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Feeling empty inside and the stages of grief
Whenever we are hit with the tragic news of the death of a loved one, feeling empty inside is typically the first response that most people will undergo. Feeling shocked, numb and detached from what is going on around them remains by far, the most typical response.
Denial. Deflection. Dismissal. These as are all classic hallmarks of the shock and awe stage of the grief process and the total duration of it can range from anywhere in the region of hours to months. It is entirely subjective, differing for each individual with no apparent rhyme or pattern.
During the shock phase, the reality of the loss and the change of situation that the grieving person now unfortunately finds themselves in has not quite registered with them mentally. On some subconscious level they are indeed aware that the person is gone.
Emotional shock needs to be handled
It is not unusual for a person who is in the emotional shock to report feeling empty inside. Additionally, they may try and distract or busy themselves with a series of tasks that never quite get completed. Instead they move around in a highly agitated state, unproductively and fruitlessly.
Pacing around, anxiously rubbing their face incessantly, chronic forgetfulness: all these may seem innocuous and harmless by themselves but are symptomatic of the underlying maelstrom of negative thoughts and beliefs that are swirling around in their head.
Unfortunately, the numbness phase will eventually wear off and so the range of emotions that have been trying to claw their way into the mind of the person feeling empty inside will eventually succeed.
This is when the sharpness of the reality that they now find themselves in will firmly root itself. In psychological terms, we say that the grieving person will be feeling empty inside because they have undergone the confrontation stage.
As the name would suggest, the grieving person is psychologically and emotionally confronted with the reality of the death of their loved one. This is without a doubt the most challenging and emotionally charged time for the grieving person.
It also happens to be the time when they will be at their most vulnerable and by extension then, most likely in need of support and attention from close confidants and friends. If you know someone who is undergoing a grieving process, and suspect that they might be feeling empty inside, ask them.
It might seem crass to come directly out and ask them such a bold question, but they will appreciate the fact that you care enough to ask.