WHAT IS GRIEF by Sandra Howlett, Ed.D.

Grief is a natural, normal response to death loss.  It is not a mental illness.  Grief has it’s own timetable and it is different for everyone.  One thing almost everyone agrees on is that it is longer and harder than anyone wants it to be. For most people, the first year is the hardest as one faces life and new experiences without their loved one, often for the first time.  Part of this year may seem like walking in a fog as grief affects one’s ability to concentrate, think clearly, remember and make decisions.  There are both physiological and psychological reasons why this happens and it is normal.

Usually there are friends and family around for support in the first few days and weeks.  Once they return to their own lives and families, a different phase of grief begins.  For many people, around 6-9 months after the death of their loved one, another intense wave of grief often occurs.  This happens when they thought they were getting back on track and often catches them off guard.  If this has happened to you, know that it is normal.  The brain’s initial protective anesthetic chemistry has subsided and the larger reality of the loss begins to register.  This is normal and will subside with time and work.

Grief work is hard and takes much energy.  Be gentle to yourself.  Get plenty of rest. Eat healthy foods.  Exercise. Let people help you and stretch by asking for help.  This is a journey — a hard one and an inevitable one. Life will get better though it will be different.  You will survive.


Dr. Sandi is the Bereavement Specialist for Hansen Mortuary in Scottsdale and Phoenix Arizona,   She may be reached at [email protected]