Why does grief hurt so much and how do you get through grief and loss? Welcome back to our home on the internet. In today’s article, I would like to share with you some thoughts on grief. Why does grief hurt so much? How do you cope with grief when it feels like it will never end? How do you look forward and move on. What is the right amount of time to allow yourself to go through your grieving process?
It takes time to process your grief; the period of mourning is different for everyone. Hopefully, you are able to emerge from the other side of grief, without your grief and mourning becoming who you are, and trapping you in a permanent cycle of loss and despair. Most importantly, just take comfort from the fact that there is a future for you, and it can be better. Even though your grief hurts so much now, the pain will pass.
It has been said that your pain in grief is proportional to the love you had for the people or things you have lost. So when you ask why does grief hurt so much, the pain you feel is a testament to the love you are able to give.
This article is another in the series about the energetic levels of the various emotional states we experience. These emotional states and their progression as we grow is illustrated in the book “Letting Go – The Pathway to Surrender” by David R. Hawkins. The previous article in this series, on apathy, can be found here
Please bear in mind that the contents of this article are not to be construed as any form of professional advice. The thoughts and information shared are purely the points of view of the author. This is my gift to you.
So What is Grief and How Does the Hurt Affect the Brain and Body?
Grief is your response to loss, it is the time taken to come to terms with bereavement. The trigger for grief can be caused by loss of a loved one, a relationship, your job, your pet; anything that has died or come to an end. Feelings of grief can be physical as well as emotional. For example, the physical sensations of your grief experience are caused by stress hormones flooding the body and can lead to pain and stiffness. Consequently, this is why grief can hurt so intensely.
Grief is a natural process where you allow yourself time to heal from the pain of loss. You need time to adapt to the new situation, following a loss of something or someone you love. When you are grieving the loss of someone, grief can hurt so much it can feel unbearable, and you may feel a yearning for things to reset to how they were before the grief cycle began.
The stressful nature of grief is caused when cortisol releases into your system. These elevated levels of cortisol can last as long as six months after you experience loss. This is why you may feel a lack of energy or even exhaustions during your mourning period.
Physical symptoms can be:
- low levels of energy and constant tiredness,
- headaches and excessive sleeping,
- excessive activity, if you try to keep yourself too busy.
Grief can cause you to become angry, distracted, forgetful and depressed.
Also, on a spiritual level you may experience issues of faith and anger at the universe.
The part of your brain most associated with grief is the amygdala, which processes your fight, flight or freeze response. This part of your brain is in the limbic area and is indicated in sadness, distress and threats such as separation and attachment.
The Five Stages of Grief and Hurt, (Or Seven).
Your grief is generally recognized to have seven stages, sometimes this is described as having five stages. Either way the stages are the same, but some stages are combined in the five-stage version.
Splitting your grief up into stages, makes it easier for you to understand where you are in your process. This division into stages can be different for different people and sometimes stages overlap, or are skipped over completely.
Just remember everyone processes their experiences and emotions in their own way. Moreover, you all experience some loss at various times in your life and grief is very personal. Loss is a wide-ranging concept which can include many situations. It is not limited to the death of a loved one. You experience grief and mourning as a result of any type of death, whether a person or a situation.
Studies have shown that loss of a relationship or career is as stressful as the death of a loved one.
For the purposes of our discussion let’s look at grief as having seven stages, rather than five, just to give more detail:
Stage 1: Shock.
The initial shock of finding out about, or having news of, your loss broken to you may cause a sense of numbness and lack of emotion initially, as your system of self-protection kicks in. This lack of emotion due to feelings of shock can last until the situation has sunk in fully. The shock you feel can add to why your grief can hurt so much.
Symptoms of shock in people who are grieving losing someone might be:
- Loss of appetite.
- Pain and shortness of breath.
- High blood pressure.
- Chest pain.
Over time these symptoms should become less intense. If they don’t, it would be time to consult with your healthcare practitioner, especially if they start to worsen.
Stage 2: Denial.
