The Weight of Grief

This beautiful illustration tries to capture what grief physically feels like in the body.
This beautiful illustration tries to capture what grief physically feels like in the body.


Loss is an integral part of being human. Loss is also one of the most dreaded parts of being human. As humans we seek out relationships and form emotional bonds and special connections with others (people and pets). When these bonds are broken through death, it may feel like a part of us died with that person or animal.

Life continues, whilst you struggle to breath

Perhaps one of the strangest feelings about loss is that we have to continue living even though we may feel like we are dying inside. Your world has stopped, but the world around you continues as if nothing has happened. People are still sharing funny videos on facebook, taxis continue to cut in front of you in traffic, coffee shops buzz with chatter, and all the while you feel trapped in a bubble that contains your heavy, dying world inside. I often hear clients say that they struggle the most with this paradox. The outside world doesn’t match their inside world. The world feels surreal.

I think part of the reason why it seems so surreal that the world continues with it’s hustle and bustle whilst your world comes crashing down, is that you are faced head on with the reality that we are all going to die, including all of our loved ones. Now, I know that we all know we are going to die, but do we really? It seems as if we live life thinking that we have forever. We miss out on opportunities now because we think we can take them up later. What if we don’t have a later?  This is just one of the things that people who are grieving are faced with, along with a number of other heavy and overwhelming emotions. People who have lost a loved one realize that on some level, which might not even be conscious to them, that we are all going to die and that life is a very serious and finite matter.

Death Anxiety

The realness of life hits the bereaved harder than the everyday person standing in the queue at the grocery store. Thoughts such as “this is so trivial and meaningless” may enter their minds as people carry on with business as usual. Irvin Yalom, a world renowned psychologist, calls this brush with reality “death anxiety”. Death anxiety mingles in with the overwhelming feelings of loss and can add extra weight to the grieving process, a weight which the average individual cannot comprehend. Now, it’s not because they are incapable of comprehending the real fact that they, and all their loved ones, will die, no, it’s because we use protective mechanisms to distract ourselves from death anxiety. After all, it would be unhealthy to live each moment frozen in the fear that we are going to die. We need to also live.

Grief is Lonely

People who have loved lost ones live in this state of frozen anxiety about death. They struggle with the idea that the world can carry on as normal. Being in this state makes bereavement a very lonely and isolating process. After all, how do you relate to someone who complains about the traffic when you have experienced this significant loss and are faced daily with a debilitating death anxiety? A loss that makes your body physically feel like it is filled with stones. Paralyzed. Immobile. Still. Not part of this world.

What do you guys think? Does grief feel like a body weighted down by stones? Please share with us your experience of loss and the grieving process. Have you been faced with death anxiety? What does it feel like?

For more information on loss and grief, please click on the Loss and Grief Therapy page.

Looking forward to hearing people’s experience of loss, death anxiety and the feeling of grief in the body.


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