When Grief is New and Intense

There are plenty of articles and books written on the topic of grief, yet little seems to be written about how intense grief can be when you’ve just learned about the diagnosis, or soon after a death. If you have never before experienced such intensity it can be scary. You may wonder whether you will ever be happy again. And yet there are those of you reading this who remember that pain but, thank goodness, are now in a different, less intense emotional state.

The key to coping with grief when it is new to you is to be observant. Think about what is going on both within and around you. Note how your body is reacting. Pay attention to your thinking – are you finding it hard to focus? You may be struggling with a lot of questions. Perhaps you are functioning on automatic pilot at this point. Try not to look too far ahead. Instead, think about what you need to do in the next hour, or what you need to accomplish today.

Anxiety is usually a large part of early grief. Pause momentarily throughout the day, to look within yourself and try to observe where your anxiety is coming from. Take some time, regularly, to pay attention to your grief reactions. The ‘answer’ as to how to tend to these reactions will usually appear. Make sure you are getting enough to eat, and try to get enough sleep because anxiety is always worse when you are lacking in these basic physical needs.

Often in early grief people feel isolated and alone, as if no one else understands what they are going through. If it has been between one and four months since your loved one died, consider attending one of our Newly Bereaved three-week series offered by the Pathways Center for Grief & Loss, a program of Hospice & Community Care. A common response after attending is “It was so good to be able to be with others who understand exactly what I was feeling. I knew I was not alone.”

By: Patti Anewalt, Director, Pathways Center for Grief & Loss