What Is Normal?

What is normal and/or healthy?
Every grief is an intimate and intensely personal experience. And although every relationship is unique, making every grief experience unique, there are some common observations we can make.
Initially, when a loss occurs, the griever often enters a kind of dissociative state where reality feels unreal, like a bad dream one cannot wake up from. Cognitively, you know the person is gone, but you cannot  truly process the information or totally grasp it emotionally.
This feeling can last much longer than most people believe.  It can take six months to a year (especially if the loss is sudden) before we finally understand that the person is dead and never coming back.
Once this realization fully sinks in, the most painful aspect of grief begins.  This is the time when most mourners say they feel like they are going crazy…like they are coming apart physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.  Most people are shocked to learn that grief is such a physical experience—deeply embedded in the body as well as in the mind and  spirit.
People at this point literally feel pain in their bodies, mostly in their chest and/or gut. They sigh often, feel exhausted, have headaches, and experience disturbed sleep and/or appetite. They experience anhedonia and loss of sexual desire. Their immune system is depressed as well.
Most people experience many cognitive symptoms as well..disorientation, confusion, forgetfulness, impaired concentration and attention, preoccupation, rumination, and obsessiveness.

Emotionally, the griever suffers acutely. There is much pain and crying, often accompanied by bitterness, self pity, guilty, hostility, rage, emptiness, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, panic.

Many grievers want to die (this is not the same as contemplating suicide). Socially, withdrawl and isolation are common, and there are times in grief where every relationship in a person’s constellation is disturbed.

In a basically healthy person, this rollercoaster ride of grief will gradually abate and soften over time, giving way to a sense of inner reorganization of self.
These experiences are not to be thought of as rigid, discrete segments that get played out in an orderly fashion. It is often the case that people go back and forth into places with soft and blurry boundaries, experiencing grief in waves that ebb and flow.