6 Ways Grief Can Make You Wonder If You’ll Ever Be OK


With the holidays and early winter being statistically the most popular season to die, late winter can be a time of grief for many survivors left to face life without a loved one – an experience that can feel overwhelming, destabilizing, and confusing. We all know that it is normal to feel sad for a while when we lose a loved one, but grief is often much bigger than just sadness, making it hard to feel like yourself. You might even wonder if you are crazy, and mentally ill. At its worst, grief can make you wonder if you’ll ever be OK.

You’re not crazy if you feel it; grief is real, and grief is suffered.

It means you loved someone, deeply. The experience of losing someone you love can make you wonder if you’ll ever be ok, especially facing life now that everything is different. More than just being sad, grief can have many different faces, affects each of us differently, and is a process to be experienced.

Understanding and recognizing some of the surprising aspects of normal grief can help you understand what you’re experiencing so you can take at least one thing off your overflowing plate: you don’t need to worry about going crazy.

Here are 6 Ways Grief Affects Your Life That Are Normal, Natural & Often Unpreventable

#1 Grief and Your Emotions

Deep sadness, and gut-wrenching pain, pave the road of missing a loved one you weren’t ready to let go. Of course, you want them back. You want things how they were, and don’t want to change – every time you think of the future without them, the tears keep coming. 

Sometimes tears feel like they won’t stop, which can be unsettling, even scary. You might wonder if you will ever stop crying… will you ever be ok?  You will, but it will take time and the pace of healing is different for each of us. In the meantime, know that shedding tears is one of the most efficient things you can do to facilitate healing.

#2 Feeling Like You Don’t Care 

Grief can feel physically heavy, like you are walking through quicksand, literally, at times. You do your best to go through the motions everyday, but things take longer and everything feels harder. Your energy only goes so far, and it just doesn’t feel like you have enough. Worse, you might not care. Grieving is hard work, and it takes a toll on your energy, focus, and drive.  The good news is that with time, you will regain your interests and energy as you adjust to your new reality.

#3 Grumpiness & Moodiness

Coping with loss can make even the most easy-going person short of patience. Life just isn’t right anymore, and wrestling with this new reality can leave you feeling irritable and distracted. This simmering frustration can loom in the background of everything you do, consuming more of your precious energy than you might imagine. This can leave you with less energy and patience than you need for others, and yourself. 

Understanding the physical and emotional causes of your irritability can help you recognize what’s going on for you. As you work through loss, aim to mitigate irritability by prioritizing self-care. 

#4 Grief Fog

Grief can make it hard to sustain attention and concentrate, leaving you as mentally exhausted as you are physically so. This might be one of the most distressing aspects of grief: feeling mentally depleted at a time when you need all of your resources to cope.

Not only do life’s responsibilities march on during grief, but death can usher in even more responsibilities for survivors. Laying a loved one – and their affairs – to rest requires focus, energy, attention to detail, and patience at a time when you simply aren’t at your best. Try not to worry if everything feels a bit harder than it should, or if you can’t accomplish the things you usually can. 

Grief can make you wonder if you’ll ever be ok, but remember, you will be. You may not be at your best, but you’re not crazy; you’re experiencing grief. When mental fog strikes, look for places where you can reduce expectations of yourself, whether cutting corners, or putting off nonessential tasks.

#5 Grief is Shared

Losing a loved one is a family affair, and often occurs in the context of having to care for others while caring for yourself. Moreover, family discord can be fueled by a shared loss, as painful emotions and their typical coping mechanisms, run their course. Remembering you are not alone can help bolster compassion for your loved ones, and for yourself.

#6 Sleep Changes

Not only is grief emotionally draining, but it can be physically draining too. Sleep can be a victim of grief: it can become increasingly hard to go to and stay sleep, and for some, sleep doesn’t even feel restful. Dreams tend to amplify as you cope with this new reality, and loved ones are often the subject of these wishful dreams. This can make it harder to wake up and face anew the realities of loss. Try not to get spooked by your dreams – they are your mind’s way of processing loss and adjust to your new reality.

In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed what she called the five stages of grief that can occur along the path to healing from a loss. In addition to elucidating the various expressions of loss, her model highlights grief as a fluid process, rather than a static event, as well as one that is different for everyone.

Remembering grief is a unique experience for each of us can help you accept whatever path yours takes. The more gentle you are with yourself and the process, the smoother it will all go.  Even though grief can make you wonder if you’ll ever be ok, it’s important to remember that you will.

Being gentle can also involve getting help if you are stuck. There are numerous counselors, support groups, and other community resources dedicated to grief help often accessed by a quick google search, or a call to a trusted friend in-the-know. Asking for help when you need it is sometimes one of the bravest things you can do to take care of yourself even if grief is making you wonder if you’ll ever be ok. 

