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.
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:
Scroll down for details and links to further information.
3. Time Distortion
6. Longing & Missing
7. Loss of Shared Knowledge Structure
8. Multiple Reminders
9. Concentration Problems
10. Memory Problems
11. Obsessive Thoughts
14. Altered Sense of the Future
15. Desire to Obtain More Information
16. Disruption of Social Clock
17. Dreams and Nightmares
18. Altered Beliefs
20. Continued Questions
1. Questioning God
2. Questioning the Meaning of Life
3. Altered Sense of Just World
4. Altered Sense of Immortality
6. Afterlife Beliefs
1. Feeling Isolated
2. Feeling Cursed
3. Pain for Other Loved Ones
6. Avoiding Others
7. Family Role Changes
8. Individual Grieving Differences
9. Communication Problems
11. Additional Family Changes
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/
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.
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