's business changed dramatically over the next two months and my surviving parent had a stroke. Now I find out we are serious trouble over money because of both my parents having really bad health, they got behind on so many finances. It's just a big mess. I'm a big mess. My emotions are really all over the place. I am angry, almost paranoid in my anger about people and relatives, then the next minute I'm really down in a deep pit of despair and hopelessness, then I finally find hope in something and feel better for a while. Is this bipolar disorder or just an effect from all the stressful events going on in the past 18 months??? I had someone say they thought I was bipolar and I got really angry until I thought about my moods and I started to wonder if maybe they are right. I would appreciate any response to this... and I already have started seeing a therapist because of my mood swings. I just haven't been able to get back in to see her this week. Either comment back or email me. Thank you.

Editor's Note: You need to see a doctor to tease out the difference between bipolar disorder and other issues, but on the face of it, if you were not having mood problems before the current crisis, it is unlikely to be bipolar disorder.  Instead, you may be dealing with grief and/or a stress reaction, both of which can easily result in a short emotional fuse.  

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