Grieving takes time, and goes smoothest when it has space, time, and most importantly, love. At its core, grief is about love. The love for the departed that lives on in your heart, and the love that person had for you that lives on in you. Showing love to yourself and others is one of the best ways to honor the love you shared, and facilitate the healing you need. 

It will happen – give it love.

Grief FAQs

What does grief feel like?

The experience of grief is different for everyone, the severity of which tends to relate to the closeness you felt with your loved one when they were alive. Acute grief is a full-body sad-to-your-bones experience of ongoing sadness, tearfulness, despair that can feel physically painful, disorientation, irritability, fatigue, and mental fogginess. You can experience some or all of these symptoms, and they can be nonstop or come in waves. There is no one right or wrong way to grieve. So long as you are facing your loss and aware of your feelings, you are grieving. 

Does grief cause brain fog?

The world seems to stop when a loved one passes away, and grief becomes a round-the-clock mental priority. Nothing feels more important to you than grieving and nothing really is. Grief takes over your life in order to help you cope, and survive. And this process is exhausting. 

In addition to its emotional and physical toll, grief can also exhaust your mind, leaving you feeling foggy and unlike yourself. This mental exhaustion, sometimes referred to as brain fog, can make it hard to focus, think clearly, and remember things. At a time when you need every resource you have, brain fog can be scary and frustrating. 

The important thing to remember is that your brain will heal, and your cognitive exhaustion will abate. This is not your new normal, and you will feel like yourself again. In the meantime, know your brain is working hard to help you process this loss and needs rest and care to do its job. Aim to be patient with yourself and put off any tasks you can until you feel more like yourself. 

Why does grief come in waves?

Thoughts of your loved one tend to take over in the wake of a loss, with memories and sadness surfacing often. Anything can remind you of your loved one, triggering a wave of grief as your emotions come flooding back and overtake you. One minute you’re living your new reality, the next, you’re whisked back into the past and grieving your loss like it just happened. Whether it’s a memory of your loved one, or a remembering of your grief itself, when you get triggered to remember, your feelings will always follow. And this is how grief can seem like it comes in waves, unpredictability flashing up as memories are triggered and overcoming you with emotion, then calming down and passing. 

These waves of grief are thought to represent the emotional experience of reconciling two very different realities: the life you have known and lived before the loss, and your life afterwards, without your loved one. Feelings about this grueling transition tend to be most intense and frequent at the beginning of bereavement, and slowly diminish in both intensity and frequency with time and acceptance. 

Can grief cause anxiety?

With few experiences threatening our internal sense of stability and safety more than grief, anxiety and grief go hand in hand. To grieve is to feel uncertainty and fear. There is simply no way to process life getting turned upside down without feeling disoriented, and spooked. Moreover, you may feel understandably afraid of what life will be like now, and if you can cope. The uncertainties of life after a loss are real, and it can take time to regain the sense of control you need to cope. Instead of getting spooked by your grief anxiety, try instead to be patient with yourself. Simply remembering anxiety is a normal part of grieving can help you manage and work through it. 

For many, anxiety can be a challenging component of grief, and complicate the healing journey, especially when your anxiety keeps you feeling trapped in negative feedback loops. 

When it comes to managing catastrophic thinking my online interactive course Breaking Free From Obsessions Solution can help. Designed to help you take control of never-ending worries and the feedback loops that support them, this course can help you take control so you can find the peace of mind and confidence you crave, starting right now. Click here to claim your spot.


Updated January 18, 2024

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD


  1. Sagess on April 13, 2018 at 2:14 am

    People who are grieving are SO SICK of Kubler Ross’s ‘stages of grieving’…..she never meant it to be a GUIDEBOOK for grief. Sheesh.

  2. Rose on May 1, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Sagess, Kubler Ross is NOT a guidebook it’s information so people know some of the phases they may pass through. Sheesh

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 5, 2018 at 8:06 am

      Thanks Sagess and Rose for commenting.

      I agree Kubler Ross has given so much to our collective understanding of grief, and like Rose said, the stages and feelings that can accompany the process. But grief can bring irritability and frustration too, and it can feel torturous to accept the many painful realities of a loss. Being gentle with the process, whatever it is for you, is what I find helps the most.

      Wishing you both peace as you grow and heal,


  3. Danny on May 29, 2018 at 1:52 am

    Thank you so much; I needed this so desperately today!

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 30, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      Glad it was helpful. Hang in there, Danny.

  4. Cathy Hutto on July 10, 2018 at 10:56 am

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on July 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm

      Oh Cathy, I’m so sorry to hear this. Hang in there, and know that you are not losing your mind. You simply are grieving a terrible loss. Be gentle with yourself and you will get through this.
      All my best,

    • Lee Ann on August 8, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      Cathy, I feel the pain that you’re are feeling right now!? I lost my only child on April 3, 2018. Somedays I feel as if I’m in a fog…We have to hang in here. I pray God’s peace & strength for anyone who loses a loved one…especially parents who loses a child.??❤Lee Ann

      • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on August 13, 2018 at 12:07 pm

        Lee Ann,
        Hoping you are finding peace as you move through this terrible loss. My deepest sympathies are with you and your family.