Denial is a common occurrence with the loss of a loved one. I remember when my wife died in a road accident in 2001, every day for several weeks afterwards, in the late afternoon my mind was half expecting her to come home from work.
Denial doesn’t mean that you don’t believe what has happened, your mind can play tricks on you because it is trying to solve this problem you are experiencing. It doesn’t know how to so, it gets creative and perhaps a little dysfunctional.
Stage 3: Anger.
Anger is a normal reaction to loss. Often you will try to hide or suppress your anger. You may even experience guilt when you feel anger, you may worry that your anger is not appropriate. Anger can be caused by a sense of helplessness brought about by unresolved issues, or things that were left unsaid, or undone.
It is important to allow any feelings of anger. It might be wise to talk this over with someone you trust or with a professional who can lead you through your anger. Counselling can be a good opportunity for you to express your anger in an appropriate way. It can also help you to understand where your anger is coming from. This may include feelings of abandonment or fear.
Well-meaning friends and others can sometimes be quite insensitive. There seems to be an expectation sometimes that you should be “in pieces.” If you are coping well, or hiding your sadness people may judge that you are not suffering enough. These well-meaning people are sometimes not happy until they have reduced you to tears. It may be that you want to shed your feelings of sadness and tears in private. This can be frustrating and lead to resentment and anger too. I had personal experience of this during my bereavement.
Stage 4: Bargaining.
This stage is sometimes called the “what if?” stage, where you try to rationalize what has happened. For example, you may have thoughts about what you could have done differently.
In this stage, you may have thoughts about guilt and blame. In the end, you have to accept what happened and realise that second guessing behavior and decisions made is not helpful.
“Should have, would have, could have,” is a pointless exercise. You are who you are at any moment in time. As a result, who you are being determines how you think and act. So you were not capable of acting in any other way than the way you did.
Realizing this is an opportunity to let go of guilt and blame. You can still learn and decide to choose differently in future, that is growth which leads to maturity and wisdom. Remember, death and grieving is part of life. Although you feel intense sadness over the person who died, time will heal and eventually, in your own time, you will get back on track.
Stage 5: Depression.
Your feeling of loss may cause you anxiety and fear, even dread of how you are going to continue after your loss. Consequently, you may lack motivation for even routine daily tasks.
Keeping yourself busy with a healthy routine will temporarily draw your focus of attention onto the daily tasks that you need to do to carry on with your life. Also, these short periods of preoccupation with routine tasks, provides a welcome break from your thoughts of loss. Movement is always good for overcoming depressive thoughts. The lack of action and paralysis of depression can cause grief to hurt deeply because of your natural focus on your grief.
The stress you feel together with your loss can lead to depression. If this is the case, it may be time to seek professional help.
Stage 6: Acceptance.
At some stage in your grieving process, you will realise that you cannot change what happened. As a result, there may be a realization that you can only control your response and how you want to move on. Subsequently, acceptance will hopefully get your grief to hurt less as time goes on.
Your acceptance of your situation may be fragile in the beginning, leading to some relapses into less positive feelings and emotions. This is not a sign that you are weak or unable to recover, it just means that you should be gentle with yourself and allow the process to unfold. Most importantly, the fact that you notice these lapses is a sign that you are making progress.
Everyone has their own way of processing life and you are no different from anybody else in this regard. Just know that this will pass in time, it is a learning experience, a gift of opportunity from a loved one. One day you will look back in gratitude and with a sense of achievement, even though the feelings of achievement and gratitude may be bittersweet.
Just know that there is a future for you and it can be better than the situation you find yourself experiencing at present. Time will help your grief to hurt less too.
Stage 7: Processing your Grief and Hurt.
There are two important things that determine your emotional wellbeing. The pictures you have in your mind, (your thoughts) and the words you tell yourself, (your inner conversations). These thoughts and words should build you up, not bring you down. You may have to make changes if this is not the case.
It is important to understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Likewise, there are different ways of expressing your grief that are helpful and make your grief hurt less, and ways that are not helpful. These depend on you as an idividual, we all grieve in our own way.
