65 Common Reactions to Grief

by Dr Bob Baugher PhD. 

We are often asked, ‘what is a normal grief reaction?’ We are also often told that everyone grieves differently, but if that is so, how can anyone’s personal grief reaction be ‘normal’?  Well, we recently attended a lecture by Dr Bob Baugher who introduced his ‘65 Reactions to Grief’. With so many different possible reactions it’s not surprising that there are an unlimited number of combinations that people can experience. No-one will have the same ones, and we may have different reactions at various times during our lifetimes. But yes, all of these reactions to loss are normal. So if you’re experiencing any of the 65 common reactions to grief listed below, be assured that you are not alone.  

We asked Dr Baugher if he would allow us to share this useful resource and he has written an article below about how he came up with his list.  We are grateful to him for allowing us to publish the reactions here. 

Grief: It’s More Than Just Boo-hooing

Bob Baugher, Ph.D.

We see it all the time, especially in movies: Someone has just experienced the death of a loved one and they are crying, upset, sad, perhaps inconsolable. Yet, here they are in the next scene all better. No tears, no sad looks and certainly no mention of the deceased. As you read this, you are probably thinking the same thing that my wife says when I point out this sudden apparent change from grief to “everything’s just fine:” She turns to me and says, “It’s just a movie.” True, but in hundreds of movies we see the same thing: 

death à  grief reactions  à  all better

I’ve met thousands of people who’ve experienced the death of a loved one. I’m not exaggerating: thousands. People who’ve suffered the death of parents, siblings, children, grandparents, spouses, relatives and friends. Some were ten or twenty years out. For others, it was yesterday. What I learned from these folks (and my own losses as well) was a critical fact that we all need to understand: grief is complex—it is a whole bunch of reactions, some of which are short-lived while others last a lifetime. So, I sat down and began compiling the reactions to the death of a loved one. I remember thinking, “OK, maybe 15 or 20. Thirty at the most.” By the time I was “done,” I ended up with a list of 65 grief reactions. I put done in quotes because there are surely more—perhaps upwards of 100. Who knows? I’ve put the list into five categories: Mind (Cognitive), Heart (Emotional), Spiritual, Other People (Social), and Physical (Somatic). As you look over the list, you might find yourself saying, "I experienced several of these after my loved one died, but that was years ago". No one experiences all of the reactions and most of these do fade with time. But, I’m willing to bet that most everyone experiences at least a few of these reactions most of their life. So, here it is – my list: 

65 Common Grief Reactions

Scroll down for details and links to further information. 

Common Reactions to Grief

Mind

1.  Denial

2.  Unreality 

3.  Time Distortion 

4.  Avoidance 

5.  Searching 

6.  Longing & Missing 

7.  Loss of Shared Knowledge Structure 

8.  Multiple Reminders

9.  Concentration Problems 

10. Memory Problems 

11. Obsessive Thoughts 

12. Rituals 

13. Confusion

14. Altered Sense of the Future 

15. Desire to Obtain More Information

16. Disruption of Social Clock 

17. Dreams and Nightmares 

18. Altered Beliefs 

19. Loss of Role 

20. Continued Questions


Heart

1. Shock 

2. Anxiety

3. Pain 

4. Fear 

5. Helplessness 

6. Anger

7. Guilt 

8. Deep Sadness/Depression 

9. Grief Attacks

10. Lousy

11. Empty

12. Lost


Spiritual

1. Questioning God

2. Questioning the Meaning of Life

3. Altered Sense of Just World

4. Altered Sense of Immortality

5. Hopelessness

6. Afterlife Beliefs

Other People

1.  Feeling Isolated

2.  Feeling Cursed

3.  Pain for Other Loved Ones

4.  Overwork

5.  Job Strains

6.  Avoiding Others

7.  Family Role Changes

8.  Individual Grieving Differences

9. Communication Problems

10. Withdrawal

11. Additional Family Changes


Physical

1.  Crying

2.  Gastrointestinal disturbances

3.  Loss or Gain of Weight

4.  Sleep Problems

5.  Sighing/Shortness of Breath

6.  Lack of Strength

7.  Physical Exhaustion/Lack of Energy

8.  Feelings of Heaviness

9.  Feelings of Emptiness

10. Feeling Something Stuck in the throat

11. Diminished Immune System Response

12. Heart Palpitations

13. Nervousness / Tension/ Restlessness

14. Increased Risk Behaviors

15. Sexual Desire Decrease or Increase

16. Searching for Something to Do

Dr Bob Baugher PhD is a psychologist and death educator.  As a grief counselor he has worked with those who have lost a spouse or their parents, as well as those who have lost children.  He has also trained more than 1500 people in suicide intervention. He has published many books and articles on coping with grief and has presented over 800 seminars and workshops including for the ‘Compassionate Friends’. He currently teaches at Highline College near Seattle, USA. You can find many more articles by Dr Baugher at his website: https://www.bobbaugher.com/

Recommended Read: 

Coping with Grief - A Guide for the Bereaved Survivor

Dr Baugher's book 'Coping with Grief' talks about all the of the grief reactions included on this page and makes suggestions on how to cope with each one.  

You can order it here.  

Coping with Grief by Dr Bob Baugher

Related Pages: 

How to Deal with Grief 

Emotions of Grief

Why Friends and Family Are So Bad at Helping You with Grief


Have You Considered Online Grief Counseling? 

Get Private and Confidential Help in the Privacy of Your Own Home

The following information about online counseling is sponsored by 'Betterhelp' but all the opinions are our own. To be upfront, we do receive a commission when you sign up with 'Betterhelp', but we have total faith in their expertise and would never recommend something we didn't completely approve.  

Do you feel alone and sad with no support and no idea how to move forward?  It can be tough when you are stuck in grief to find the motivation to get the most out of your precious life. 

Online counseling can help by giving you that support so you don't feel so alone. You can have someone to talk to anytime you like, a kind and understanding person who will help you to find meaning in life again, to treasure the memories of your loved one without being overwhelmed and to enjoy your activities, family and friends again.

  • Simply fill out the online questionnaire and you will be assigned the expert grief counselor most suitable for you.  It only takes a few minutes and you don't even have to use your name.  
  • Pay an affordable FLAT FEE FOR UNLIMITED SESSIONS.  
  • Contact your counselor whenever you like by chat, messaging, video or phone. 
  • You can change counselor at any time if you wish.
  • Click here to find out more and get started immediately. 
  • Or read more about how online counseling works here.  
Woman Crying. Get Started with Online Counselling

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Memorial Jewelry to Honour a Loved One

Check out our lovely range of memorial jewelry for any lost loved one.  Pendants, necklaces, rings or bracelets, we have them all in all kinds of styles.  Choose for yourself or buy as a sympathy gift. 

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Hypnosis for Grief - 10 Ways It Can Help You

Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind. Learn how self-hypnosis can help you cope with grief at any time of the day or night.  

Read more about it here. 


Create an Online Memorial Website

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