The days are becoming shorter now and the mornings are becoming crisper, fall is on the way. Many of us look forward to the comforts of the fall season such as comfy sweaters, backyard fire pits, and pumpkin spice everything. However, for those in acute grief there is more of a sense of dread rather than a sense of comfort for this season. The shorter days hint at the reality that seasons continue to change, and life is moving forward no matter how hard we want time to stand still.

Acute grief occurs in the immediate months following the death of a loved one. It is marked by a variety of emotions that feel disorienting to the bereaved, these emotions can be overwhelming and sometime unmanageable. Those in the midst of acute grief often say they feel like they are walking around in the eye of a tornado; around them are swirling all the overwhelming feelings and emotions and there is no rhyme or reason when you will be hit by a particular feeling or emotion.

Those emotions swirling around the bereaved in the tornado can be sadness, anxiety, pain, helplessness, anger, shame, yearning, loneliness, guilt, remorse, and regret. This tornado can also include states of disbelief and shock, intrusions, and efforts to avoid intrusions and the spike of emotions they produce. People may also experience some symptoms that are similar to depression such as social isolation, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, disruptions in sleep and appetite, low energy, irritability, and depressed mood.

“The acute responses to loss are not unhealthy or maladaptive responses. Rather they are normal responses to an abnormal event.” Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS. Despite the feelings of helplessness that some have, there are actions bereaved can take.

Understand grief and that you are walking around in your tornado. Have compassion that you have a right to feel the way you are feeling, no matter how uncomfortable and painful it is. Your loved one has died, and you have a right to grieve and mourn your loss, no matter how that may manifest itself.

Take care of your physical self. Grief emotions take its toll and bereaved need to pay attention to the physical self. Eating healthy, drinking water, and getting a restful night’s sleep are ways that bereaved can gather the strength they will need to weather their storm.

Seek and accept support from anyone who offers. Family, friends, neighbors, church communities, and support groups may reach out. Accept their love. Their love and support will also help you gain the strength as you weather the storm of your tornado.

Kelly Karavousanos, LPC, CT
Director, Grief Services
Center for Hope & Healing