Routine is a great healer. Therefore, it is important to rebuild your routine as you go through your mourning process. This healthy routine will provide you with the feelings of safety and connection that you crave subconsciously. For some, to just get through each day can be a struggle when you cry a lot or feel numb.
For example, when my wife passed away, the best thing I did was to establish and build a routine for my five-year-old daughter.
The routine you build for yourself should include a practice where you concentrate on feeding positive pictures and kind, empowering words to your mind.
Positive pictures can be focusing on the good memories you have of the time before your loss.
Positive words could be to tell yourself “you’ve got this.”
Your routine should include looking after your diet and exercise too.
If at any stage you get to a situation where you are not coping or you feel a certain overwhelm, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. This could be in the form of medical help, a counselor, or even a support group.
What Would Your Loved Ones Want?
Your loved ones would want you to go on and be happy in your life. Use that to honor them and learn to be your best self. That is the best gift you can give them. Also, thoughts like this can make your grief hurt less.
Sometimes you may feel that there are things that were left unsaid before your loss occurred. Things you wanted to set right but didn’t get the opportunity to do.
If this is the case a simple way to resolve this is to write a letter to the person you want to make peace with. Put down your feelings and say whatever you want to say. Once you have written the letter, read it aloud to them and then burn it and let it turn completely to ash.
Subconsciously this letter writing exercise is a very effective way of letting go of your trapped emotions and can give you a measure of closure. As you write, let yourself feel all of the emotions intensely, whether you feel pain, guilt, fear of the future, whatever it is; feel this and write about it in your letter. If you shed a tear or two that is perfectly fine. Close the letter with all of the happy memories and tell the person what you loved about them. This is a very cathartic process which will help you to move on and make your grief hurt less. Don’t worry, they will hear you.
What is the hardest thing grieving someone who is still alive?
Loss in relationships where the other person is still around can be difficult, because there may be a necessary continued interaction, such as your role as a parent if you have gotten divorced or separated. Typically, we think of grieving and loss as a situation where the person or thing that you are grieving is gone, there is a finality in your loss. In the case where the other person is still alive, you are forced into a different situation and your grief can hurt just as much as when a loved one dies. Interaction may be necessary, which will prompt memories of how things used to be. This can hurt.
In these types of situations, it is helpful to look at what you want to achieve with the new relationship. How can you engage in such a way as to learn and grow from past mistakes. This distracts you from the hurt of grief and channels your thoughts in a more helpful direction.
Can You Take Positives from the Situation?
For example, if your attachment to your previous partner was the basis of you receiving validation, this can be an opportunity for you to determine to become more self reliant and to give yourself validation from within instead of looking for it outside of yourself. Seeking validation from other people and relationships is not healthy for your own self esteem and eventually leads to resentment, (on both sides), and sometimes even conflict.
You may want to look at your new dynamic as an opportunity to let go of the old emotional attachments. In this way you allow people and experiences to show up differently in your life.
Step Away from Previous Conflict.
Your divorce or separation gives you the opportunity to take a step away from conflict and to make a conscious decision to choose differently, to allow both of you to pursue your own happiness as individuals. This is a gift that you can exchange and acknowledge with gratitude, as it opens up wonderful possibilities for growth in both of you.
In this situation, it is still necessary to go through the five stages that you learned about earlier, but you may find yourself taking a little longer on some stages. This is because you may keep hope that your relationship can be repaired. This may or may not be the case; however you will have to do some honest soul searching to decide whether you want to reconcile, or move on.
Some Quotes About Grief and Hurt.
Here is a selection of quotes about grief, please give them some thought as you read them:
“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.”– Anne Roiphe.
“There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.”– Aeschylus.
“Tears are the silent language of grief.”– Voltaire.
“It takes strength to make your way through grief, to grab hold of life and let it pull you forward.”– Patti Davis.
“Great grief does not of itself put an end to itself.”– Seneca.
“Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”– Ovid.
“If the condition of grief is nearly universal, its transactions are exquisitely personal.”– Meghan O’Rourke.
“People in grief need someone to walk with them without judging them.”– Gail Sheehy.
“Tearless grief bleeds inwardly.”– Christian Nestell Bovee.
How Long Should Your Grieving Process Go On?
Your grieving process is unique and individual to you. Following the loss of someone, only you can go through the ups and downs of your personal relationships and the feelings associated with them. The hurt you feel in your grief may fluctuate too.
There are some schools of thought that grieving normally lasts between three and twelve months. Likewise, different people may experience different intensity of emotions around grief. What is important, is for you to allow and accept your emotions. Let them be and allow them to subside in their own time. Also, being able to talk to someone you trust, or seek help in processing your grief, will be helpful.
You may find that a significant anniversary of events that you remember, associated with the person you have let go, can trigger emotions to resurface. However, these emotions should become less intense with time and each anniversary. You might use occasions to remember the good times and be thankful that this person touched your life and for the times you had together. As a result, these fond memories can bring solace and soften the realization that they’re gone.
You will never forget the loss you have suffered, these times of intense emotion become a significant part of your expeieince of life. Unfortunately life is not fair and loss happens. In your own time, you will come to accept this and move on.
Frequently Asked Questions about Grief and Hurt.
Here is a compilation of the types of questions that people ask about grief and grieving. Take your time to go through these questions. Notice any questions that are similar to your own. If you do this you will realize that you are not alone. I hope that this realization brings you some level of comfort and perhaps the beginning of a realization that you can get through this sense of loss that you may be experiencing, however much hurt you feel in your grief.
Q. What is grief, and why does grief hurt so much?
A. Grief is a natural response to losing someone or something important in your life. It is the deep sorrow and pain you experience following a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or any significant life change. Grief hurts so much because it affects your whole body, releasing stress hormones that can lead to physical symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, and high blood pressure. Your intense sadness and yearning for the person who died, or the thing you’ve lost, can feel unbearable at times.
Q. What are the five stages of grief and hurt?
A. The five stages of grief, also known as the grief cycle, are commonly identified as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is essential to remember that not everyone experiences these stages in the same order, and some may not experience all of them. Grieving the loss of someone, or something, can be a complex and individual process.
Q. Is grief a natural part of life?
A. Grief is a natural response to loss. Losing someone you love, or something dear to you, is an inevitable part of the human experience. Understanding that grief is a normal response, can help you come to terms with your feelings and emotions, during the grieving process.
Q. How do people experience grief and loss?
A. People experience grief and loss differently. Some may feel numb, or in shock, following a loss. Others may feel intense sadnes,s or anger. It’s normal to cry a lot, or feel a range of emotions, when grieving. Grief often resurfaces, especially around anniversaries, or triggers associated with the loss.
Q. Is there a right or wrong way to grieve?
A. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is a deeply personal and unique experience for each individual. Some people may seek help and support from friends, loved ones, or support groups, while others may prefer to isolate themselves during the early stages of grief. It’s essential to allow yourself the time to heal and adapt to the loss in a way that feels right for you.
Q. What are some common symptoms of grief and hurt?
A. Grief can manifest in various ways, and you may experience a wide range of symptoms. Some common symptoms of grief include feelings of sadness, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, and stress-induced physical ailments such as headaches and stomachaches. It’s crucial to take care of yourself during this time by eating right, maintaining a healthy routine, and seeking help if needed.
Q. How long does the grieving process usually last?
A. The grieving process is unique to each person, there is no set timeline for how long it should last. Some individuals may start to feel better after a few weeks or months, while others may take years to come to terms with the loss fully. Grief may become less intense over time, but it can resurface on special occasions or moments associated with the person who died, or the thing that was lost.
Q. What is complicated grief, and when should someone seek help?
A. Complicated grief is a prolonged and intense form of grief that may hinder your ability to function and move forward in life. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, helplessness, and numbness. If you find it challenging to get through each day, experiences unresolved grief, or feel stuck in your grief for an extended period, it may be beneficial to seek professional help, or join support groups, to find solace and assistance in coping with your emotions.
