When we lose connection with our loved ones, the initial activation of this system is PANIC – to rush around trying to find what we have lost (physically – where are they? – or in our minds – what did I do, what could I have done?). Evolutionary, this is most likely to alert our loved one, encourage a response from them and ensure a successful reunion. If PANIC activation does not bring the desired for reunion, it shifts appropriately to the intense emotional pain of a GRIEF, facing the unwanted reality that the loved one is gone. The effective activation of the GRIEF system brings into our awareness who / what is important to us, is loved and missed. The activation of the GRIEF system is also designed to enable us to make connections and build relationships again.
“The best medicine for grief is warmth and comfort we gain from our loving relationships.”
Activation and Expression
We may feel a quickening of our pulse and our senses becoming keener as we realise what is lost or being lost. If we are unable to repair or reconnect, sensations of grief may be experienced behind our eyes and in our throat, heaviness in our chest and face; we may feel a desire to cry, to sob, feel sadness within and the yearning to be close to or held by a loved one.
We may notice strong sensations of panic, energy which motivates us prevent the loss / realise the value of a loss / to find a way to bring the person or situation (job, home etc) back. If reunion is not possible, the emotional pain of an important loss may feel intensely physical for many days, weeks or months, like a weight within the self, which needs to be digested or worked through during this time. Having a good cry can be key, it may be softly felt or cause intense sobbing. A good cry leads us to feel better afterwards than we did before, even if during our crying the pain was very deeply felt and difficult to bear.
We may notice a desire to be with those we are very close to. The relief that comes after a good cry and grieving seems to be because it helps us to make important connections inside our mind and with others.
Blocking our GRIEF system, preventing the repair or resolution of a loss, can lead to depression, feeling hopeless, a sense of despair, futility, self-hate (e.g. its all my fault), avoidance with alcohol, drugs, sex, or focusing on other feelings like anger or guilt. The pain of grief can feel too intense or impossible to be faced, especially if lonely, leading to long-term low mood.