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Symptoms of grief

Moving through grief

Everyone mourns in their own way and at their own pace. And each parent can react in ways that are both similar and dissimilar.

Listed below are some common symptoms of grief, which include physiological, emotional, behavioral and cognitive changes that can fluctuate in intensity. These changes should diminish over time and eventually subside.

People don’t usually experience all of the symptoms of grief listed below. The experience of grief varies from person to person and can be different at different times in your life.

In adaptive bereavement, the frequency, intensity and duration of these emotionally-driven changes will decrease over time. Grief can be complex, but without blockage. Some parents will experience very high stress and others will experience chronic stress because of cumulative stress.

Symptoms of grief1

Reproduced with permission of the author: Jacques, Josée (1998). Psychologie de la mort et du deuil. [Psychology of death and bereavement]. Mont-Royal: MODULO.


  • Headache
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Contraction in the throat or chest
  • Muscle weakness (adynamia)
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Dry throat
  • Hypersensitivity to noises
  • Hypertension
  • Palpitations
  • Disrupted appetite
  • Sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Tremors
  • Inner emptiness
  • Blurred vision


  • Ambivalence
  • Bitterness
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Boredom
  • Frustration
  • Insecurity
  • A sense of betrayal
  • Solitude
  • Relief
  • Sadness


  • Alcoholism, bulimia
  • Attachment or avoidance of symbols of the deceased
  • Automatism
  • Distraction
  • Hostility
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impatience
  • Isolation
  • Crying
  • Propensity for addiction
  • Searching for the deceased
  • Withdrawal
  • Dreams, nightmares
  • Nervous laughter
  • Sighing
  • Disrupted sleeping
  • Excessive talking


  • Lack of meaning
  • Concentration issues
  • Confusion
  • Doubt and disbelief
  • State of shock
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Idealization
  • Identification
  • Impression of the presence of the deceased at their side
  • Negation of reality
  • Memories

Grief can be complicated

Emotional reactions are expected to fade and diminish over time when you are mourning.

If, on the contrary, these feelings persist and become worse or if you feel stuck in a phase of grief, you should consult a health professional and talk to your doctor.

You can also call your CLSC or contact Info-Santé at any time by dialing 8-1-1. We strongly encourage you to also inform your partner or someone who you are close to.

If you have suicidal thoughts, you should go to the nearest emergency room. We recommend that you inform your partner AND your doctor.


Reactions to grief

Questions addressed in this video:

  • Is the risk of depression higher after perinatal bereavement?
  • What are the signs of depression to watch out for?
  • Does perinatal bereavement make you start questioning your life and others?

Dealing with emotions

Questions addressed in this video:

  • Is it common to feel guilty?
  • What can help parents who experience this loss of control?
  • How do you regain a “normal” life or return to “normal”?
  • How do you deal with happy events, like a baby shower?

Grief and fertility

Question addressed in this video:

  • Is the parents’ bereavement different with a pregnancy that was created through assisted reproduction?

About this page
Updated on 12/10/2019
Created on 11/7/2019
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