      • lois hackbart on May 18, 2019 at 12:00 am

        This is helpful to me. I lost my youngest child on April 3, 2019. Wondering if I will make it. Lois

        • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 26, 2019 at 10:29 pm

          Oh gosh, Lee Ann.
          I’m so very sorry to hear this. Losing a child is almost unimaginable, and the pain has to be some of the worst you’ve felt. I hope you are feeling supported by friends and family who are there for you. Keep leaning on those people whenever you need them, and be patient with yourself.
          You will make it, and you will heal.

        • Thoko on December 29, 2019 at 6:19 am

          I lost my twin daughter on 9 October 19.I am perpetually fatigued and sad. I miss her terribly and have the twin to be strong for. O can not explain the emptiness I feel.I wake up so many times in the night to pray for my children and I find myself starting with her.My CV stated that I am married with 4 daughters. I can’t change it to 3.

  5. Margaret on September 1, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    It has been 7 months since I lost my husband We were together for 42 years. I fell more tired and foggy than I did last month. How long is this supposed to last.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on September 3, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      Dear Margaret,

      I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s death and how difficult your grief has been. Unfortunately there is no agreed upon timeline on when and how symptoms improve – only that they do with time. Expect waves of grief to come, and being gentle with yourself can help minimize their disruption when they do. People report the intensity and frequency of grief lessens with time.

      However, grief can be complicated and escalate other issues sometimes. If your symptoms worsen, become more complicated, or do not improve, talk to your doctor or seek the help of a professional. There is help, and you are not alone.

      All my best to you,


    • grace maxwell on February 22, 2020 at 12:51 pm

      Margaret I am sorry you are going through this. I too lost my husband 5 months ago. I like you seem to be feeling worse every day. I just read an article that said we look back and grieve our lasts and also are experiencing our firsts. It struck me as so true. In sisterhood I wish you peace someday.

  6. Sushicam on September 8, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    Don’t expect to “get past it.” Grief will be your lifetime companion, and you’ll get used to it. Each loss is like an amputation. You don’t “get over it;” you learn to live with it.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on September 23, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      Well said, Sushicam.

  7. Karen Bayless on December 4, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    I lost my husband of almost 43 years 4 months ago. For the past 4 weeks I have had a temperature of 99.5 to 99.9 and extremely tired. I’ve had to stay in bed. I thought it was the flu. I finally went to the doctor today. He couldn’t find anything definitely. He just said I must have some kind of virus that keeps returning. I wonder if grief could cause this. I cry hard daily & my temp does go up then. I have no family near by. My husband was my best friend.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on January 4, 2019 at 2:21 pm

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I’m so very sorry to hear about your husband’s death. I can only imagine the deep grief you are feeling, and 4 months is simply not a lot of time to heal. The grieving process is different for everyone, and in my experience can last well into a year. I’m glad you went to the doctor to be checked; grieving is hard work, and adjusting to life without a loved one can be a daily struggle.

      My first suggestion is to be gentle with yourself, and to expect grief to continue as it needs to. Losing your best friend is nothing easy to face. But with time, and support, grief should give way to your new life, and your mood should continue to climb. If this doesn’t happen, I would also recommend reaching out for professional support – be it a support group, a grief counselor, or a psychiatrist. If you don’t have any leads in your area, try asking your doctor for a referral.

      Wishing you all the best as you face the months ahead, and grow into this next life chapter.


    • Marian Lawrie on July 13, 2020 at 5:31 am

      Karen i wonder if you have got any better .or are you still in so much pain.i lost my husband 3 months ago .the pain is unbearable he was my best friend and i loved him so very much.

  8. John on January 29, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    It’s been 2 weeks since my Mom passed. I miss her terribly. I am having a particularly bad day today. I had to cry as I was reading. I have always been very active and high energy, but now I get tired very quickly. Mom and I were very close. I feel like she lives inside me. I keep remembering all the things we did and said over the years. It is very comforting to me. I am starting bereavement support next week.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on January 29, 2019 at 6:05 pm

      I’m so sorry to learn of your mom’s passing. Losing a loved one is never easy, and the pain of loss can be viceral. I am glad you are reading about grief, and reaching out for support, and hope you will keep looking for ways to process this terrible loss and heal. Wishing you strength and peace, Alicia

