What is “normal” when grieving?

Take another little piece of my heart now, baby
Oh, oh, break it
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, yeah, yeah
“Take Another Little Piece of My Heart” – Janice Joplin

Janice Joplin’s famous song put a physical touch on the emotional term of heartbreak. Emotions can have a very real effect on our body. I get asked all the time what is “normal” when grieving so I have put together some of the very “normal” responses to grieving:

Grief and Exhaustion – An early symptom of grief is exhaustion to such a level that we feel incapable of doing anything.

Difficulty Thinking Clearly – Anyone who has had to make funeral arrangements can tell you that grief is a big hindrance to thinking clearly and rationally. Even logical decision makers get caught in this “mental fog”.

Sense of Being Alone – The feeling of being isolated or alone often pervades our thoughts.

Depression and Substance Abuse – Clinical studies show that 25% of people who lose a spouse become clinically depressed within the first year after the death.

Heart Health and Immunity – Did you know that within the first 24 hours after the death of a loved one, you have a 21 fold increase in experiencing an acute heart attack? Your immune system can also be lowered increasing your risk for illness. Heartbreak, as Ms. Joplin sings about, is in fact a very real occurrence.

What can you do? The first is to remember that grief is as strong as love. If you love hard, you grieve hard, and there is no way around that. Second, you need to remember that you need to take care of yourself. There are many things to do but in the end, many forget to take care of the most important element in the process, themselves. Third, remember that grief shared is grief diminished. We hurt over the loss of a relationship. Relationships will help us heal that hurt.

Don’t be afraid to grieve, don’t be afraid to be selfish and care for yourself, and don’t be afraid to reach out and let others help. In the end, grief is much like life, love and laughter. It is meant to be shared, not experienced alone, and that is perfectly normal.