Is this normal?

Grief affects us all in different ways. It's important to remember there is no 'normal' way to grieve.

The many different aspects of grief can come as a shock. One of the most common questions we get asked is ‘is this normal?’

Here are some of the experiences you might have after a death that might worry or surprise you.

Is it normal to…

It’s normal to see a person who has died. You might also hear their voice, sense their presence, or even find yourself talking to them. It can often happen when you least expect it. This often happens because your mind has temporarily forgotten they’ve died or because your brain is trying to process the death and acknowledge the finality of it. 

Anger is a completely normal part of grief. You may find yourself facing family, financial and domestic responsibilities which you don’t feel able to cope with.

You may feel angry with someone you feel is responsible in some way for the death. You may feel angry with the person who died for leaving you. These are all normal responses to feeling out of control, powerless and abandoned.

You might feel very anxious after someone dies. This often includes feeling panicky, breathless or having palpitations. A full panic attack can be a very frightening experience. It can make you feel dizzy or confused, faint or even be sick. 

It’s normal to keep replaying the details of someone’s death in your head. Particularly where the death was sudden, unexpected or traumatic. This is the mind’s way of dealing with what happened.

However sometimes after a traumatic experience people become very disturbed by mental images, which in a severe form can become Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is when it might be time to ask for help. 

It’s normal to feel numb in the days after someone dies.  Shock can have this effect, and you might carry on at first as if nothing has happened. It is hard to believe that someone important is not coming back.

Many people feel disorientated – as if they have lost their place and purpose in life or are living in a different world. 

People react to grief in very different ways. Some people find they cry very frequently and may be overwhelmed by the strength of their emotions.

Others may feel numb for some time, or feel unable to cry. Some people experience swings between extremes. You might find that these differences can cause conflict as people experience conflicting emotions at the same time. But it’s important to remember all of these reactions are normal. It doesn’t reflect how you felt about the person who died.

After someone dies, you might experience aches, pains, nausea and other symptoms of illness. These are all normal reactions to grief but can be very distressing. 

It’s normal to have trouble sleeping after someone dies. You might be frightened to go to sleep because of bad nightmares. Or you might find it difficult to get to sleep because your mind is racing. Sometimes, you may dream that the person who died is still alive and find waking up to be painful.

You may not feel like eating in the early days after someone dies. It may feel difficult to swallow and food can taste strange. This is completely normal, but if it continues after several weeks it might be time to talk to your GP.

It’s also common after a death to want to eat lots of foods that feel comforting to you. This is okay. It’s okay if your diet looks like a little different now. The most important thing is that you’re eating something.

But if you do find you’re eating a lot of food over a short period of time until you’re uncomfortably full, you might find it useful to talk to your GP.