  9. Judy on March 13, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    I lost my dad 5 months ago. He stayed with my family a lot and It’s been really hard without him. He was such a great grandfather and really a part of my children’s lives. It’s really hard to accept that he will not be here for all of the milestones we have coming up. It’s makes me feel like I am having trouble being a present mom because I am feeling so sad. I am here each day for my kids but I feel like my mind is somewhere else. Praying for the mother who mentioned a loss of a child. God bless you.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 6, 2019 at 5:09 pm

      Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear about your terrible loss.
      Hang in there during this difficult time. Grief can be so very hard, but it also is a process that evolves and can ultimately be healing.
      Wishing you patience and self-love,

    • Cynthia on July 4, 2019 at 11:52 pm

      Hi Judy,

      I just lost my dad 2 months ago, it’s very difficult. I have my good days and bad days. I feel the same way you do. I wish there was a more easy way to process grief. I sometimes wake up so exhausted and in a fog that I can’t help to think how I am going to live on. It’s hard to go to work and function too. Never experienced such painful grief, mentally and physically. I try to keep busy and just re evaluating my life. Love and light to you.

  10. " class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">Deborah F Anderson on July 23, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    I just lost my beloved son. He was 45 years old and I feel like my heart is literally breaking. I am still just feeling like I am a zombie. I cannot seem to function. I get up to try and do things and all I do is start sobbing. I try my best to control my tears especially around my little grandson who still doesn’t fully understand why his daddy is gone. I pray God will comfort us and give us peace in these next difficult days while making my dear son’s funeral arrangements.

  11. Ron on October 10, 2019 at 9:27 am

    It is coming up on the two year anniversary of my daughter’s death. She died suddenly on November 1, 2017 at 36 years old. I have lost others in my life, both my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents. But I can not get over the grief of losing my only child. Every day, every hour she is on my mind. Even now I am supposed to be working but I just can not concentrate. I spend way too much time looking at old photos. Going to the playground I used to take her too. I’m just tired of the sadness. I do believe in the afterlife and know that I will have the opportunity to see her again. But right now, it’s killing me.

  12. Mary on January 5, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    I lost my mother very quickly and unexpectedly on 15th November 2019. I feel absolutely wretched: tired all the time, deeply sad all the time and generally numb. I’m not sure I’ll ever have the time to devote to healing, between a full time job, managing my mother’s will and my father’s affairs (he’s in residential care and lives several hundred miles away from me), so I’ll just have to hope it happens anyway. Most days I just feel so overwhelmed I just want to get back into bed and pull the covers round me! But I can’t. I know it’ll pass, and I wish it would. Though I also wish it wouldn’t because I don’t want Mum to ever be forgotten.

  13. Christine m Richter on August 17, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    It’s been almost 7 weeks since I lost my wife. She passed away due to ALS. I thought taking care of her was hard but that doesn’t compare to the loss of losing her, the emptiness I feel, and lack of energy I now have. This road of grief sucks!!! I’m happy she’s no longer suffering in pain but I miss her terribly.

  14. A. Smith on September 9, 2020 at 5:34 am

    I lost my brother two months ago and his death has been like no other for me. We were very close, he stayed with me during his final days which I feel have made it even more difficult. I’m depressed, sad, upset, just emotionally a wreck. I have found that grieve can be so unpredictable for me, one minute I seem to be okay and the next I’m crying my eyes out, I miss him so much and I’m still in the phase “I can’t believe he’s gone”. I feel like I’m never going to get over this and I can’t adapt to this change in my life. I returned to work after he past only to find myself dousing off thinking about him. I thought I could handle all the curve balls life has thrown at me but unfortunately this time I just can’t.

  15. Rebecca Quevedo on September 9, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    I lost my brother a month ago suddenly and I’m so so sad. I lost my other brother when he was only 19 in a terrible car accident and both of my parents died too young. I am grieving my brother and everything about him and also that all of my immediate family is gone. There is just me and even though I have an amazing husband and son this grief is consuming me at only 51 years old. I want this ache to go away.

    • Jenna on January 22, 2021 at 12:22 am

      Hi Rebecca,

      My 37 year old brother died nine weeks ago and I’m online just looking for ways to make it hurt less. I’m sorry about your brother. I wish I had more to offer but just wanted you to know I’m on this grief road wirh you

  16. Courtney Ritter on January 9, 2021 at 9:01 am

    Missing my dad. He died of covid 2 mos ago. Grief is cruel and unpredictable. I feel like it is hard to talk about. Was starting to feel normal and now crying for no reason. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone…

  17. Christy on February 20, 2021 at 7:43 pm

    I just lost my father 5 weeks ago on January 16th. My heart is broken from losing him and I have not worked a full work week since then. I have health issues, and they play a huge part in that, but after reading this I also feel apathy is part of it, too. I’m honestly at a point where nothing matters to me, not even my job. I can’t focus when I am there, and my irritability is at an all-time high. I don’t know what to do.