Q. How can I support someone who is grieving the loss of someone or something important?
A. Supporting someone who is grieving requires empathy, patience, and understanding. Let them know that their feelings are valid and that you are there to listen without judgment. Offer practical help with daily tasks, such as cooking or running errands. Allow them to talk about their feelings and memories if they feel comfortable doing so. Respect their need for space and privacy, but also let them know that you are available whenever they want to talk, or need support.
Q. Does grief affect behavior?
A. Grief can significantly impact a person’s behavior. People in grief may experience mood swings, withdrawal from social activities, changes in eating and sleeping habits, and difficulty concentrating. It’s essential to be patient and compassionate with someone who is grieving, understanding that their behavior is a normal response to their loss.
Q. Is there a momentary relief from grief and hurt?
A. Grief is an ongoing process, and it may not completely go away. However, there can be moments of temporary relief when the intensity of grief subsides or when someone feels moments of solace, or distraction, from their pain. These moments are a natural part of the grieving process, and it’s okay to experience them along with the ups and downs of emotions.
Q. How can I get back on track after experiencing grief and loss?
A. Getting back on track after a significant loss takes time and patience. Allow yourself to grieve and feel your emotions without judgment. It’s essential to create a healthy routine. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Seek help or professional support if needed. Remember that healing is a gradual process. It’s okay to take small steps toward rebuilding your life after loss.
Remember, while this FAQ provides information on common experiences associated with grief, it is essential to seek medical advice and support from professionals, if you, or someone you know, is struggling with complicated grief, or experiencing severe physical or emotional symptoms, following a loss.
Last Words on The Pain of Grief.
In the midst of your grief, it is important to remember who you are. You are not your body, your experiences, your thoughts and emotions or your relationships. The true “You”, deep in there, is far greater than any of these things. You are love, you are pure conscious awareness.
Your purpose in life is to experience, so you can learn and grow. As you do this the whole universe changes, this is how powerful you are.
As you experience, you have emotions. These emotions add intensity and flavor to your experience. As experience passes, your job is to let go of the emotions so that they do not become stuck in your heart and cause prolonged, unnecessary pain and suffering.
Remember Life and Death are a Cycle.
The cycle of life is exactly that, a cycle. Death comes as certainly as birth and the life in between. If you were aware that you are pure consciousness within the oneness of the universe you would not fear death, your own or anyone else’s.
But sometimes you forget who you are and you start to think that you are your body and your relationships; your ego takes control of who you think you are. This is the lesser you that lives in limit, fear, separation and need.
Part of the emotional experience is to let it be without thought. Just be in that space and allow both the experience and the emotion to pass through and fade naturally.
Try to let Your Thoughts Go.
If you are without thought, you merely observe without perception and judgment. Perception and judgment are of the ego and are flawed. Conscious awareness is all knowing, it knows that everything is as it should be and that experience is not good or bad, it just is.
As you move through the various stages of your grief and mourning, try to do so without thinking about it. Your thoughts are your brain trying to come up with solutions to your situation, which it cannot change, so it loops endlessly trying to solve an impossible problem. Use the distraction of a healthy routine to divert your thoughts to something helpful.
Acknowledge your feelings, allow them to be, feel them and let them pass. As they pass let them go and be grateful for the teaching received.
If you are going through a period of loss in your life, I hope these words have given you some comfort and perhaps a different perspective on your feelings and emotions.
Just as the seasons come and go – this too will pass. The sun will still come up tomorrow and with that sunrise. You will shine on too.
With love as always
Richard H Morris.
Nothing in this post should be interpreted as any form of professional advice. The content herein is provided for information and entertainment purposes only, and merely reflects the research done and opinions expressed by the Author. We do make use of affiliate links in our content, should you decide to buy something through one of our links we will receive a commission at no additional cost to the Purchaser.