Understanding Grief Responses: Navigating the Multifaceted Journey

When grief enters your life, the grief responses can feel overwhelming and all-consuming. Whether it stems from a personal loss or the loss of someone you love, grief manifests in many unique ways. It may feel temporary or permanent, and each experience is distinct. Our reactions to grief are multifaceted, encompassing cognitive, physical, emotional, behavioural, spiritual, and economic dimensions. To heal, we must work through all these aspects.

Cognitive Grief Reactions

Grief often brings a whirlwind of thoughts that can leave you feeling confused and isolated. Common cognitive reactions include:

  • Self-blame: “It’s my fault. I’m to blame.”
  • Abandonment: “I feel abandoned.”
  • Concentration issues: “I can’t concentrate.”
  • Doubt: “Is this normal? Am I going crazy?”
  • Forgetfulness: Losing things, forgetting appointments or events.
  • Inability to focus: Struggling to engage with tasks.

These thoughts are natural, but they can be challenging to navigate alone.

Physical Grief Responses

Grief can manifest physically, with your body often bearing the burden of your emotional pain. Symptoms may include:

  • Aches and pains: General discomfort throughout the body.
  • Digestive issues: Gut problems.
  • Headaches and dizziness: Accompanied by dry mouth, which might be related to thirst or hunger.
  • Skin conditions: Such as rashes or breakouts.
  • Accidents: Increased likelihood of slips, trips, and falls.

Recognising these symptoms as part of the grieving process can be the first step towards addressing them.

Emotional Grief

Emotions can run high during grief, with a wide range of feelings surfacing, such as:

  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Relief
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Jealousy
  • Shame

Understanding that these emotions are a natural part of grief can help in coping with them.

Social Grief Responses

Grief can also affect your social interactions. You might feel different from your friends, and others may treat you differently. Common social reactions include:

  • Feeling isolated or misunderstood.
  • Experiencing invalidation or minimization of your loss: “Aren’t you over it yet?” or “But he was just a dog!”

These reactions can deepen your sense of loneliness, but seeking out supportive communities or individuals who understand can make a significant difference.

Behavioural Reactions

Grief can lead to changes in behaviour, often as a way to cope with the pain. Some maladaptive coping mechanisms include:

  • Eating patterns: Eating more or less than usual.
  • Sleep disturbances: Difficulty sleeping, sleeping during the day, too much sleep, not enough sleep, or nightmares.
  • Self-soothing behaviours: Using alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, or overspending to cope.

Knowing these behaviours can help you find healthier ways to manage your grief.

Economic Implications

Grief can also impact your financial situation, leading to economic stress or changes in wealth. You might experience:

  • Loss of earnings due to caregiving responsibilities or forced retirement due to ill health or disability.
  • Financial difficulties following the death of a partner or spouse.
  • Challenges managing an inheritance or increased wealth.

Addressing these economic changes is crucial to alleviating financial stress during an already difficult time.


Grief is a complex, multifaceted experience that affects every aspect of our lives. Understanding the various dimensions of grief reactions—cognitive, physical, emotional, social, behavioural, and economic—can help you navigate this challenging journey. Remember, it’s essential to give yourself grace and seek support as you work through your grief. Each person’s experience is unique, and there’s no right or wrong way to grieve.

How Can Changes in Between Assist?

With over 25 years of professional, academic, and lived experience in the fields of grief, loss, change, and transition, I understand how hard and isolating it can feel. Together, through grief counselling or grief coaching, we can work on identifying the dimensions of grief to gain a fundamental understanding of your experience of grief. Then, we can work toward moving through grief to honour your loss, rebuild your life, and find your place.

Ready to take the next step, book a brief enquiry call.