Grief and Traumatic Experiences


Grief is how people respond to loss. All people encounter loss in their lives, a divorce in the family, a change of jobs, loss of relationships, seeing our children move away from home, dealing with a chronic illness or physical condition, experiencing the death of a loved one, and aging.  People respond to losses by grieving physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.

When a traumatic situation or a community-wide crisis takes place, a shooting, a bombing, a suicide, a natural disaster, etc., people grieve. People should expect to experience grief reaction when abnormal events like these take place.  

Grieving is as natural as crying when you are hurt, sleeping when you are tired, eating when you are hungry, or sneezing your nose when it itches. It is nature’s way of healing a broken heart.”

- Don’t Take my Grief Away from Me by Doug Manning


  • EmotionalReactions 
  • Separation pain, sadness, sorrow 
  • Despair, depression, hopelessness 
  • Guilt, regret 
  • Fear, pain, anxiety, insecurity 
  • Yearning and pining 
  • Feeling powerless & out of control 
  • Anger, irritability 
  • Loneliness, feeling abandoned 
  • Ambivalence -Relief 

Physical Reactions 

  • Eating changes (eating little or lots) 
  • Sleep changes (too much or too little) 
  • Fatigue, lethargy 
  • Lack of strength 
  • Decreased sexual interest or hyper-sexuality 
  • Tightness in chest or heaviness of heart 
  • Tightness in throat, difficulty swallowing 
  • Shaking, twitching, trembling 
  • Headaches, backaches, chest pains 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Dizziness, dry mouth 
  • Hot flashes, cold sweats 
  • Nausea, diarrhea, acid reflux disorder

Behavioral Reactions 

  • Searching behavior for the deceased 
  • Restless and hyperactive behavior 
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Crying frequently 
  • Increased amount of sighing 
  • Decreased effectiveness at work or with personal interests 
  • Avoidance of people or places that remind the bereaved of the deceased 
  • Acting-out behavior (sexually acting out, drugs) 
  • Self-destructive behaviors (driving too fast, drinking, mixing alcohol and medicine) 
  • Clinging behavior -Change in life-style


  • Bewilderment, disbelief 
  • Confusion, disorganization 
  • Preoccupation with the deceased 
  • Impaired decision-making ability, impaired concentration
  • Meaninglessness, Senselessness
  • Lowered self-esteem, feeling inadequate 
  • Diminished self-concern 
  • Lack of motivation or interest in things or people 
  • Pessimism 
  • Spiritual confusion or questioning 
  • Increased spirituality

* These materials were adapted with gratitude from

Faith Lutheran Church - 155 Boyson Road, Marion, IA 52302 - 319.377.9700